Avoiding the freshman 15 

It’s not a myth!The“freshman 15” is as real as a long line on registration day. But, unlike that line, the added pounds on your body can be avoided. It just takes knowing how to choose your meals, exercising (not just walking to classes), and of course, willpower.

Most students are initially overwhelmed with all of the options in the campus cafeteria. Pizza, burgers, fried whatever, pastries, salad and sandwich bars, soups, and more comprise the selection. It’s this liberating array of options that get most into trouble, or at least into a bigger pair of jeans. Who’s there to tell you what you can and cannot have, or when and how much?

You’ve heard it a thousand times: Eat breakfast. It will help you start your day on an energy high and keep you from gorging mid-day. A bowl of low-sugar cereal combined with a piece of fruit or wheat toast is a smart start.

At lunchtime, skip the pizza or burger counter and go for a sandwich on wheat bread (easy on the cheese and mayo) or a salad with grilled chicken and low-calorie toppings such as green onions and radishes.

When dinner comes around, avoid the all-you-can-eat buffet and rely on the food pyramid for a well-rounded meal. A lean 4-6-ounce piece of protein, a vegetable, and a piece of wheat bread or cup of rice is ideal.

It isn’t necessary to follow these guidelines to the letter, and it’s not necessarily a crime to splurge on a slice of pizza or the occasional fried corn dog, but be wary of developing bad habits. A splurge might start out as just a once-a-week thing, and then turn into a few times a week, turning you into a freshman fifteener.

The occasional junk-food binge won’t get you down if you exercise, too. Most campuses offer a workout-facility plan to students as part of their enrollment. Avoid gaining weight with a stress-relieving cardio workout a few times a week. Campus gyms are social, too. I guarantee you’ll meet new people by going on a regular basis, maybe even a workout partner (who you can go grab a healthy meal with from time to time).

Don’t let the new stresses and freedom of college get to your waistline. It’ll happen right before your very eyes, and you won’t even notice it until it’s too late. And remember: late-night eating and alcohol are major factors in weight-gain.

A Good Government Handout

The Freshman 15 is no myth. A 2005 study by researchers at Washington State University found that 70 percent of college students gain weight during their first year — although the average love handles settled around 9 pounds, not 15. We’d love to tell you the cause is something exotic and easily addressed (don’t wear yellow to class and never eat fresh coconut), but the researchers fingered the usual suspects: poor nutrition and lack of exercise. The eating tips offered here can blur into a low-blood-sugar fuzz when you’re standing in line at the cafeteria or W.D. Deli, but Uncle Sam can help: Check out MyPyramid.gov for an easy, interactive tool that tailors eating guidelines to your age, height, weight, and activity level. You can print a copy to carry in your purse or binder, along with a handy worksheet that will help you track and improve your eating habits.

We’ve created a sample below based on a 20-year-old, five-foot, five-inch, 130-pound female who exercises less than 30 minutes a day. Happy eating!

GRAINS - 6 ounces
Make half your grains whole. Aim for at least 3 ounces of whole grains a day.
VEGETABLES - 2 1/2 cups
Vary your vegetables. Aim for these amounts each week:
Dark green veggies = 3 cups
Orange veggies = 2 cups
Dry beans & peas = 3 cups
Starchy veggies = 3 cups
Other veggies = 6 1/2 cups
FRUIT - 2 cups
Focus on fruits.
Eat a variety of fruit.
Go easy on fruit juices.
MILK - 3 cups
Get your calcium-rich foods.
Go low-fat or fat-free when you choose milk, yogurt, or cheese.
MEAT & BEANS - 5 1/2 ounces
Go lean with protein. Choose low-fat or lean meat and poultry.
Vary your protein routine — choose more fish, beans, peas, nuts, and seeds.
FAT/SUGAR Oil allowance: 6 teaspoons
Solid fats and sugars: 265 cal
*Results based on a 2000-calorie pattern
• Chart by Chuck Kerr
• SOURCE: Mypyramid.gov

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