A recent study found one out of four college freshmen gains about 10 pounds during her first semester. The recipe for waistline expansion hinges on:
- A decrease in regular physical activity or sports involvement
- Dining halls with unlimited food choices (both healthy and not-so-healthy)
- Increased snacking
- Drinking more caloric beverages like high-fat, sugary coffee drinks, soda and alcohol.
The best solution for avoiding college weight gain is to be aware of your daily calorie intake. Since both food and activity play a role in weight management, writing down daily meals, snacks, beverages and physical activity can help keep weight in check. A food and activity log allows you to see the calories you take in and the calories you burn.
Calories In: Healthy Food Choices
- Eat Breakfast. Do not skip meals, especially breakfast. As the first meal of the day, breakfast keeps your metabolism humming and decreases overeating throughout the day.
- Watch Portions. Pay attention to food choices and portion sizes in the dining hall.
- Make Smart Choices. Select more high-fiber foods like whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables. Fiber helps manage weight by increasing feelings of fullness with fewer calories and keeping blood sugar steady to relieve frequent hunger.
- Pick Lean Protein. All meals and snacks should include lean protein sources such as lean beef, pork, chicken, turkey, fish, beans, nut butters and reduced fat cheese.
- Choose Fats Wisely. Avoid unhealthy fats from fried foods and sweets. Choose more healthful fats from nuts, seeds, olive oil, canola oil and avocados.
- Drink Low-Calorie Beverages. Skip the regular soda and opt for low-calorie choices like water, low-fat or fat-free milk, unsweetened teas and coffee. Limit alcohol to one drink a day; that’s 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of liquor.
Calories Out: Physical Activity
Increase the number of calories you burn. Get moving with at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity most days of the week. Moderate-intensity activities include walking, jogging, biking and stair climbing. Take an elective dance or sports class. Activities of daily living, like walking to and from class and parking your car further away from campus, burn calories, too.
Reviewed January 2013