It’s such an exciting time: packing every square inch of the car, navigating the interstate, and arriving at the dorm ready to begin life without parental units a few steps away! College means a change of environment, change of routine, change of academic schedule, change of social circle, and change of freedom. All this compounded change can bring unforeseen stress, and what do many of us do when we’re stressed? We EAT!
College freshmen are still figuring out their schedule which means they will likely be rushing to class, grabbing anything they can find from a vending machine because it’s quick, convenient, and cheap. With the change of social circles, they will likely be eating out more or munching on fast food or less-than-healthy dining hall options. Let’s not forget they’ll be staying up late to study, so midnight munchies can also pack on unwanted pounds. Lack of sleep can also send students into a nutritional tailspin, and that sugary caffeine-latent drink they seek first thing in the morning will just compound the hormonal imbalance. Below are some ways your freshman can ward off the infamous “freshman 15”:
- PLAN, PLAN, PLAN! Just like an academic success plan, help them plan out an eating schedule around their classes and study time. Make sure you both write it down so you can both see it and stick to it. While you’re helping your teen stock up on school supplies, make sure to buy some healthy snacks to stash in the dorm room.
- Be Aware. Remember that stress will send your co-ed into a food scavenger hunt! He/she needs to be mindful of cravings and learn to ask, “Am I really hungry?” If not, try a distraction like going for a walk, doing jumping jacks or push-ups.
- Elicit support. Encourage your teen to hook up with a fun, health-conscious group meeting once a week to plan the week’s menu together.
- Create a routine. Just like babies, bodies thrive on routine. Help your teen create and stick to a daily routine as soon as possible.
- Yep. I had to say it. Exercise will be a life saver especially before big exams or stressful periods because it helps reduce stress and anxiety. It provides energy and stamina on the longer academic days. Don’t leave out yoga! Yoga is a great workout and is good for clearing your mind.
- Stay hydrated. Fortunately, bottled water is easy to find and filling up a reusable bottle is free. Dehydration often masks itself as hunger, so encourage your learner to lean on water instead of a snack.
- Teach your freshman to seek out a protein rich breakfast to fill up before the day gets going. Yogurt, a smoothie, eggs are all good morning meal options.
College kids can often be hard on themselves, so help set them up for success not setting unrealistic expectations. They’re going to have more access to food and temptations all day every day, so your teaching and support is going to keep them on track for their health and their diploma.
For some more healthy breakfast ideas, make sure to read our registered dietitian’s blog about healthy way’s to fuel your body in the morning.
Wellness Coach and Program Coordinator
Methodist Health System
Julie graduated from the University of North Texas with a degree in Applied Behavior Analysis. She has a passion for fitness and wellness, and is also a wife and mom to three wonderfully energetic boys.