Ah, the dreaded Freshman 15. Is it because you’re spending all your free time studying? Maybe it’s just because college campuses tend to be in close proximity to pizza joints, fast food, and Starbucks (some of them are actually located ON campus now). Your mom and dad might argue that the F15 happens because they are no longer monitoring your food intake, and the nutrition decisions you are making now are purely your own. (Your own bad decisions, they might add.) Regardless, no one wants an extra fifteen pounds on his or her person when meeting a prospective date in Biology; and this sample essay has been complied to help avoid them.
Dropping the freshman 15
Avoid eating while you are studying
We know, We know, this is easier said than done when someone brings a pizza or cupcakes into your study group. Still, it’s a good rule, just like “don’t eat while watching TV.” The point is to avoid mindless eating, which occurs when your mind is focused on something else. That said, a study break with a salad, a smoothie, or a wrap can do wonders for your concentration.
And you can get a healthy snack from a vending machine – just go for the peanuts, sunflower seeds, or granola bars instead of the cookies, cinnamon buns, or sodas. Grab a snack, take a break, look up at the sky outside; just make sure you finish the food up before you crack the books or login to that academic database again.
Participate in a sport on or off campus
The benefits of exercise for your self-image, self-control, weight, and concentration have been widely studied, not to mention the social benefits you might gain by participating. Avoiding the weight gain is the point, here, but side effects such as meeting people, getting out of your dorm room occasionally, and exercising your social skills will reward you throughout the length of your college career.
Exercise keeps your endorphins up, providing you with more self-confidence, better concentration abilities, and a more positive outlook on life in general. So whether it’s frisbee-golf, baseball, basketball, a running partner, or even Wii video game competitions, get out there and play. We promise your microwave will not miss you.
Eat at regular times, avoid snacking, and try not to skip meals
Nutritionists often harp on the importance of regular mealtimes and the avoidance of meal skipping, and it’s true. If you are eating at set times during the day, you’re less likely to snack around because you feel really hungry due to skipping a meal.
It makes sense. So make sure you get that initial boost in the morning with a very healthy and filling breakfast (oatmeal and eggs are proven brain and body energy), and stop studying in time for lunch. Your concentration will improve, and your food choices will not be influenced by the Low Blood Sugar Monster.
Vary your healthy food intake
We’ve all have the experience of nearly vomiting at the thought of eating another bite of that same salad you’ve been eating for a week. If you’re sick of it, choose something else green (kale, green beans, broccoli, etc.). The variation of healthy foods in your diet has two positive effects: one, different types of food in your diet deliver different vitamins and nutrients your body needs, and two, you won’t gag on that next bite of iceberg lettuce. Just try to avoid carbs and sugar.
There are all kinds of crazy hybrid fruits and vegetables out there, now: witch finger or cotton candy grapes, kalettes, broccoflower, broccolini, and rainbow carrots to name a few. They non-GMO hybrids – branch out (pun intended) and try a blood orange, some homemade kale chips, or just a premade veggie tray with hummus that you can keep in your fridge through final exam week.
Pick lower-fat options when possible
Did you know that cheese has a ton of fat? Well, it does, and there are relatively good-tasting alternatives to sharp cheddar, such as Swiss cheese and low-fat mozzarellas. Salad dressing is another fat-filled culprit to watch out for. After all, that healthy salad you just stacked on your plate can’t even hope to combat the gallon of ranch dressing you’re drowning it in. Keep healthy salad dressing on hand in your room; this will both remind you to eat healthier and prevent you going somewhere else for less healthy foods. The National Institutes of Health recommend replacing high fat foods with fat-free cheeses and sorbet, sherbet, or low-fat frozen or fresh yogurt.
Portion control will help knock off the freshman 15
This one is very important, and the all-you-can-eat deals around town are not conducive to keeping off that weight. An easy way to avoid putting too much food on your plate is to take only half of what you would normally take. Or even put back half of what you’ve just put on your plate; just make sure no one else sees you do it! USDA sponsored Choosemyplate.gov provides guidelines for every age group for food portioning of the five food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy.
The chart provided on the site depends on age, sex, and daily physical activity. In case you’re interested, the recommendations for freshmen are: fruit: 2 cups, vegetables: 2 1/2 cups, grains: 1 ounce (equal to 1 slice of bread, 1 cup of instant cereal, ½ cup of cooked rice, pasta, or cooked cereal), protein foods:, 5 ½ ounces (1 oz. of meat, ¼ c cooked beans, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, or ½ ounce of nuts or seeds) and dairy: 3 cups.
Keep healthy snacks nearby
We can’t stress the importance of this. If all you have in your refrigerator is healthy snacks, you will be much more likely to eat those than to change out of your pjs to go to the corner store for chocolate bars, donuts, and sugary water drinks. You know the kind we mean. The secret is to buy the veggies and cut them up into snack size portions right away (or buy the veggie tray from the local supermarket). Keep them in your fridge in a see-through container; this is key.
If you can’t see what it is, you’ll probably pick something else to snack on. Keeping healthy dips on hand like low-fat Italian dressing, hummus, and peanut butter is also helpful. (You deserve something tasty with all those veggies.) There are a lot more healthy snacks available in pre-packaged containers today than in the past, but old standbys like fruit, chopped carrots and celery, yogurt, low-fat mozzarella string cheese, and healthy snacks like granola or sunflower seeds and peanuts are still the easiest to store and come by.
Don’t drink soda.
With all the media coverage of the unhealthy aspects of soda (or pop, depending on where you live), you must be crazy if you’re drinking soda every day. That said, vending machines are everywhere on campus these days, and a soda can be the quickest way to slake your thirst when a water fountain is two floors away and your lecture starts in two minutes. It gets even worse if you’re drinking a soda to wash down that Big Mac. With the exception of healthy soda makers you can use at home with fruit, prepackaged sodas are all (yes, I said ALL) bad for you. A recent study noted that just one 12 ounce serving of any sugar-sweetened beverage a day can increase type 2 diabetes risk by up to 22 percent (this includes diet soda drinkers).
An article from ABCnews.go.com stated that soda include carcinogenic artificial colors and phosphoric acid as well as sugar. These can contribute to weakened bones, obesity, and cancer. So try to stick to water, smoothies, natural juices without added sugar, and fruit when you’re craving that soda fix. Keep a water bottle in your bag so you can fill up whenever you come across a water fountain. You will avoid the nasty sugar crash, and that extra weight; besides, there’s always caffeine if you need a real pick-me-up!
“Welcome to the Five Food Groups.” Choosemyplate.gov. USDA.gov. n.d. Web. 24 Feb. 2015.
“One Soda Per Day Raises Diabetes Risk, Study Suggests.” ABCnews.go.com. ABC News Internet Ventures. 25 Apr. 2013. Web. 24 Feb. 2015.
“Low-Calorie, Lower Fat Alternative Foods.” NHLBI.NIH.gov. National Institutes of Health. N.d. Web. 24 Feb. 2015.