The freshman 15 — How not to gain (too much) weight in college
Going to college — for some it’s the first time away from home-cooked meals, and mom and dad buying the food.
That could lead to bad food choices and of course, the dreadful "Freshman 15."
Actually, a new Rutgers study finds that while students, especially freshmen, do put on weight, it’s not 15 pounds. It’s more like 7 pounds, according to Peggy Policastro, director of behavioral nutrition at Rutgers.
She says all students need to really do is eat an extra 100 calories a day to put on that seven pounds. Grabbing an extra handful of fries or an extra sweetened beverage will do that to you.
While students may make bad food choices, Policastro said, it’s not always about their diet. Sometimes it’s about their exercise habits and drinking alcohol, which can definitely pack on the pounds.
She said in high school, kids may be involved in sports, but they tend to give them up in college, so their level of exercise may decrease. Also, late-night snacks can be a killer on the waistline during the college years.
So Policastro encouraged students to “try to walk as much as possible if you’re not participating in sports. Secondly, think about your late-night snacks. They can add a whole other meal to you whole day.”
Keep healthy snacks in your dorm room instead of going out for that late-night fast food run. Try munching on pretzels, nuts and hummus, she added.
To help students curb their weight gain, Rutgers is looking into using a menu-of-change principle. What students are going to find is much healthier options in the dining halls and through the school’s take-out system vs. the old chicken nuggets and fries. Now, it is offering items that are more nutritious, more plant-focused and less protein-focused.
In the take-out system, Policastro said, Rutgers is taking out sugar-sweetened beverages and only offering water or seltzer.
“Within our dining halls, we’re going to stop offering very heavy calorie and heavy meat-laden foods and offer a lot more with plant-focused items," she said.
Also there are so many different dietary needs these days — whether due to allergies or religious traditions. Rutgers has a sophisticated dining program in which all students with special dietary needs will be accommodated, Policastro said.
“Dining services can accommodate a student who follows a diet with an allergy or even religious preferences such as foods that are halal,” Policastro said.
She said dieticians will work with individual students, help set up meetings and nutrition care plans so they can eat healthy and safely on campus.