Combating the Infamous “Freshman 15”

The infamous “Freshman 15.”

It has been talked about for years, and even joked about. However, it is definitely not a joking matter. Being away from home and juggling difficult school work, new friends, and just all the new things about college can cause a lot of stress. A lot of college students turn to food to calm them and escape from these stresses for a bit.

But what does this mean for students’ health? The easy access of high calorie, high fat, and sugary options close to campus are evident. Next to the Units are convenient food establishments like Taco Bell, Gypsies, King Pin Donuts, Yogurt Park, and Artichoke’s. Even the dining halls allow overeating because you can continue to go back for more servings. In fact, according to a 2009 study, the average freshman in his or her first semester of college gains 5% of his or her body weight.

Jaylene Tang, a registered dietitian with Cal Dining, offered some valuable insight on how to eat healthy meals on campus. Tang advises students to have a plan with their eating and to stay in control of how and what they eat. This can be done by thinking ahead to where you will eat your meals and which snacks you will bring. It’s good to have simple habits that you do every day.

“Eating is enjoying,” Tang said, “but it shouldn’t be something that occupies our minds.” For example, smartphone apps such as My Fitness Pal that count calorie intake are unnecessary, because eating is something that is intuitive. These apps create an obsession with food, of what you will and will not eat. It causes food to be on your mind all the time.

Tang eats in the dining hall every day, and she described exactly what she does. First, Tang goes to every station to see what is available. Then, she chooses vegetables, either cooked or raw, to fill half of her plate. “Make your plate colorful,” Tang said, “because all the different colors provide phytonutrients to our bodies.” Phytonutrients, which include compounds like beta-carotene and lutein, are substances found in plants that are beneficial to the human body.

Next, the protein is very important. This can be found in fish, chicken, or other types of meat. However, if you don’t eat meat, then the salad bar has tofu and different beans to give protein. Ideally, a meal will be half fruits and vegetables, one quarter protein, and the other quarter starches and carbs.

Outside the dining halls, cutting down on sugary drinks can make a huge difference in your body. These sugary drinks such as juice, boba, or soda can have anywhere from 200 to 500 calories if you have two cups a day. These are empty calories that won’t fill you up, but will just spike your blood sugar very quickly.

Finally, Tang suggests having a steady and stable amount of sleep every night. For example, when you do not get enough sleep, your body produces a hormone called ghrelin, which promotes eating. This can cause unwanted weight gain and other effects from being tired.

For older students living on their own in an apartment, making healthy meals can sometimes be difficult and burdensome. However, inspiration can come from a variety of places. The Instagram account Undergrad Grub is run by a student who goes to a supermarket and takes pictures of all the ingredients needed for a short recipe, so you know what it is you are buying. Follow along with a short video of how to make it, and you have a recipe that is both delicious and nutritious and can be made in a slow cooker. Each recipe averages four to five ingredients and yields about five meals.

So easy! Healthy, delicious, and cost-effective.