I’ll always remember my freshman year in University: New housing. New friends. New interests. New dress size. Yes, with all the wonderful things that come with the first year out of high school so too does the fear of packing on a few extra pounds, generally known as the dreaded “Freshman 15!” We’re eating in a cafeteria instead of our mom’s kitchen, no longer have gym classes and school sports to keep us active, and have countless excuses to drink alcohol. Plus with all the extra stress of moving out and managing classes, it can be hard to prioritize making healthy decisions. The struggle to stay on track is real! But, it’s not an entirely lost cause!
Strategies to Avoid Gaining Weight in University
One of the simplest mistakes students make when they first enter the dorm room is to skip breakfast! I get it, sleep is important and now that you can roll out of bed and head straight to the lecture hall without changing or showering or even going outside, your alarm clock goes off with very few minutes to spare for a nourishing meal. But, this habit is costly when it comes to keeping weight in check. First of all, starting the morning with a healthy meal revs the metabolism and helps you burn more calories all day long. Secondly, those who don’t eat breakfast are far more likely to make poor choices for the rest of the day and end up consuming more calories in the end, despite missing a meal! But it doesn’t have to be a breakfast of champions: there are lots of on-the-go options like yogurt and granola, instant oatmeal, smoothie powders, or protein bars. These are all things you can store in your room and take with you to class, along with your sleepy eyes and bed head!
Most cafeterias include a fairly extensive buffet. Buffets are fun but also can be dangerous. We’re often tempted to try everything and anything, including the things we wouldn’t normally order. Even worst is that we're more inclined to go back for seconds when we’re done. These buffet-induced side effects can escalate our weight quickly! The way to avoid these pitfalls is to go into every meal with a plan of action. Before you go through with your plate in hand, take a pass without your plate and plan your meal ahead of time. This will ensure that instead of sampling everything, you only take what you initially intended. As for what to reach for, try to avoid anything fried or saucy, opting instead for grilled, steamed and baked options.
Studying sucks. Trust me, I know! That is why we often try to sooth the negative feelings towards textbooks by munching on something delicious. Yes, study snacking is a common phenomenon in uni and let’s just say the goodies are not usually carrots. Now, I know better than to suggest cutting the study snacking all together. In fact, part of the reason we reach for snacks is because of our biology! Our brain craves carbohydrates for fuel as we learn. Because of this, I would encourage smart snacking! These days there are plenty of delicious options that aren’t nacho chips or chocolate bars. From roasted chickpeas to Simply chips to dried fruit and chocolate covered nuts – there is plenty to choose from. Just make sure you stock up at the beginning of the week so that you can make the healthy choice, the easy choice!
Another weight-watching black hole is the drinking! Now that you’re out of the house, and living with your friends, every night feels like Saturday night. Enjoy every second, just don’t enjoy every calorie. The trick is mixing smart. The rule of thumb is the clearer the alcohol the fewer calories are involved, meaning vodka is the best bet. As for what mix to use, of course anything diet will do, but soda water is where it’s at. You can flavor a vodka-soda with some lemon or lime juice which makes it taste great and will also keep you hydrated (another big one for weight loss!). It’s a win-win! If you want something a bit sweeter, opt for a 100% juice blend with zero added sugar. This makes way for antioxidants without sacrificing your waistline.
Midnight Snack Attack
The last piece of advice: don’t eat late at night. I know this seems impossible, but if I learned anything in my college years it’s that nothing good ever happens past midnight and that includes nutrition decision! The midnight snack usually comes after a few beverages when hunger is high and inhibitions and will power are low. The result is not good for our waistlines. Having those healthy snacks lining your dorm room will help you stay on track, if you simply must satisfy a late night craving.