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Avoid the Dreaded "Freshman Fifteen"

Starting college can be a challenging time. This transition from high school and living at home to college life brings with it stress and poorer eating habits.
The "freshman 15" is said to be the average amount of weight gained during the freshman year.


I have a niece and nephew who will move into their college dorm rooms next week. It will be a new challenging time for them and for thousands of other incoming freshmen as they try to find their way around a new campus, make new friends, attend new class formats and experience new freedom. The transition from high school and living at home to college life brings stress and poor eating habits. The combination of these two things can lead to weight gain, or the dreaded “freshman 15.”

The “freshman 15” is said to be the average amount of weight gained during the freshman year. Combine freedom from parents and meal plans where students are in control and you have a recipe for disaster on your waistline; no wonder those jeans won’t fit. 

There are general strategies you can use to develop healthy eating habits that can last a lifetime.

Don't skip breakfast.

Remember that Mom was right when she said to eat breakfast. Skipping meals can lead to overeating later in the day. Choose healthy breakfast options such as an egg white omelet filled with veggies or whole wheat toast or bagel with peanut butter and a fruit cup instead of the calorie-laden cinnamon roll and crème cappuccino. Remember that medium crème cappuccino can have 470 calories and 17 grams of fat. The lesson here is to drink black coffee if you need a caffeine fix and save your calories for nutrient dense foods.

Take advantage of the fitness facility on campus.

These are top class recreation facilities that may have a rock climbing wall, lazy river, weight room, cardio equipment and classes to get you moving. Most likely your tuition covers use of this facility, so you might as well get your money’s worth. Consider taking a fitness activity for academic credit. You’ll develop a new skill, and the required attendance will help motivate you. Remember that exercise is a natural energy booster!

Pay attention to portion sizes.

Portion sizes and serving utensils are much larger at college, and if your cafeteria has an all-you-can-eat plan, you can end up with much more food on your plate than you are used to getting at home. Take small amounts and only go back for seconds if you are truly still hungry. Remember the 20-minute rule; it takes 20 minutes for your stomach to signal your brain that it is full and it’s time to stop eating.

Have a plan when going to the dining hall for your meal.

Focus on filling your plate with vegetables and fruits. Choose vegetables that are grilled and steamed, not fried. Chose vegetables that are dark and leafy; these will contain nutrients to keep your body running. Sorry, but although cherry pie is made from fruit, it shouldn’t be chosen as your fruit of the day. As a general rule, one-half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables, one-quarter should be carbohydrates or starch, preferably whole grain, and the last quarter should be protein.

Keep your stress level in check.

Know if you are eating for comfort and watch for unhealthy choices that can be detrimental to your health. Comfort foods tend to be loaded with sugar, fats or both. Keep a snack basket filled with things such as whole grain crackers or cups of fruit packed in its own juices. These will be a much better choice than calling the pizzeria for your midnight snack.

Enjoy your freshman year of college; it’s a wonderful time to learn new things both academically and personally. Just don’t forget to take care of yourself. Your body and brain need the right nutrients and vitamins to function properly. Choosing the right foods will affect your energy, concentration, memory and waistline! 

For more information, contact the Miller County Extension Office, 870-779-3609 or visit us in room 215 at the Miller County Courthouse. We're online at, on Facebook at UAEXMillerCountyFCS/CarlaHaleyHadley, on Twitter @MillerCountyFCS or on the web at

By Carla Haley-Hadley
County Extension Agent - FCS
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture


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