Written by Melissa Herrmann Dierks RDN, LDN, CDE
This fall, millions of students started college for the first time, eager to start making their own decisions including meal time and lifestyle choices. College offers many temptations since no one is there to tell your child when to go to bed, what to wear or what to eat and when. While this independence is good, it brings the potential of weight gain – the infamous “Freshman 15!”
Unexpected weight gain can add to the stress of a new school and living situation, and let’s face it, food is fuel. When a student with a demanding schedule skips meals, overindulges and doesn’t include some activity, their academic performance and energy level can be affected. The importance of a healthy diet is not a focus on looks, but rather on overall energy balance. Parents with a student concerned about weight should encourage them to focus on a well-balanced eating plan and exercise versus weight, size and appearance.
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1. Dining Hall Defense: Stress, fatigue and all-you-can-eat offerings can make portion control difficult. Use the plate method to control portions and strike a balance. Your plate should look like this: ½ plate vegetables, ¼ plate lean protein, ¼ plate complex carbohydrate, and fruit for desert. Aim for balance, variety and moderation in the dining hall.
2. Plan for Snack Attacks: Keep some nourishing snacks on hand for late night hunger and breaks between classes. Fresh fruit, 94% fat-free popcorn, low-fat cheese sticks, almonds, dried fruit, low-fat yogurt, cottage cheese and instant oatmeal can come in handy. Don’t forget that beveragecalories count, too. Keep portion-controlled options like the Coca-Cola mini can on-hand or try zero-calorie options like fruit water, vitamin water or hot or iced green tea.
3. Care Package Control: How about sending a gift card to a local supermarket, Whole Foods store or restaurant that offers a variety of better-eating options? Save the home baked treats for weekends home.
4. Meet the Dietitian: Colleges and universities have a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist on staff to help students with their weight andhealth goals. Visit the student health center and meet the dietitian! He/she is your friend. Also check out recipe ideas on www.collegelifestyles.org which is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist owned website.
5. Get your move on: If intramural sports aren’t for you, find a class at the student fitness center where you can exercise and meet new people, or work out on your own. Exercise helps with weight management, stress reduction and overall wellness.
Melissa Herrmann Dierks RDN, LDN, CDE owns the Huntersville, NC based Eat Smart Nutrition Co. and Supermarket Savvy. She is a consultant to the food andbeverage industry, including Coca Cola, and her opinions are her own. She can be reached atMelissa@SuperMarketSavvy.com or 704-779-2100.