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Explore nutrition tips, kids’ meal plans, kids’ activities, recipes and more from pediatric nutritionist, Melissa Halas, MA, RDN, CDE.

Fight Off The Freshman 15

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Class schedules, limited places to prepare nutritious meals, a decline in quality sleep, and a reduction in physical activity, all contribute to the surge in college student weight gain.

Many college freshmen fear the dreaded “freshman 15,” and it’s no wonder why! How can students beat the bulge? Let’s take a look at some recommended measures college students should take to keep off the weight.

Today’s college cafeterias provide endless temptation for students by offering comfort and convenience foods many students crave. With buffet-style food lines, soda fountains, and dessert bars, the temptations are hard to resist, but there are also nutritious options! College students should remember that a variety of foods should be consumed to ensure a balanced intake of important vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.

Always begin the day by eating breakfast!

Eating breakfast will take your body out of the fasting state while revving up your metabolism. Listed below are a few simple ideas for breakfast.

  • A piece of fruit with yogurt and low-fat granola.
  • Whole grain toast with peanut butter and a small banana.
  • A serving of oatmeal with blueberries and a glass of skim milk.
  • Get breakfast on-the-go ideas!

Snack healthy!

  • If you’re hungry in between classes, but don’t have the time to stop and grab a meal, pack a few healthy snacks:
  • A handful of walnuts or almonds will provide you with healthy fats to help you feel full.
  • Adding a piece of fruit or pre-washed, pre-cut veggies will refuel your body until your next meal.
  • See 50 yummy snack ideas.

Eat balanced meals!

If you’re in a college cafeteria for lunch and dinner, focus your choices around fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean sources of protein.

  • Navigate toward the salad bar and fill your plate with dark green, yellow, and red veggies.
  • Add protein to your plate by choosing beans, grilled or baked chicken, or fish.
  • Choose healthy carbohydrate sources such as brown rice, whole wheat bread or dinner rolls, and whole-grain pasta.

Most importantly, remember sensible portion sizes for filling your plate by using this visual tool provided by

Give in to cravings-in moderation!

Are you finding that slice of pizza or cheeseburger tempting your taste buds? When these foods are consumed in moderation, guilty pleasures should not cause too much concern. Try to include a small piece of fruit, serving of veggies, or side salad to take in a sufficient amount of vitamins and minerals.

Get those Zzz’s!

Remember to get quality sleep by aiming for 7-8 hours every night. Sleep helps heal your body, and, according to Harvard Health Publication, affects how the body processes carbohydrates and releases hormones that affect appetite. Lack of adequate sleep can cause increased consumption of caffeinated and high-calorie drinks and decreased consumption of nutritious foods. Learn how sleep is essential for a healthy weight.

Stay hydrated!

Pack a bottle of water to carry with you for the day and refill it at nearby water fountains when it gets low. The USDA recommends that males in the age range of 19-30 should have 3.7 liters of water a day, while females in the same age range should take in 2.7 liters a day.

Make fitness a priority!

Last but not least, do not neglect physical activity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend everyone shoot for 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity 5 days a week, either all at once or broken up throughout the day. Need ideas on how to be more active? Take a peek at these suggestions.

Starting college can be a scary time for anyone. Gaining weight is the last thing any student wants to worry about. Following recommendations to maintain good health will not only help students succeed academically but also empower them to take control of their health and lives.

Test Your Knowledge:

  1. Skipping breakfast will help someone lose weight?
  2. Exercise routines can be split up throughout the day and do not have to be completed at one time?


  1. False
  2. True.

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About the Author

Picture of Heather Pechatsko

Heather Pechatsko

Heather is a student at the University of Kentucky in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in dietetics and a minor in health promotion. She takes pleasure in cooking, staying active, and travelling. She believes in the power that good nutrition plays in everyday health, and enjoys sharing her excellent educational background with others to help them achieve their goals.

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