Five Ways to Avoid the Freshman 15

Whether you're an owl, a Quaker, or a Drexel dragon, follow these smart tips to stay slim at school

Illustration by Justin Renninger

Summer is winding down and the first signs of fall are the thousands of college students that return to Philadelphia to start the new school year. Whether you are studying at Penn, Drexel, Temple, or the many other colleges and universities in our area, one fact remains true to all: many new students—first year or last—will return home over break having gained the dreaded “Freshman 15.”

Weight gain at college is not a new issue and there are several reasons why it often happens, including stocking the dorm room with inexpensive, junky snacks; making poor choices in the cafeteria; and, of course, the partying and late-night pizzas.

So, Philly college kids, what can you do to prevent packing on college pounds? Here are five simple ways to prevent weight gain and live healthy at school without depriving yourself of college staples:

Eat Breakfast
Though it is easier to roll out of bed and run to those early morning classes, breakfast is not the meal to skip. It jump starts your metabolism and gives you energy to concentrate in class and get through the day. If you cant make it to the dining hall, stock up on these inexpensive grab-and-go breakfast options.

• Whole grain mini bagel or English muffin with peanut butter or almond butter is a healthy mix of wholesome grains and filling protein.

• Yogurt with fresh fruit is a quick and easy combo full of calcium and fiber.

Luna Bars, Kind Bars, and locally made Bum Bars are well balanced with brain-fueling carbohydrates and satiating protein sources like nuts.

Stock Up On Healthy Snacks
Let’s face it: Studying can make you hungry, but as long as you have good-for-you grub hanging around your dorm room you are less likely to over indulge on unhealthy stuff. Pair lean proteins with healthy carbs for lasting energy and satiety. Stock these healthy snacks in the mini-fridge or in a snack box under the bed:

Traders Joe’s pre-portioned trail mixes are a well-balanced, portion-controlled snack that won’t go bad quickly.

• If fresh fruit is going rotten too quickly, opt for unsweetened dried or dehydrated fruits that are packed with immune-fighting antioxidants and pair with a light cheese—it’s perfectly filling!

• Pair sweet crunchy veggies like snap peas, carrots and peppers with hummus or tzatziki

Don’t Drink Your Meals
Alcohol, juice, and soda calories can quickly add up, so be as mindful or the calories you drink as those that you eat. Try these smart sipping techniques instead:

• Drink water and jazz it up with a slice of orange or cucumber for extra flavor.

• Remember that on average a single beer has 100-200 calories…it adds up, you do the math.

• Juice does not equal fruit. Eat the real thing and you will get more nutrition and far less calories and sugar. Can’t do without OJ in the morning? Limit yourself to 4 ounces and water it down for more volume.

• Craving soda? Choose small servings like Coca-Cola’s mini can. At 90 calories it can curb your cravings without all the calories.

Wisely Choose Your Late-Night Snacks
Avoid the vending-machine runs, pizza deliveries, and sugar-saturated Pop-Tarts and go with a few of these healthy alternatives instead. You’ll  prevent weight gain and promote good sleep.

• Swap pretzels or popcorn for high-fat chips.

• To save calories and Zzz’s, swap pizza for a sandwich like turkey and cheese. High-fat foods digest slowly, which can rob you of good sleep.

• Skip the chocolate before bed, as the caffeine can keep you up all night. Instead, choose fruit with PB or animal crackers to sooth your sweet tooth.

• Need a boost while studying? Choose a wholesome, low-sugar cereal to tied you over. You will wake up energized and refreshed for your test.

Be Smart About Portions
Most dining halls have enough variety to please even the pickiest palate. Just remember that every meal should not be an all-you-can-eat buffet.

• Choose smaller potions of caloric fried and high-fat foods, and pair with a healthy side of fruit or veggies to fill you up.

• Visit the salad bar for a healthy side or meal, but avoid the calorie-rich toppings like cheese, croutons, and creamy dressings.

Katie Cavuto-Boyle, MS, RD, is a Registered Dietitian, chef, and owner of Healthy Bites ToGo Market. Read Katie’s full bio and more about her role at Be Well Philly here.