It's August, and you (or your child) is super excited to be on to the next chapter of your life - college and dorm living! There is so much to be excited for, and being responsible for your own food choices and schedules are at the top. But then there is the threat of the "Freshman 15," when students go away to college and unintentionally gain weight. The top reasons students gain weight are: overall increase in caloric intake and a decrease in activity.
Here are some tips to keep you more mindful about what you consume and how much you exercise while at school:
• When eating at the dinning hall, do not use a tray. This may seem more convenient, but it actually leads to increased caloric intake. Grab 1 plate and fill it with what you want. When you finish that plate, ask yourself if you are truly hungry for more. If the answer is yes, go back for one more plate. Often, the answer will be no.
• Eat slowly. Hang out, talk with friends. It takes your stomach 20 minutes to tell your brain that you are full. The slower you eat, the less you eat.
• Find balance: did you only have pizza for lunch? Grab a salad for dinner, or go for a cooked protein source with lots of vegetables on the side. Are you going for dessert? Skip any sugary drinks.
• Eat when you are hungry, stop eating when you are full. Your body will tell you how much food it needs. It can be very tempting to keep eating since all the food is there for the taking and already paid for. That is dangerous thinking that will lead to over eating and weight gain.
• Don’t skip meals: If you skip meals you end up feeling ravenously hungry and will either choose junk food or overeat at your next meal.
• Keep healthy snacks on hand in your dorm. Choosing items that will satisfy your hunger without spiking your blood sugar will keep your weight balanced, your energy steady, and your brain working optimally for all those papers you need to write.
• Take the fruit from the dining hall. Most have a fruit basket with apples and bananas, so grab one on your way out for a snack later.
• Find a way to move everyday. Often there are a lot of opportunities to walk around campus. If you enjoy sports but don't want to commit to the collegate level, search out sports clubs. Your college may also have a gym with equipment and classes - find something you enjoy doing and do it regularly.
• Avoid sugary drinks- this includes juice and soda. These contain a lot of calories and are too easy to finish off and go back for more.
• Black coffee and tea are the better options for a boost of caffeine. Avoid sweetening them, but if you need to add something, then cream or unsweetened almond milk are good choices.
• Avoid late night binges. That buffalo chicken pizza may sound like a great idea when you’re up studying at 2am, but research shows that late night eating increases weight gain. Stick to your healthy snacks and practice portion control.
• Get plenty of sleep. Sleep is crucial to maintaining a healthy weight and great cognitive function, which you will need for all your classes! When you are over tired you make worse choices regarding what to eat and how much. So get at least 8 hours as often as possible.
If you follow these tips you'll build healthy habits for school and beyond!