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How to Avoid the Freshman 15

The “Freshman 15” might sound a little over-exaggerated, but studies show that on average, students gain between 3 and 10 lbs during their first two years of college, and most of it is put on during the first semester of freshman year. From my personal experience, I did gain 15 lbs the first year when I stayed in the dorms, enjoying the all-you-can-eat meals at the dining hall there!

College life is notorious for late-night snacking, eating convenience foods on the run, skipping regular meals for unhealthy snacks, drinking lots of sugary and caffeinated beverages, and many kids start drinking beer during their college years which can add to the caloric intake significantly. In one study of students who gained 4 lbs in 12 weeks, only 174 extra calories were consumed daily. This means that a few poor choices can stack up and make a significant difference over time.

With the busy schedules filled with classes, extracurricular activities, studying and social events, fitting in nutritious meals and exercise become their lower priority. It is important to explain to them that eating right is important for sustained energy, mental stamina and memory. Meals and snacks consists of lean proteins, fiber-rich carbs, and healthy fats provide a sustained release of energy that optimizes our mental focus and alertness, while a diet filled with sugary and processed carbs (like candy bars, sugary drinks, cakes and muffins) leaves us on a roller coaster of energy highs and lows that can interfere with our concentration, learning skills and memory.

Here are some tips you can help your kids who are heading to college to avoid excessive weight gain during their first couple years:

1. Take a tour around campus to look for healthy dining options and discuss how to fit a balanced meal into their daily schedule.

2. Portion control – download an app like Lose it! Or My Fitness Pal to track daily calories.

3. Get a pedometer or a wireless activity tracker to remind them to walk at least 8000 steps a day to stay healthy.

4. Stock the dorm mini fridge with high-protein snacks like low-fat string cheese or hummus paired with baby carrots or cherry tomatoes. Choose foods and beverages with low and no-calorie sweeteners like light style yogurts, jell-o or diet drinks to satisfy the sweet tooth without the calories. Numerous studies show that, when consumed along with a balanced diet and exercise, low-and no-calorie sweeteners can be an important tool for those looking to control calories and weight. Better yet, get a water bottle with infuser for your kid to create their own fruit infused water and bring to class to encourage water intake.

5. Send a care package not just with comfort foods but a popular exercise DVD and fitness magazines to encourage dorm room workouts.

Interested in learning about weight goal and nutrition needs? Schedule a free body weight and fat% analysis with Hazel at 626-283-5128 or email to

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