Choose This, Not That: College Style

Choose This, Not That: College Style

College w apple

By Valentine Reed-Johnson, RD, Contributing Blogger

College years are notorious for a lot of reasons, one of which is weight gain. Contrary to popular belief, the freshman fifteen is an underestimate; most gain closer to twenty pounds. Do not be a statistic! Weigh in on these helpful tips to make your college years, truly, the best of your life.

Education, With a Side of Fries
Weight gain during college is multi-factorial. Boredom certainly plays a role. Mom would rather not hear this, but there is a lot of down time in college. Time that you’re supposed to be studying is instead spent socializing and snacking, and let’s face it: peers highly influence unhealthy food choices (pizza and wings at midnight, anyone?).

Another cause of weight gain is eating out. Since there are limited cooking facilities in dorms and limited cooking skills – most eighteen year olds tend to only know how to toast bread – there is a reliance on eating out.

I’m Young, Why Eat Healthy?
Choices made at a young age affect your future- we know this. This is especially true with healthy eating. Preventing future health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis are only a few of the benefits of eating well at a young age. Not only will it help you prevent disease, eating healthfully and exercising will also lay the foundation for your future. Developing healthful habits at a young age makes it easier to keep them going throughout your life.

Choose This, Not That
The following are small changes you can make to your diet which will kick-start your “health makeover.” In college, there are times you have to make a choice between a “bad” food and a “better” food, and here’s how:

Bar Food (for those 21 and over!)
Choose: Fresh popped popcorn and grilled chicken
Not: Mozzarella sticks, Wings, fried chicken fingers, French fries

After Party Food
Choose: Annie’s Macaroni and Cheese, Kashi whole grain crackers and hummus, low fat cheese on whole grain toast (healthy grilled cheese), Skinny Cow ice cream
Not: Ordering in: pizza and wings, burgers, large subs

Cafeteria Breakfast
Choose: A vegetable omelet or hard-boiled egg with whole wheat toast, oatmeal
Not: French toast or waffles

Dorm Room Snacks
Choose: Greek yogurt, cheese string, peanut butter on slice of whole wheat bread, fresh fruit (brought back from the cafeteria), whole grain pretzels
Not: Chips, chocolate/candy, processed mac and cheese, butter popcorn

Frozen Meals
Choose: Lean Cuisine, Kashi, frozen fruit and veggies
Not: Hungry Man

When choosing which frozen meal to buy, consider the salt content and the calories per serving. Since our daily allowance of salt is <2300 milligrams and, on average, 2000 calories per day, a product that meets these values in one meal means it is not a healthful choice.

Fast Food Restaurant: Olive Garden
Choose: unlimited salad to start, with vinaigrette dressing on the side, grilled Salmon with a side of spinach for the main course
Not: bread sticks and salad coated in salad dressing to start, creamy pasta sauces like penne a la vodka

Don’t Forget to Exercise
Everyone, no matter the age, needs physical activity. As the concept goes: calories in should be less than the energy you expend in order to lose weight. One does not work without the other. Make a commitment to working out at least three times a week and stick to it. It only has to be thirty minutes of cardiovascular exercise to make a difference to your health. Consider going for a run, dancing at Zumba class, or playing a sport with friends on the turf. Encourage a friend to join forces, and motivate each other.


Valentine is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, currently working at a hopsital in Westchester, NY. At the hospital she covers cardiac units, but eventually hopes to open up a private practice in Manhattan. Valentine believes in providing practical nutrition knowledge, encouraging others to think logically when it comes to their health. Follow Valentine on twitter here.

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