BY LIZ NOELCKE of SPARKPEOPLE
College opens up a whole new world for many. A world of freedom, hard work, late nights and late mornings, cramming, fun with friends, and all too often, binges on unhealthy food. Before calls for convenience overrun calls for health, take a minute to think about what you are eating. Make smart choices to ensure that the “Freshman 15″ weight gain will pass you by.
The”Freshman 15″ is the weight that young people who first go away to university can gain once in their new environment, often 15 pounds or more. It’s much easier to prevent extra pounds than to try to lose the excess weight later. Going to college is such a big change in life; you’ll want to be the healthiest that you can be to get off on the right foot. The freshman year is a critical period to combat this or any weight gain.
It’s probably a lot harder to get the right things in your body when you or the school cafeteria is doing all of the cooking, not your parents. To start with, simply keep track of what you eat each day. This will also help you keep tabs on mindless munching that might happen while studying or watching television. (And, it’s all too tempting to eat to avoid hitting the books.)
It’s important not to skip meals. Not only does your body need the fuel, but passing over a meal will often cause excess eating later on. Yep, that also includes breakfast. You need the morning energy each day, even if it just means grabbing a granola bar and juice while walking to class. If you are struggling to get all of the nutrients you need, consider taking a vitamin supplement.
Watch out for that cafeteria. Sure, it might offer a quick meal in between classes or studying, but this food is often loaded with excess fat and calories. That doesn’t mean you can’t eat here; just think before you put something on your plate. You don’t have to try everything. High calorie desserts, cheesy dishes, and meats with sauce will pack on the pounds faster than you can say “Nutrition 101.”
When you sit down, start off by eating the healthy food first, like salad or fruit. You’ll be too full for the fatty stuff later. Fruits and vegetables should be a main part of your diet. Also, try drinking a glass of water before you eat; this will help you avoid overeating just because you are in a rush.
It’s all too easy to let junk food become a primary element of your diet when you are always busy and barely seem to have enough time to sleep. Sodas might perk you up, but they are also loaded with sugar and empty calories. Say NO to vending machines and fast foods. Instead, keep your mini-fridge and shelves stocked with healthy snacks like fruit, yogurt, nuts, or light plain air-popped popcorn, all stuff that is easy to grab in a hurry.
Keep a bottle filled with water; it’s something you can carry around the room and to class. (Here’s a secret: drinking water during class will also help you stay awake!) You don’t have to give up all of your favorite foods; just be mindful of what you are consuming.
Get active! Young people that were active in high school can struggle to maintain their fitness in college because they are not on a team with a coach to make sure they are in shape. Just because you aren’t a varsity player doesn’t mean that you can’t have this motivation. Join an intramural team. Take fun classes at the student recreation center like kickboxing and body sculpting. Meet up with friends for a walking or running group. If your workouts are scheduled, you’re more likely to make it. Exercise is a great stress release from the pressures of classes.
Starting college is full of challenges and changes. Fuel your body to perform at its best by eating the right foods and staying fit. An occasional late night pizza or Chinese food fix won’t hurt you. Smart, consistent choices will make sure you are healthy person. And a healthy person is better able to make the grade!