Avoiding the Freshman 15

College Students Socializing on a Quad

The good news is that the dreaded “freshman 15”—the extra pounds believed to creep up on us all during our rookie year at college—is actually about 8 pounds, according to recent studies. The bad news? Even 8 pounds can be hard to shed.

If you have a loved one who is college bound this year, help them establish eating habits that will serve them well in adulthood. Share these tips.

Stay Healthy at School

  • Weigh Yourself Daily

    A 2006 Cornell University study showed that daily weigh-ins can help freshmen keep weight gain under control.

  • Pick the Right Dorm

    Some colleges and universities are offering dorms themed to a healthy lifestyle. Frostburg State University in Maryland offers the bWell dorm. Residents have expressed an interested in fitness and well-being and pursue a lifestyle conducive to those goals.

  • There’s an App for That

    There are healthy eating mobile phone apps, fitness apps, calorie-counting apps—any of which can keep your freshman from falling off the healthy lifestyle wagon.

  • Plan for Mid-Terms and Finals

    Cramming for exams is a college tradition. Be prepared for late-night munchies with yogurt, a handful of almonds, and an apple.

  • Three Square Meals a Day

    Getting your freshman to commit to eating three square meals a day even relatively close to traditional breakfast, lunch, and dinner times will likely reduce unwanted calories.

  • Eat Breakfast

    Eating breakfast wakes up the metabolism and gives body and brain the fuel they need to pay attention in class. It doesn’t need to be complicated. Hard-boiled eggs and a piece of fruit, whole-grain toast with peanut butter, a low-fat granola bar, or a tortilla with hummus are great grab-and-go starters.

  • Get Enough Sleep

    Eight hours may be out of the question the first year away from home. But how about getting seven hours of Zzzz’s most nights? Lack of sleep is a big contributor to weight gain.

  • Friends, Not French Fries

    Many people, freshmen through adults, turn to food when their emotions get the better of them. A half-pint of ice cream is not a hug. Arm your kids with alternatives to emotional eating, such as hanging out with friends, going to the movies, or taking a walk to discover something new on campus or in town.

Click to See Our Sources

“Eight Ways to Beat the Freshman 15,” Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, eatright.org, 4/13

“How to Avoid the Freshman 15,” West Virginia University, well.wvu.edu

“How to Avoid Gaining the Freshman 15,” CNN, cnn.com, 8/26/09


Dave Clarke

Dave Clarke is a California-based writer and editor with a yen for adventure that fuels his work and his life.