Freshman fifteen, two words that every freshman dreads. Images of fried foods and grease fly through my head. All I can see is carbs, not a vegetable in sight. It’s like a food horror movie. The stomach pains, the desperate need for a salad.
It is hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle in college. In fact, it might be harder than getting good grades or maintaining a social life because your health is always the category that gets cut from to enlarge the other categories. I am definitely guilty of not paying enough attention to my health. I really started noticing the consequences of my bad habits towards the end of the year when I started gaining weight. At that point, I learned a few tips that helped me to get back into a healthy routine.
In the fall, I joined a club volleyball team; the team held me responsible for attendance. If I did not show up, I let everyone down. My first tip would be joining a club or intramural sport. That way you are forced to get some exercise because you made a commitment to everyone.
Kind of along the same lines as a club sport is going to the gym. Now, I could never get myself to go to the gym. The motivation just was not there. So what I decided to do was workout before practice. I had to walk to the gym anyway so I just left an hour early and worked on strength training for forty-five minutes and then went to practice.
It was much easier to force myself to workout if I knew I had to be at the gym soon anyway. If you have the motivation, I would take advantage of the gym as much as possible. Nearly every university has a gym that students can use for free. That is an amazing opportunity and think about it, you are paying for a membership with your tuition whether you use it or not. You might as well get your money’s worth.
Next, food. This is the most difficult category. Students are at the mercy of whatever concoction the dining commons has come up with today. Or are they? There are a few food hacks I learned over the course of my freshman year that will save you from the freshman fifteen. So yes, there is a salad bar so the easiest and most obvious way to get your veggies is to get some salad, but if you pay a la carte like we did at my school, the salad could get expensive. One hack I found was getting an entrée from one station and then going to the vegetarian station for the sides. The cashiers never noticed that I had different sides and never charged me extra. The vegetarian sides were always sautéed veggies where the other stations’ sides would be potatoes or mac n’ cheese or stuffing, all carbs.
Another food hack pertains to the sauté station. We would always grab a bowl of veggies from the salad bar and ask the cooks at the sauté station to add them to whatever the station was. Often it was pasta without vegetables but we overcame that problem with the salad bar. One of the biggest tips I can give you is stay away from the fried foods and the French fries! Grab a side salad or a banana instead. Also, do not get trapped at the dessert station. Try to stick to one small sweet treat a day. If you had cookies in your room at noon, you do not need cake after dinner. Finally, all you can eat is dangerous! Portion control is key! Eat until you are full and no more. Everything in moderation is acceptable, just be conscious of the choices you are making and the type of food you are putting in your body.
Most students, especially freshman find it very difficult to find transportation off campus to grocery stores to be able to regularly purchase healthy fruits and vegetables. One suggestion that I would have for colleges is to host farmer’s markets on campus. Not only would it allow access to healthy foods for college students, but members of the local community would be able to access the food as well and local vendors would have a free location with thousands of potential customers to whom they can sell their food. It wouldn’t cost the college any money and would not take up college resources. It could be completely student run by food rights groups on campus.
There are other ways that students can work healthy eating into their lifestyle while at college, one of them would be, preserved fruits and vegetables. Okay, I know what you’re thinking, preservatives are bad for you and any preserved produce will have loads of sugar. Well, I am here to tell you that is not always the case. One process of preserving food has allowed consumers to enjoy produce while reducing the waste that comes from rotten foods. This is the process of freeze drying. Instead of purchasing chips and cookies, students can purchase freeze dried fruits such as strawberries, blueberries and raspberries. They are crunchy like potato chips but are much healthier and help you keep your caloric intake low while helping you achieve your nutrient goals for the day.
I am only 18. I have not had the life experiences that I am sure you have had. But college has been a challenge for me on many fronts including staying healthy. When I lived at home, I would eat at least two types of vegetables with every meal. The college has drastically reduced that number and I have found it more difficult than any other time in my life to stay healthy. But with some of these tips, I am sure I will get my eating game back on track and find a healthy balance for the duration of my college career.