The Diet Detective: 10 Tips to Avoid the College Freshman 15 Weight Gain

The school year has just started. Is it inevitable that college students will gain weight? You know, the dreaded freshman 15. I wonder if the freshman 15 even exists.   According to a study by researchers at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, the average weight gain during freshman year is approximately 3 pounds. There was also a meta-analysis (a review of several studies) appearing in the Journal of American College Health that focused on 24 articles published in scientific journals between 1985 and 2008. The analysis found that the average weight gain was 3.86 pounds, and the researchers concluded that the first year of college is "a period of vulnerability for weight problems."
So, what can college students do to keep the weight off? Below are a few tips from nutrition experts at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada, plus several of my own. 

1. Eat Regularly 

It's easy to skip meals when you're rushing from class to class and social event to social event. Many students make the mistake of skipping meals only to be lured into someone's dorm room at 2 a.m. by the tantalizing aroma of a freshly delivered pizza. Your body needs fuel throughout the day, not just at night.  

2. Pack a Lunch 

Carrying a healthy lunch and/or snack that includes protein will make it easier to resist junk food cravings.
A few examples of food you can carry are:  
  • Nuts
  • Low-calorie cheese
  • Freeze-dried fruit
  • Yogurt
  • Salads
  • Peel-and-eat tuna and salmon cups - Chicken of the Sea makes easy-to-open cups that give you a quick protein source. This wild-caught tuna or salmon is perfect for on-the-go lunches and snacks.
  • Cereal such as Kashi, Shredded Wheat or Cheerios - Look for portable, low-calorie choices, under 120 calories per cup.
  • Fruit - Stick with fruit such as apples and oranges that can withstand some rough treatment.

3. Eat Breakfast 

This is an easy meal to skip. Choose a high-protein breakfast every morning.  


4. Watch Portions 

Never snack out of the box or bag. It's easy to lose track of how much you've eaten. Take out one serving and put the rest away before you eat what's on your plate.

5. Watch Liquid Calories  

You have no idea how quickly these calories add up. Have a few drinks and before you know it, you're over-consuming. Just because alcohol is fat-free doesn't mean it's calorie-free. A 12-oz. beer contains about 150 calories, a screwdriver has about 175 and a shot (1.5 oz.) of vodka contains about 100. Since it usually doesn't stop at one, alcohol calories quickly add up. What's more, alcohol typically leads to late-night eating binges.   Here are some tips to follow:  
  • Make sure you have food in your stomach before you drink. Food can act as a buffer and delay the absorption of alcohol.
  • Know when to stop.
  • Dilute your drinks with fruit juice, seltzer or club soda.
  • Alternate every drink with a glass of water.
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