Campus 101: How to Avoid the “Freshman 15”

By Sylvia Meléndez-Klinger, RD

Anyone who’s visited a college dining hall knows the “Freshman 15” isn’t just an urban myth. Between the pasta bar, stir-fry station and dessert table, it’s easy to overindulge – over and over again. But being away from home and adjusting to college life doesn’t have to derail your diet. Developing a simple routine can help you stay fit and focused for the year.

Here are a few tried and true tips from fellow college students (and their parents) that can help you avoid putting on the extra pounds this school year. Following this guidance, as well as eating a balanced diet and staying active, can be a piece of cake (pun intended)!

1. Power Up Your Day

Don’t skip breakfast. If you are rushing to class, grab a piece of fruit, yogurt and granola or a handful of nuts. Or get up a little early (hint: don’t hit snooze) to grab a bite to eat at the dining hall. Put your breakfast on a small plate versus a tray to avoid taking more food than needed to get you going for the day.

2. Take the Long Way

Spending some time exercising will help you burn off those calories you consume from food. Squeeze in some exercise by taking the long route to and from class, or walking instead of taking the bus. Or, turn your backpack into a barbell by throwing in some extra books and taking the stairs. You’ll burn calories and tone those muscles in no time.

3. Give Your Mini-Fridge a Makeover

Whether you’re hanging out with roommates or cramming for an exam, eating in your room at odd hours is part of college life. Making the right choices, and in the right sizes, can mean the difference between picking up extra weight or picking up a hot date. To keep your snacking habits in check, stock your fridge and dorm room with your favorite pre-portioned drinks and snacks, such as mini cans of Coca-Cola, fruit cups, mini Babybel cheese, Nutri-Grain cereal bars, small bags of pre-cut fruits and veggies and individually wrapped snack packs.

4. Avoid the Midnight Snacking Mayhem

We all know college life comes with late night snacking. To avoid temptation, bring healthier snacks to keep you going or study in a place without food (read: avoid studying in the dining hall because it’s stock full of yummy temptations). If you have evening classes or plan on a night out, eat dinner beforehand so you’re not starved late into the night when that pizza delivery can become oh-so-appealing.

5. Buddy Up

Eating right and exercising alone can cause a serious case of FOMO (fear of missing out). So ask your roommates and friends to join in on the fun to keep you motivated and looking great in your selfies! Set a time each day to work out together, go for a jog, join an ultimate Frisbee game or start a pick-up basketball game at the gym. Also, keep each other accountable for making the right food choices at the dining hall and late at night.

Meléndez-Klinger is a registered dietitian based in the Chicago area. She is the mother of a college student and a high school senior. She also consults for companies including The Coca-Cola Company, Kellogg’s, The National Fisheries Institute and others.