How to Avoid the Freshman 15

College studentsGoing off to college is a fun and exciting time in your life as it offers many new opportunities and provides many new challenges as well. One challenge you may face is first year weight gain, commonly referred to as the "Freshman 15." While most don't actually gain fifteen pounds, it is important to know what you're up against. Read our tips on how to avoid those pesky pounds!

Maintain a consistent schedule
Most college students will agree that it's tough to stay on a regular schedule when your classes and activities change daily. The inconsistency tempts you to rely on rushed meals, unhealthy snacks and late night munchies. But don't let the newfound freedom overwhelm you. Try to maintain a realistic routine for meals and activities even when your activities fluctuate. Sitting down to eat whenever possible will also help you make wiser food choices, and you'll resist the urge to turn to snacks that are packed with tons of fat, salt and cholesterol. 

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Eat healthy, well-balanced meals
A recent study showed that college students were eating less than one serving of fruits or vegetables a day. Cafeteria-style dining at many universities offers an overwhelming amount of choices, yet choosing the right foods is not rocket science. It takes a little thought and a lot of self-control to choose the grilled chicken and veggies over the pizza, but it's essential to give your body the nutrition it needs. Eating a complete and balanced meal will make you less prone to snacking between meals.

Think about what you drink
There can be a ton of sugar loaded into sodas and fruit-flavored juices, and the calories can add up quickly. Look for real fruit juices or switch to flavored seltzers. To stay hydrated make sure you are drinking plenty of water. Drinking water has shown to provide many health benefits helping to relieve fatigue, lose weight, maintain healthy skin and aid in digestion. Remember the "8 by 8" rule, which recommends eight 8-ounce glasses per day.

Work in a workout
After a busy day of class and schoolwork, you may not feel up for hitting the gym. Consider alternative ways to get exercise. Grab a friend to go running after class, organize a flag football game or even go out dancing to burn off some steam! If you typically drive to class, try walking. The exercise and the fresh air will do you good.

Beat the Stress!
Stress and fatigue can leave you depressed, unfocused, and malnourished. Recognize when you need a break. Get out and enjoy nature, call an old friend, take a road trip or read a book for pleasure. When you are in a good place mentally you can focus on creating healthy habits and routines. It can be exhausting to learn a new environment, manage a new schedule and meet new people. Take time to relax.

And remember, it's never too late to start incorporating in healthy habits. The ones you master now may be ones that you keep for the rest of your life. Why not start today?