By: Maria Mancera
College students often find themselves struggling with nutrition and weight. It’s so common there’s even a name for it: The freshman 15. University Health Services nutrition counselor and licensed dietitian Elizabeth Lohrman gives counseling to OSU students looking to create good eating habits. We talked to her, looking for insight into why college students gain weight and how to combat these causes.
“The whole environment is different and it’s easy to slip into some unhealthy behaviors and patterns,” Lohrman says. Despite its name, upperclassman are not immune to the freshman 15. The American College Health Association found that on average, while students only gain seven pounds during their freshman year, this weight gain can add up throughout college if bad habits continue.
An article in the Journal of American College Health explains how a newly-found food independence can be a cause for weight gain when arriving to college. Food independence for a college students most likely means endless processed food, caffeine and sugar. A crammed schedule makes it even harder on a college student to find a healthy meal.
“Think and plan ahead just like you do for class. Think what am I going to do for lunch? What would be a healthier option?” Lohrman says. She also spoke about the problem of students skipping meals. Lohrman tells students to get on a schedule that allows them to eat all three meals a day, especially breakfast. Skipping meals causes students to overeat when they finally get around to it, which can lead to weight gain.
She also suggests students not frequent the same place for meals. “If you eat the same things over and over you're not going to get a well-rounded diet with all the vitamins and minerals you need.”
For a well-balanced meal, Lohrman suggests checking out Red Earth Kitchen in the Student Union. If you have any dietary restrictions, check out The Natural in North Dining, where all menu items are allergen friendly and gluten free.
When looking for a snack on campus check to see if it has the Choose Orange Logo. The Choose Orange program uses The Dietary Guidelines for Americans to denote healthier food choices. It encourages students to eat more whole grains and vegetables and limit saturated fats and added sugars. If you’re looking for vegan snack options, look for Tasty Bite brand items that are carried all over campus.
The best way to avoid unhealthy snacking is to simply not keep the temptation around. Always keep healthy options in your home, so that when you do crave sweets you're more likely to eat something healthy first. In addition to keeping unhealthy snacks away, always carry a healthy snack with you. It’ll keep you from buying junk food while you’re on campus.
Be careful with what you drink when watching your calorie intake. Energy drinks and pre-sweetened coffee can be loaded with calories you could be getting from food that has more nutrients. If you must have caffeine to function, try caffeinated tea or lightly sweetened coffee, you’ll still get that boost of caffeine without the extra sugar.
Know your facts and your resources on campus. Always plan ahead and go to class prepared with your snacks and reusable water bottle. Breaking old habits can be hard, but can be done. Once you’ve made it a habit to make better food decisions it becomes second nature.
If you’d like to schedule an appointment with a nutrition counselor, go to the University Health Services website, uhs.okstate.edu. Appointments are only $15 for students.