With no one to tell you not to eat cookies for dinner or drink an entire two-liter of Coke while late-night studying, it's no wonder that pounds quickly creep onto your freshman-year frame. Whether you gain weight is in your hands, because it's the food choices you make every day that can affect your weight dramatically. To avoid the typical 15-pound balloon-up, harness these 13 healthy eating tips every time you set foot in the dining hall.
- Don't skip: Trying to save calories by skipping breakfast? Your plan will backfire since it slows down your metabolism, which can actually cause weight gain. If you can't make it to the dining hall, keep Greek yogurt or milk for cereal in your dorm room fridge.
- The little things add up: It only takes an extra 500 calories a day to gain a pound a week. So that extra slice of pizza or grabbing a second brownie may not seem like much, but those calories will add up.
- Portion patrol: Get comfortable with appropriate serving sizes so you can easily eyeball what your plate should look like. Here's a handy portion-size guide to help you remember.
- Protein and complex carbs at every meal: A muffin may seem quick and easy, but it's not enough to give you energy till the next meal, which means reaching for high-calorie treats outside the dining hall. Go for complex carbs like oatmeal or whole-grain bread, and pair them with protein-rich eggs, yogurt, beans, or lean meats.
- Go easy on the comfort food: While pasta, buttered rolls, pizza, burgers with fries, and grilled cheese can offer a little taste of home, these high-carb, high-fat foods aren't the healthiest, so enjoy them in moderation.
Keep reading for more ways to cut calories at the dining hall.
- Hang out at the salad bar: Choose one meal a day to devote to the salad bar. Veggies are not only low in calories, but their high-fiber, high-water content will also help you feel full longer. They'll also keep you regular, cutting down on a bloated belly. Just be mindful of high-calorie toppings.
- Go for variety: You'd be happy eating a bowl of Cheerios for breakfast every day, but if your body doesn't get all the nutrients it needs, that sluggish feeling will make you reach for more food in the hopes of an energy lift. Mix it up and choose different fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins. Here's something to try: eat veggies for at least two meals a day — and no, cheese pizza is not a vegetable.
- Soda ban: With almost 150 calories, 40 grams of sugar in a can of soda, and not a drop of nutritional value, swear off soda and opt for calorie-free water or seltzer to quench your thirst and to offer the hydration your overworked, sleep-deprived self needs.
- Go with a friend: It's easier to drown yourself in an enormous plate of food when you're eating solo, so dine with a friend or small group — it'll keep you accountable to how much you eat.
- Stick to your own schedule: Some friends are heading to the dining hall for belgian waffles after you already ate. You know if you tag along, you'll end up eating a second breakfast, so make plans to see them later. Eat when you're hungry instead of just because other people are eating.
- Focus on eating: Nibbling while studying or watching TV often means mindlessly shoveling food into your mouth. By the time you've finished, your brain hasn't had enough time to register that you've eaten a full meal, which means reaching for more food. Take a break and focus on only eating to allow your mind and body time to realize it's satiated.
- Don't eat it just because it's there: Only in the dining hall can you find self-serve ice cream available for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Just because you can top your bowl of cereal with a huge dollop of soft ice cream doesn't mean you should.
- Steal fruit: Even though it's a no-no, most people snag food from the dining hall for later. If you're going to steal, skip the bagels and Rice Krispies treats, and go for fruit instead. Snacking on fiber in between meals will satiate hunger, so the next time you head to the dining hall, that famished feeling won't drive you to devour way more food than you should.