You freshmen out there have probably already been warned about the accursed Freshman 15. To those of you who haven’t heard, the Freshman 15 basically says that you’re doomed to gain 15 pounds in your first year of college. Below are tips to avoid the freshman 15!

But don’t worry! Studies show that most freshman actually only gain five pounds. However, even if that amount seems small, five pounds can significantly impact your health, especially with obesity on the rise. So the goal is to avoid gaining unhealthy weight all together and maintaining your current weight (or perhaps even losing a few extra pounds). Here are the some tips on avoiding the Freshman 15.

Don’t go straight for the fast/fatty foods at the dining halls.

I know the temptation of being able to eat whatever you like now–instead of having to listen to your nagging “eat-your-greens” mom all the time–is great, but eating hamburgers, pizza, chips, and just about every other run-of-the-mill quick and easy food every day is seriously unhealthy. Not only will you quickly pack on pounds, but malnutrition will increase your risks for many diseases, like heart disease. At college dining halls, try balancing out your meal with enough protein, vegetables, fruits, and grains. Yup, I’m serious. You have to hit the salad bar. It may not be as satisfying as fast food, but you’ll definitely see the results later on when your classmates have become heavier and you have not.

Try cooking your own food.

Now this is harder to do if you live in a dorm with no kitchen, but if you’re able to go home for the weekends (or you’re one of the few lucky ones with a dorm kitchen), it wouldn’t hurt to test out your cooking abilities. Not only is homemade food sometimes infinitely healthier, and overall cheaper, than fast food, it also tastes better most of the time too (given that you don’t burn everything). It helps to look up recipes on health food blogs or cooking websites like allrecipes.com. They’ll usually tell you the nutrition value of the meal you’re making. And most of the recipes are just absolutelty delicious, and you have the freedom to modify them to your liking.

Keep track of what you eat.

In other words, keep a food journal. Writing down the amount of food and calories you eat everyday has actually been proven as an effective weight loss method. Lots of dieticians will suggest it, so it doesn’t hurt to try it out. Buy a small $1.00 notebook just about anywhere and write down what you eat at every meal. And always do it before or right after you eat. If you wait until later to write it down, you’ll have forgotton what you exactly ate and in what amounts. Trust me, you’ll be surprised by how much food you eat in a day if you actually take the time to write it down. And once you realize where your problem areas lie (like you eat too much foods full of oils and fats, not enough protein, etc.), it’ll be much easier to fix them and get on track to a healthy diet.

Exercise.

This is pretty much a given if you want to be healthy. Lots of college kids get swamped with homework, clubs, and other activities that they sometimes forget to squeeze in their daily exercise. Even taking 30 minutes a day to do some reps of situps, pushups, and other basic exercises will help a lot in keeping unwanted weight off. Keeping your body active will also make you more awake and alert for classes and homework. So in the words of Nike: Just do it. (Exercise that is.)

Check out these dietary guidelines.

If you’re lost and don’t know how to start eating healthy, the USDA (or United States Department of Agriculture) comes out with yearly guidelines that have suggestions of how to eat healthy based on your age, gender, and amount of daily exercise. Taking a look at them will give you a good idea of where to start with changing your diet and what your daily calorie intake goals should be. So go check out their guidelines and other helpful health information here: Dietary Guidelines.

Whether you’re already healthty or want to be healthy, these are some good tips to consider about what you eat when you begin your first year of college. Oftentimes students get so wrapped up in the novelty of their first year, it becomes easy to neglect other things that are important, such as health. So don’t be one of those freshmen who get trapped by the Freshman 15; instead, be one of the ones who conquer it.

Got any of your own successful health tips? Share them in the comments section down below! 

Photo courtesy of quinn.anya via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).

check out the video below about more ways to avoid the dreaded freshman 15!
How To Avoid the Freshman 15

What do you do to avoid the “freshman 15”? Post your tips below in the comments section.