Ask Our Dietitian
My daughter is going off to college and is afraid she is going to gain weight. Do you have any tips to share with her about healthy eating and dining hall food?
Jen P from Newtown
I hope the following information is helpful for your daughter. Good luck to your daughter and to all the new college students!
Jill Kwasny, MS, RD
Avoiding the Freshman 10 or 15: Tips to Manage Your Weight in College
As summer comes to an end, first-time college students are packing their bags and getting ready to pursue life after high school. Many incoming students hear of the rumored weight gain and look for ways to maintain a healthy weight and diet. For many students, this is the first time they are fully in charge of their food choices and some might find this a struggle.
When it comes to eating on campus, start out slowly. You don't have to try everything within the first week; you have all semester to sample different foods!
It is a good idea to keep to a meal schedule. While many cafeterias offer meals during set hours, other campuses have open eating throughout the day, which can make it very easy to overeat.
For in between meals, try to keep some healthy snacks in your dorm room. Some good choices include:
• Low Fat Granola bars
• Low-fat microwave popcorn
• Dried or canned fruit
• Cans of tuna, chicken or beans
• Whole-grain crackers
• Low Fat Yogurt
• Whole-grain cereals
Navigating the Dining Hall
College dining halls offer an array of healthier options. In fact, many colleges use their food as a way to sell their school to prospective students! Follow these tips when making your selections:
• Choose a small plate and use the proper plate division rule. Make half the plate nonstarchy vegetables and/or fruit, a quarter of the plate a protein-rich food, and the other quarter of the plate a starchy vegetable (like potatoes or corn) or a whole grain (like brown rice).
• For breakfast, choose high-fiber cereals, whole grain breads, fruit, poached eggs, and non-fat yogurt or milk.
• Start at the salad bar by pairing spinach or Romaine lettuce with low calorie, nutrient-rich foods like vegetables, beans, corn, and low-fat cheese. Skip the creamy dressing and opt for a light oil and vinegar dressing.
• Watch for high-fat items that use these descriptors such as: buttered, in butter sauce, fried, crispy, creamed, in cream sauce, in its own gravy, Hollandaise, au gratin, in cheese sauce, escalloped, casserole, and marinated in oil.
• Choose these healthier food descriptors such as: steamed, garden fresh, roasted, broiled, and poached.
• Excessive alcohol consumption is not only bad for your health but can also lead to weight gain. A single beer has about 150 calories, a light beer has about 100 calories.
• Junk foods like pizza, fast-food burgers, sodas, donuts, and chips may be cheap and convenient, especially after a late night out…studying or partying. However, the high calorie content may lead to unwanted weight gain in the long run.
• If you need an extra jolt of energy after a long evening, beware of the extra calories you dump in your coffee. Full-fat milk, sugar, whipped cream, and flavored syrups can add up quickly.
• Adjusting to a new home away from home, meeting new friends, and the pressure of making the grades all add up to a lot of stress. Students should be ready to face the stresses of college life and find favorite (healthy) ways to decompress and not just turn to food and alcohol.
• Exercise keeps the brain stimulated and the body energized by releasing endorphins. Try exercising before a test or presentation to boost cognitive thinking. College campuses typically have state of the art gyms which provide students the opportunity to be fit and socialize in a healthy environment.
• Sufficient sleep at night is a must. There is a close relationship between weight gain and sleep deprivation. Lack of sleep robs the body of energy, causes irritability, and may result in nodding off during class.