Thirty percent of college students were classified as obese or overweight in 2009 by the American College Health Association. Ways to keep your child healthy while in college.
It’s hard to say when the myth of the “Freshman 15″ began, but the belief that college freshmen will pack on the pounds is widespread in the United States. Though the number 15 is a rather arbitrary figure – and recent studies have shown that girls are more likely to gain closer to seven pounds – there is little doubt that the circumstances of college life aren’t very conducive to healthy eating. Late-night meals, unhealthy snacks, an increase in alcohol consumption and a decrease in physical activity are the chief factors to blame for weight-gain, but with a little encouragement from parents, students can stave off the famed Freshman 15.
Registered dietitian at Exhale Spa Melissa O’Shea shares her advice to help parents keep their college students healthy:
1. Visit campus dining halls with your student and point out healthy options.
Luckily some colleges have improved their options in the dining hall and now offer many lean protein and whole grain options. Take a good scan of the area and be savvy about all of the options available. Think about filling up half of your plate with salad/vegetables, 1/4 with a lean protein (grilled or roasted chicken is usually a staple in most dining halls) and 1/4 with a healthy grain like brown rice or a whole wheat roll. Be aware that buffet style settings can lead to overeating with multiple trips back up to the servery. Be mindful of portion sizes and your hunger levels.
2. Send them to school with nutrition bars and other healthy snack options.
Nutrition bars are always a great option to keep in your bag for on the go in between classes. Some of my favorites are Lara bars, Kind Bars and Pure Organic bars. If you don’t find a local store that sells them, you can always order a bulk supply from their online stores or from Amazon. Trail mix is another great option. Nuts, seeds and dried fruit can be bought in bulk and you can make little baggies of your favorite combination. Bananas and apples are also easy to get your hands on and travel well.
3. Encourage your child to get out of the dorm and take an exercise class.
Between unlimited buffets, late night eating, liquid calories and a mostly sedentary lifestyle, it is easy to see how the lbs can pack on. The ice cream machine will always be there so no need to serve yourself some every night. Keep healthy snacks in your room in case hunger strikes and you don’t want to take part in the late night pizza party. Most schools have a fitness center available to students. Try fitting in some exercise into your class schedule to compensate for the inevitable intake of extra calories.
4. Talk to them about alcohol.
If your child is under 21, they should not be drinking, period. Make sure to have these conversations with them before shipping them off to college. For those of you with children over 21, decide which nights they can go out and ask them to keep track of how much you they are drinking throughout the night. Alternate each alcoholic drink with a glass of water to stay hydrated and slow down calorie consumption.
Reporting by Kevin Baumer
For more on nutrition from Melissa O’Shea on genConnect:
- Healthy Eating Tips That Won’t Pack on the Pounds
- 6 Tips On Getting Your Pre-Baby Body Back
- Fish and Whole Grains: What You Should Take Away From the Mediterranean Diet
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