Weight Gain at College

Reviewed by Wendy Marcason, RDN, LDN
college students eating lunch

The Freshman 15, as it is commonly know, is a real concern for many college students — not just freshman and not always 15 pounds, sometimes less, sometimes more. 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 such as high-fat, sugary coffee drinks, soda, energy drinks and alcohol.

The best solution for avoiding college weight gain is being 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. Emphasize nutrient-rich foods and beverages, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans and nuts and seeds. Limit foods with added fats, sugars and salt.
  • 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 such as water, low-fat or fat-free milk, unsweetened teas and coffee.
  • Consume alcohol in moderation. This means up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men, and only by students of legal drinking age.

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, such as walking to and from class and parking your car further away from campus, burn calories, too.

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