8 November 2016Three Tips to Prevent the Freshman Fifteen

Finally, the moment has arrived. It’s your first semester of college and you can choose what you eat, when you eat, and how much you want to eat 24/7. Independence, finally! However, you may have noticed that your jeans are fitting tighter, you are catching another cold and you don’t seem to have as much energy to pull another all-nighter before that big chemistry exam.

Taking control of your eating and exercise habits can make a big difference in preventing the freshman fifteen, staying healthy and remaining energetic. The number of choices that you have in the school cafeteria can feel overwhelming. Use these quick and simple tips to create a healthier you.

Tips to Making Healthy Choices in the College Cafeteria

1. Head to the Salad Bar First.

Breakfast: What a great way to start the day, by filling a small plate or bowl with fruit.

Even though fresh is best, canned (packed in its own juice) and dried fruits are also good choices. Once you sit down, you can decide if you want to just eat the fruit or whether you want to use these colorful foods to top your cold cereal, yogurt, pancakes, waffles and hot oatmeal!

Fruits provide vitamin C, vitamin A, fiber and other antioxidants which boost your immunity. No one wants to catch a cold in college without a doting parent around to bring you warm chicken noodle soup!

Sweet tip: Mash a banana and add to your hot oatmeal for natural sweetness.

Lunch and Supper/Dinner: Head to the salad bar first!

Start your meal by filling half of your plate with lettuce and at least three different colors of vegetables. Not only will the special phytochemicals of beta-carotene found in carrots, lutein found in kale, and vitamin C found in broccoli give your skin a healthy glow, they are low in calories and high in fiber to help your body keep looking its best.

2. Don’t drink your calories.

Pop – Alcohol – Energy Drinks – Sports Drinks
Many college students watch their weight creep up just because of the “empty calorie” beverage choices they are making. A can of pop provides 250 calories; however, because soda does not contain any vitamins or minerals, it is an “empty calorie.” Read the Nutrition Facts on the label by starting with the serving size. If there are 2 servings in a bottle, then you need to double the calories given on the label.

Too much Juice
Fruit juices that are 100% juice can provide a good source of vitamins; however, they contain a lot of calories in just a small amount. You only need ½ cup of orange juice to meet 100% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C. Eating a small orange not only provides you with the vitamin C that you need, it also contains 3.4 grams of fiber to keep you fuller longer.

Whole Milk
Choose low fat choices – Skim or 1%. Both whole milk and skim milk contain the same amount of calcium and vitamin D for strong bones; however, whole milk contains 150 calories per cup while skim (0% fat) milk contains 90 calories. Drinking skim milk provides a savings of 60 calories per cup. Even after age 19, you still need 3 servings of calcium-rich foods to prevent low bone density which can lead to osteoporosis, hairline fractures and broken bones.

3. Make a Plan – Spice Up the Cafeteria Experience

Make one meal smaller and simpler.
Try a simple soup – salad – sandwich lunch. You probably didn’t even notice that your mom or dad probably used to do that when you were growing up.

Create themes for dinner. In addition to the salad, try entree themes.

  • Mexican Monday – Order a burrito, enchilada, or quesadilla. Go to the salad bar afterwards and decorate with extra greens, tomatoes and salsa. Yes, salsa is a great vegetable choice (ketchup is not)!
  • Tuscan Tuesday – Go Italian with one serving of pasta with meatballs or a marinara sauce. To increase your vegetable intake, heat up some colorful vegetables from the salad bar in a separate bowl in the microwave and add to your red or white sauce.
  • Wild West Wednesday - Order one hamburger and then head to the salad bar to doctor it up with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and a slice of avocado.
  • Thai or Asian Fusion Thursday – Enjoy whatever Asian offerings your school has.
  • Fish Friday – Try sushi or fish or even a tuna sandwich.
  • Weekends: Sleep in and eat a relaxing brunch. Limit the baked goods but keep the protein, fruit, and veggies to satisfy for hours.

Brainstorm with your friends what would work on your campus.

Taking control of your meals at college by heading to the salad bar first, not drinking your calories and making a plan to spice up the cafeteria experience will help prevent the freshman fifteen, keep you healthy, and help you maintain focused energy. And if you take the time to eat solid meals, you will be less likely to overeat snack calories. Remember, also, that a home-cooked Thanksgiving meal is coming soon!

Martha Henze, MS, RD, Traveling Taste Buds, LLC. Martha has sent her oldest daughter off to college and now has a new puppy at home.

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Disclaimer: Please note that we cannot provide personalized advice and that the information provided does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit a medical professional.

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Dining Out/Buffet & Cafeteria Weight Gain/Unwanted Weight Gain

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