How to Help Your Child Avoid "Freshman 15" Weight Gain
Gaining extra pounds in those first few months of college isn't inevitable -- if your child learns how to eat well and fit in exercise.
Each month WebMD the Magazine puts your questions about weight loss
and fitness to top exercise and motivational experts. This month, Debra
Bennetts, a marketing professional from Norwalk, Conn., has been touring
colleges with her 18-year-old daughter, Emily, and asked how she could help her
daughter avoid gaining the traditional "freshman 15" -- those extra pounds that
too often pile on while adjusting to college life. Advising her is Robyn
Priebe, RD, CD, director of nutrition at Green Mountain at Fox Run, a women’s
healthy lifestyle program in Vermont that operates a special camp for
My daughter eats healthy foods, but left to her own devices, I know she will
skip breakfast and eat junk food. How can I make sure she understands that what
she eats and drinks makes a difference not only to her weight but also to her
overall health and how she feels when she’s on her own at college this
New research shows that it may be a myth that college students gain quite
this much weight -- it may be closer to five to seven pounds. But obviously
rapid weight gain and unhealthy eating are not good for anyone.
Follow these tips to help young college women stay fit, healthy, and full of
Scope out your schedule. College students with crazy schedules need
to plan ahead so they can eat regular meals rather than grab a cup of coffee on
the way to class and then binge later. They should stock a minifridge in their
room with healthy food that can be quickly tossed in a backpack. Aim for a
combination of healthy carbs, fat, and protein -- trail mix, apples and peanut
butter, cheese and grapes. Nonfat or low-fat dairy is a healthy option,
particularly for young women who need to build bone mass, so stock up on foods
such as cheese or plain yogurt with fruit to mix in.
Make it about friends, not food. So much college socializing revolves
around food: pizza parties, deli runs, study sessions loaded with bags of
chips. Encourage your child to do things with friends that aren’t an
opportunity to gorge, such as bowling, indoor rock climbing, or attending a
play or concert. For food-focused events, suggest bringing a healthy option --
a big bowl of fresh fruit instead of chips and dip.