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Tips to Avoid the Freshman 15


WRITTEN BY: UPMC
Monday, August 29th, 2016

Leaving home for the first time and living in a new environment can be overwhelming. After all, your freshman year of college is full of new sights, sounds, and a cafeteria stocked with seemingly endless choices for breakfast, lunch, and dinner — and maybe even a few snacks in between.

And with those excess meal options may come the storied “freshman 15,”  the extra pounds students are rumored to pack on during their first year away at college.

Tessa Wellmon, registered dietitian at the Center for Healthy Living at UPMC Hamot, said 25% of college students gain weight during their freshman year of college.

It may not be exactly 15 pounds, but Wellmon said it is typically about 5 percent of a student’s body weight.

Reasons College Students Gain Weight

Students gain weight for a number of reasons, some of which include:

  • Increase in calorie consumption
  • Decrease in exercise
  • High school athletes who spend less time competing and more time studying
  • Consuming unbalanced meals
  • Eating because of stress

So how do you avoid the infamous “freshman 15?”  Whether you are an incoming college student or a few years in, these are just a few tips to maintain a healthy weight while at college.

RELATED: How Stress Affects Your Brain

Preventing the Freshman 15

  1. Balance your meals

When perusing the cafeteria, avoid fried foods, as they have high fat and calories. Skip the pizza line and instead head for the salad bar. This does not mean you should always avoid fried foods and pizza altogether, but you should snack on them in moderation.

Portion control is another important factor to prevent the “freshman 15.” It can be difficult to resist the urge to fill and re-fill your plate in a cafeteria with unlimited options. Wellmon encourages students to eat a minimum of two fruits and three vegetables per day in addition to whole grains and lean proteins such as chicken and fish.

  1. Eat breakfast everyday

As the cliché goes, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially in the effort to prevent extra weight gain your freshman year in college.

Make sure breakfast selections include some form of protein, such as eggs or a protein shake. Weight gain is more common among people who skip breakfast, and eating protein in the morning will keep you fuller longer during the day.

Make sure to eat a protein-filled breakfast everyday to prevent gaining the #freshman15! Click To Tweet

RELATED: 14 Days of Nutrition Tips from Gary Roberts

  1. Stock your dorm with healthy snacks

It may seem backwards to eat more often to prevent weight gain, but it is important to eat every two to four hours a day.

Snacking prevents you from becoming overly hungry at mealtimes, which often leads to over-eating. This does not mean you should reach for the potato chips any time you feel pangs of hunger, however.  Instead, stock healthy snacks, such as apples, carrots, yogurt cups, almonds, or string cheese.

Make time for exercise

Despite the temptation otherwise, make time in your busy schedule to get moving. Whether going for a run or hitting the gym, it is important to find time to get some exercise during the day. For more accountability, consider getting an exercise partner or joining an intramural sports team.

Get sleep!

College is full of new and exciting experiences you don’t want to miss, but do not neglect your sleep schedule in the process. If you wake up feeling tired, you may be tempted to boost your energy with additional caffeine and sugar, which contribute to excess weight gain.

If you’re beginning to figure out life as a freshman or preparing to graduate in a few months, it is never too late to develop healthy habits at school. For more information about healthy eating and nutrition, check out UPMC’s Nutrition Services.


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UPMC

A $14 billion world-renowned health care provider and insurer, Pittsburgh-based UPMC is inventing new models of patient-centered, cost-effective, accountable care. UPMC provides nearly $900 million a year in benefits to its communities, including more care to the region’s most vulnerable citizens than any other health care institution. The largest nongovernmental employer in Pennsylvania, UPMC integrates 65,000 employees, more than 25 hospitals, 600 doctors’ offices and outpatient sites, and a 3.2 million-member Insurance Services Division, the largest medical and behavioral health services insurer in western Pennsylvania. Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences, UPMC ranks No. 12 Read More