The first year of college brings with it a whole host of adjustments: class schedules, dorms, new friends, new frenemies, clubs and organizations. And then there's the food. Lots of it. Most colleges and universities these days have more cafeteria and snack bar options than you can shake a french fry at. Make that a chili cheese french fry. And therein lies the problem, dear readers. Not all of those food options are good for you, at least not in the quantities that are so readily available under many college meal plans. Salad bars stretch on for what seems like miles. Fast food aromas waft right into the line for steamed rice and veggies. Soft serve is available at 2 a.m. What's a frosh to do?
A pinch of planning and a dash of will power go a long way, not to mention support from friends and classmates. Consider these tips to keep your waistline in check and the Freshman 15 an urban myth:
1. Limit your meal plan. Don't go for the unlimited option. Most meal plans offer several tiers, with one being nearly all-you-can-eat. Not only is this plan likely to put a major dent in your wallet, you'll certainly see some dimples in other places as you feel the inevitable urge to get your money's worth. Choose a more modest plan that has limits built in.
2. Make a pact with friends. Find some health-conscious comrades to keep you in check. Form a lunch group that encourages healthy choices and makes meal time just as much about socializing as it is about food.
3. Limit sugar-sweetened beverages. Those SSBs like soft drinks, juices and coffee concoctions can add hundreds of calories and grams of sugar to your diet daily. And that adds up to extra pounds. Choose water or unsweetened tea to go with your meals and you'll save yourself a minimum of about 300 calories per day.
4. Pack your lunch. When the weather is nice, make yourself a picnic. Stock up your dorm fridge with healthy lunch options like lean cold cuts, carrot sticks, fruit, yogurt, salad, rice and beans, etc. Plan to pack yourself a lunch at least once a week and head outside for a bit of fresh air, as well as fat and calorie savings.
5. Avoid the late-night snack bar. Cramming for an exam? Term paper all-nighter? It can be so very tempting to head to that 24-hour snack bar in the wee small hours for a candy bar and soda pick-me-up. But not only will those calories make you more jittery rather than actually aiding your concentration, over time they can pack on the pounds. Keep your dorm stocked with snacks that give you a good balance of protein and natural sugars to help regulate your blood sugar, like apples with peanut butter, cheese and nuts, yogurt, and low-fat ice cream.
6. Track your habits with mobile apps. If you have a smartphone, the right app to help you keep track of your diet is likely free and just a few clicks away. Record your meals and keep tabs on how you're doing, how you feel, and your weight. Seeing is believing -- and will help you stay on track and make adjustments to your diet if you notice that you're getting off track.