Worry about studies, not expanding waistline with these tips

9 tips for new college students to fight off ‘the Freshman 15’

craig.hill@thenewstribune.comSeptember 1, 2013 

Three. Three. Two. Twenty-two. Twenty-two.

It’s been nearly 17 years since I graduated from college, and after all that time it seems those were the only numbers important enough to matriculate their way into my permanent memory.

I’ve long since forgotten figures that seemed so important at the time, such as my GPA, the cost of rent and the number of girls who weren’t interested (roughly all of them).

But the phone number for Pizza Perfection? Clearly some numbers are more important than others.

Of course, this explains why at one point in college I weighed 30 pounds more than I do now.

All across the country, recent high school graduates are starting college and trying to fight off the dreaded Freshman 15 – gaining 15 pounds in the first year at school.

For many, gaining weight is as much a part of college life as frat parties, final exams and late-night cramming sessions, but it doesn’t have to be that way, said registered dietitian Emily Edison.

As owner of Seattle’s Momentum Nutrition and Fitness, Edison is contracted to work with several universities, including Pacific Lutheran University and University of Puget Sound.

For students leaving the comfort of home for the first time, eating correctly can be challenging, she says. “I want to help them navigate that challenge and make more healthy choices.”

Here are some recommendations for keeping off the Freshman 15:


Edison says the biggest culprit when it comes to weight gain for college students is eating foods like chips and pizza late at night. There are tricks to breaking that habit and the first is a good breakfast, she said.

“A hearty breakfast is a strong platform and allows you to stay focused and not get hungry and wander to the vending machines to forage for snacks,” Edison said.

She recommends an easy breakfast such as a microwaved egg sandwich on whole grain bread with fruit and milk or yogurt. Or whole grain oatmeal with fruit.


Keep snacks like granola bars, trail mix or nuts or yogurt handy so you can have healthful snacks throughout the day, Edison said. Snacks between meals will not only help keep you from feeling hungry and help you focus, but will help you from craving things like pizza during late-night “study” sessions.”

Some other snack ideas she recommends: hummus and veggies, cream cheese and crackers, and fruits and nut butters.


Edison says don’t go more than four hours without eating. Going too long without eating can increase your chances of overeating at your next meal. It can also reduce your late-night cravings, she said.


Edison says everybody should consider visiting a registered dietitian once a year to make sure they are eating properly. She also recommends parents help their kids get into this habit by setting them up with an appointment before they leave for college. A good plan can benefit their studies as well as their waistline.

“Some people might say ‘my kids won’t do that or they won’t eat that’ ,” Edison said. “But they might. Keep an open mind.”

Many registered dietitians accept insurance. Edison doesn’t bill insurance companies, but says many of her clients are reimbursed by their insurance companies.


Most colleges have wellness centers where they can receive nutrition information. “Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help,” Edison said.


Edison regularly tells her clients to “Eat the rainbow.” This means to choose colorful fruits and vegetables to eat at each meal. “Then your filling up on the good stuff and less likely to eat things that are unhealthy.”


If what you’re eating can be best described with a word that begins with C, you might be making a mistake. Crispy. Creamy. Chips. Candy. Cake. Cookies. Coke. Cheesy.

“They’re all culprits,” Edison said.


Keep up with a good exercise routine. If you don’t have one, start one. Universities typically are loaded with gyms, pools, workout classes and numerous other opportunities to exercise.


Of course, no matter how healthy you try to be in college, there will be pizza. Probably so much pizza you’ll remember the delivery guy’s number 17 years after you graduate.

But that’s OK.

There are ways to minimize the damage.

Instead of ordering a pizza topped with 12-pounds of meat, consider going with Canadian bacon and pineapple, chicken or veggies. Avoid the creamy, fattening sauces and then request only half of the cheese.

“With half the cheese, you won’t notice a significant difference in the taste,” Edison said. “But it can be a really significant difference (in terms of nutrition).”

Craig Hill: 253-597-8497 craig.hill@thenewstribune.com thenewstribune.com/fitness theolympian.com/fitness @AdventureGuys

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