Stepping into university or college is not only exciting but also can be challenging for a freshman to maintain healthy eating habits, especially for those who are living away from their parents for the first time.
Nutrition expert Professor Rena Mendelson from Ryerson University offers some valuable tips to avoid the freshman bulge:
1. Try to eat regularly. Packing a healthy lunch (or snack) in your backpack that includes protein will make it easier to resist junk-food cravings.
• Part-skim cheese strings
• Baked tortilla chips and low-fat bean dip
• Dried fruit and nut mix
• Single serving of tuna (water-packed) with crackers
Remember to keep food safe (i.e. not at room temperature for more than two hours).
2. Always have breakfast. A high-fibre, low-fat breakfast that includes protein is a powerful way to start your day. Try a whole-wheat bagel with peanut butter and an orange or dried cereal mixed with fruit and yogurt.
3. Choose low-fat options. Pick low-fat milk instead of whole milk or light salad dressing instead of full-fat dressing. A wrap may be healthier than a burger, and a salad is better for you than poutine. Check the nutrition profiles online if possible.
4. Never snack out of the box or bag. It's easy to lose track of how much you've eaten when you're studying or hanging out. Take out one serving and put the package away before you eat what's on your plate.
5. Drink water at meals. Instead of pop or beer, drink water to quench your thirst between meals and flush out excess sodium.
6. Keep healthy snacks in your room. Consider renting or buying a small (eco-friendly) refrigerator for your room so you can store your own foods and depend less on dorm meals. Even if you don't have a fridge in your room, you can still keep pretzels, fruit (dried or fresh), healthy nuts, and energy bars on hand.
7. Avoid late-night snacking. If you must snack while studying, choose healthy options such as fruit and veggie bars, fresh fruit, almonds, low-fat granola bars, whole-grain crackers and mini cans of tuna. If you crave pizza, choose vegetarian instead of loading up on meat toppings.
8. Love your veggies. Find out if your dorm offers special vegetarian meals, which are usually more nutritious than regular fare.
9. Keep a food journal. You can keep track of what you eat more easily and be less tempted to grab a chocolate bar when the munchies hit you.
10. Get active. Instead of driving or taking public transit, try walking or cycling. You'll get to your destination by getting in a workout at the same time.
11. Up your fibre. Choose whole grains and legumes to help control your appetite. Eat a fibre-rich cereal (look for at least seven grams of fibre per serving) several times a week, order sandwiches on 100 per cent whole wheat bread, eat entrées with beans, and regularly substitute white rice and other refined grains with brown rice, barley or bulgur.
12. Avoid calorie-loaded coffee drinks. The drinks are delicious, but they're also full of calories and fat. If you're craving a specialty drink, order a small one, or try a low-fat hot or iced latte dusted with cinnamon and cocoa powder.
13. Party smart. Eat a healthy meal before you go so you aren't starving when you arrive. Plan to limit your alcohol: Alcohol is one of the main reasons students gain weight at school. One beer usually contains at least 150 empty calories. Try drinking only on weekends and avoid excessive binge drinking entirely.
14. De-stress to prevent stress eating:
• Keep yourself and your schedule organized
• Try to get seven to eight hours of sleep a night
• Exercise can be a great way to relieve tension and reduce stress.