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10 Healthy Eating Tips to Avoid the Freshman 15

10 Eating Tips For Avoiding the Freshman 15

Going away to school can be dangerous on the waistline. The dorm dining hall is like a giant, all-you-can-eat buffet. And let's be real, the food choices at most campuses are not healthy. On top of that, many students don't have access to a kitchen, and will ultimately eat all of their meals out. It's no wonder most of us gain some weight when going off to college, though the infamous "freshman 15" is really more like 10 pounds. And don't be fooled — weight gain isn't reserved to first-year students only. The eating habits you develop during your first year away can stay with you through college and beyond.

Whether you're eating in a dining hall or cooking for yourself in your first apartment, a few simple strategies can help you avoid that first-year college weight gain. Here are my tips for eating healthy while you're away at school.

  1. Don't skip meals, especially breakfast. Starting with a filling breakfast helps steady your metabolism throughout the day. Here are five ideas for quick but healthy starts.
  2. Drink lots of water. At the dining hall, during lectures, throughout cram sessions, whenever! Skip the soda and carry a water bottle that you can refill throughout the day to prevent constipation and bloating.
  3. Include at least three food groups in every meal. When choosing from the endless dining hall bounty, make an effort to get plenty of fresh fruits and veggies, lean protein, and calcium — not just pizza and chicken fingers. And the more color on your plate, the better.

For the rest of my top 10 healthy eating tips,


  1. Control your portions. Just because you can fill your plate, doesn't mean you should. Familiarize yourself with what proper portions look like and stick to them.
  2. Treat yourself occasionally. Go ahead and indulge, but don't go overboard. If you have a cookie after lunch, skip the ice cream after dinner. Here are some ideas for healthy sweet treats.
  3. Avoid a fourth meal. In my dorm-room days, there were always late-night pizzas being delivered or roommates making mac and cheese at midnight. It's OK to fortify yourself with the occasional snack while studying, but make sure it's actually a snack, not the equivalent of a second dinner or dessert.
  4. Stock healthy snacks. For those late-night study sessions when you do get hungry, keep your dorm room full of healthy snacks like nuts, pretzels, fruit, popcorn, and nutrition bars.
  5. Pick your liquor carefully. Freshmen aren't supposed to drink! But if you do, remember that alcoholic beverages are full of empty calories, and sugary cocktails are the worst for both calories and hangovers.
  6. Shop smart. If you live in an apartment, choose healthy foods when grocery shopping. Only shop the perimeter of a grocery store, or go to a farmers market instead. If you're worried about food going bad, buy items like frozen vegetables and fruit, yogurt, low-fat string cheese, and healthy frozen meals.
  7. Exercise! OK, this isn't really a healthy eating tip, but it's an essential part of keeping the pounds off in college. Walk or bike to class, frequent the school gym, or join an intramural team and get moving!

What are your tips for incoming freshmen looking to avoid the traditional weight gain?

Image Source: Thinkstock
LeiraElle LeiraElle 7 years
I also lost weight in college. 10 lbs freshman year and about 5 each year after. I followed most of these guidelines, but it was more that I hated the cafeteria food, so I only ate salads freshman year. And my classes weren't challenging, so I spent all my free time at the gym until I got a job. Drinking is what did most of my friends in, but I didn't drink until sophomore year (such a good girl...)
Marshmelly411 Marshmelly411 7 years
I think I actually lost weight my freshman year because I hated the cafeteria food haha
danakscully64 danakscully64 7 years
My friend just moved into dorms where she has NO stove or oven, only a toaster, a mini toaster oven, microwave, fridge (she shares, so the space is limited), and noodle maker. It makes healthy meals much harder to plan. I gave her some ideas though. Amy's Kitchen frozen meals are great, pasta salad with lots of veggies, veggie burgers, stuff like that. :)
Mouzzer Mouzzer 7 years
I LOST too.....almost 20 pounds. I was poor (pretty much lived off rise...try to have protein twice a week), on the go constantly and was having lots of sex with my high school sweetheart. I recommend 2 and 3. lol. Not 1.
DanaLikeWhoa DanaLikeWhoa 7 years
The suggestion I'm surprised nobody has mentioned yet is to not overexert yourself in terms of classes and activities. When you're stressed out, you eat more and give yourself permission to eat that whole plate of french fries because it will make you happier for 5 minutes. And when you're doing too much, you sleep less, which just makes you crave sugary foods. That was what happened to me. I gained 10lbs freshman year, lost 15 that summer, and gained 25 sophomore year. I'm starting junior year this fall, and I'm hoping I can follow my own advice.
becky0125 becky0125 7 years
it's the drinking that gets you. but i absolutely don't regret any weight I've gained. I gained a ton of weight after being seriously underweight my first year, and I'm happier enjoying late night pizza with my friends, having more fun at parties, and just feeling more like a college student instead of a grandma worrying about if i'm getting enough fruits and veggies into my diet.
neonbee neonbee 7 years
I didn't gain weight during my first year (which was last year), but I gained a good 5-7 pounds this summer. I blame you Italy, Switzerland, Asia, and Bora Bora! :(
zc zc 7 years
ironically i lost weight in college..and started putting it back after.
stumbler02 stumbler02 8 years
I never eat at the dining hall, I always eat a big breakfast, and I go to the school gym as often as I can.
Spectra Spectra 8 years
I gained 30 lbs the first half of my freshman year because I basically ate 24/7...I'd grab food from the cafeteria for breakfast, got snacks at the vending machines between classes, ate entire cans of Chef Boyardee pasta for lunch, snacked on chips and cookies and other crap while I did homework, ate cheeseburgers and fries for dinner and then ate a fourth meal after I got off my night shift job. I went back to eating 3 meals a day and eating meals like cereal and fruit instead of donuts or waffles. I ended freshman year 10 lbs lighter than I was when I started the year and lost another 40-45 lbs over the course of the next three years and kept it off til now. Oh, here's tip #11...when your parents send you care packages full of food, SHARE IT!! Give some to your dorm floor mates, your roommates, etc. Don't eat it all yourself; it's way too easy to eat too much of it at once.
GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 8 years
I LOST the Freshman 15, not gained. I missed my family's good home cooking. College cafeteria did NOT compare. Whenever I came home, my Mom desperately tried to fatten me up with her cooking. :)
elysiamann elysiamann 8 years
i'm a freshman right now, so thank you for these tips! i'm definitely the most health-conscious of my friends. i eat salad with both lunch and dinner, always have tons of fruits and veggies, and lots of filling fiber. i'm also a (relatively new) vegetarian, so trading tofu, eggs, and beans for calorie-laden meat definitely helps. i'm at a huge school so i walk everywhere and am confident in myself to make healthy choices! looking forward to seeing more tips from everyone!
mamasitamalita mamasitamalita 8 years
AMEN muppets4dinner!!! I gained a little bit of weight freshman/sophomore year and would gain it all again for those fun times!! then, senior year 2nd semester I worked out a ton to help combat the stress of impending graduation (and also so I could buy a really amazing graduation dress! :) )
equestriennechic equestriennechic 8 years
Keep a scale in your room! It's not good when the only way to tell if you've gained weight is by the way your clothes fit!
Modus-Vivendi Modus-Vivendi 8 years
Not drinking is key. Because the calories in the beer will get you and then you'll get hungry and go to Taco Bell and that will get you again.
hlewis hlewis 8 years
I didn't gain the Freshmen 15 but I did gain 10 pounds by Sophomore year. I lost it through diet and excercise. Now, I'm back to that same weight right before my senior year. Definitely going to use these tips when I get back in the fall!!
MuppetsForDinner MuppetsForDinner 8 years
The number one way I avoided the Freshman 15 (I actually lost weight freshman year) was going to the gym. It was very social-- go with some new friends on my floor... check out the guys... talk with my roommate. However, I did put on a little weight (5 lbs) sophomore year... and you know what? It was WORTH IT! Thinking back to late night pizza runs, going to parties, being with friends... I would trade 5 lbs for that any day.
ella1978 ella1978 8 years
Ah, the college days. I remember what added my freshman 15... french onion dip and pretzels - it is amazing. We were up all hours of the night in the studio, drinking sugary caffinated sodas & eating crap. Then rushing between classes to grab breakfast and lunch, ugh, what an awful period of eating for me. So glad that's long in the past. By the way, I have found since then that fat free cottage cheese and pretzels is almost the same, and relatively guilt free!
DeppObsession DeppObsession 8 years
I live in at home and do all these things, except number 8, I don't drink. I haven't gained any weight from 2007 (when I was a college freshman) .. I like the tips. Bookmarking this :)
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