College is a time of excitement and growth in knowledge, social life and yes, possibly even your body size. Changes in lifestyle habits, such as diet and physical activity, are risk factors for college weight gain. Instead of turning to crash diets that are often more detrimental than beneficial, following certain dietary behaviors to reach or maintain a healthy weight can lead to long-lasting and positive results.
Navigating the Dining Hall
Don’t let the vast variety of foods served in dining halls overwhelm you. While opting for burgers fresh off the grill seems tempting, adhere to the habit of filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables, then filling the remainder with whole grains and lean protein. This ensures a balance of both adequate nutrients and energy. Skip the soda machine and choose water or low-fat dairy as your beverage. Remember that colleges are not purposely trying to make their students gain weight; many dining halls will provide healthier options if you simply ask.
Don’t Skip Meals
Long hours in classes and extracurricular activities easily lead to erratic eating schedules. Even on the most hectic days, find time to include at least 3 meals into your daily routine. Feeling famished due to skipped meals puts you at risk for overeating and making poor dietary choices during your next meal. Don’t be shy to pack meals or get healthy foods from the dining hall to eat in class if needed, unless eating in a certain class is prohibited. If time is really problematic, pack a handful of nuts and dried fruit as a snack to eat between classes to keep hunger at bay.
Choose Wisely When Dining Out
Don’t let ordering take-out or dining out in restaurants hinder your health goals. Choose grilled or steamed options over fried menu items. Swap the side of French fries for steamed vegetables or a plain baked potato. When you absolutely cannot avoid unhealthy food options at certain events, be aware of serving sizes and your body's natural satiety cues. For instance, consume one slice of pizza, and then wait to see if you are still hungry before reaching for the second slice.
Watch Your Alcohol Intake
Since pure alcohol provides about 7 calories per gram, excessive drinking is a definite factor when it comes to college weight gain. If you do choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Moderate drinking equals one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men. One serving of alcohol is considered 12 fluid ounces of beer or wine cooler, 8 ounces of malt liquor, 5 ounces of table wine and 1.5 ounces of gin, vodka or whiskey.