Finally! Your first year of college: freedom, new faces, fun adventures … and if you’re not careful, the unfortunate “freshman 15”. That’s the extra pounds lots of first year students pack on thanks to dining hall buffets, midnight pizza delivery and junk-food fueled cram sessions. What’s worse? Those bad eating habits, if left unchecked, can stick with you throughout college and beyond.

Here are some easy ways to fight the freshman 15 & start healthy eating habits to last a lifetime:

  1. Beware Liquid Calories: As delicious as smoothies, sodas, juices, and double whip frapps can be, they pack a huge caloric wallop, without satisfying your hunger. So, that means you’ll be adding more calories at mealtime. The solution is to drink as much water as you can throughout the day which keeps you hydrated, and makes you feel fuller so you might even eat less. Also, if you drink alcohol, do so in moderation (for calories and safety!) … you know, it’s not called a beer belly for nothing.
  2. Avoid Buffet Blindness: All-you-can-eat piles of fattening faves are a sure road to adding on the pounds. Instead try to fill your plate with 2/3 vegetables, fruits and whole grains, and 1/3 lean, grilled protein. Before heading back for seconds, hang out a chat a bit to give your body time to register what you’ve eaten.
  3. Move Your Butt: Find reasons to get your body moving whether it’s through a fun intramural sport like extreme frisbee or a spinning class at the campus gym. They’re both great ways to get exercise and make new friends. Make smart choices like walking to class instead of taking the shuttle, and use the stairs instead of the elevator. Instead of hanging with friends over coffee, have a chat while walking around the quad. Exercise is a known stress-release to help with academic anxiety, and it’ll help you avoid stress eating.
  4. Snack Smarter Keep up your energy and avoid bad food binges by sticking to healthy snacks. You’re going to have a busier schedule than ever before, so pack your own healthy snacks in mini storage containers to toss in your backpack. That way you’ll have food on the go, and save those vending machine quarters to use in the laundry room. Think sliced fruit, baby carrots, almonds and whole grain crackers. Be sure to stock your dorm fridge with the good stuff too, so you don’t get tempted during intense study sessions.
  5. Establish Healthy Habits: Studies show that people eat more calories when they don’t get enough sleep. Dorm living can wreak havoc with your schedule and inevitable all-nighters can keep you from getting your zzzz’s. So, it’s up to you to take care of your self. Enjoy some afternoon naps and do your best to get in those 8 hours a night. Avoid “2nd dinners” like evening pizza or wings, but be sure to eat breakfast every morning. That’ll start your system and give you energy to tackle early morning classes. Plus it kicks off your metabolism, which helps reduce calorie intake later in the day.

Healthy Eating Tip:Learn what a USDA-approved serving looks like. Check out their site, to learn guidelines, then grab some measuring cups to portion out different snacks to get a good visual. You’ll probably be surprised to see how much (or how little) a proper portion actually is. Want a big “wow”? Try this experiment with your favorite breakfast cereal.

Have a blast during your freshman year! Just don’t let your all your fun end up pouring over the waistline of your pants. Remember … Spring Break’s just a few months away!

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