Upon entering Commons or Regattas, students are greeted with the sights of entrees, pasta, pizza and a display of desserts, along with tantalizing smells of various high-calorie foods. The options for where to eat meals and pick up snacks seem endless and overwhelmingly delicious (which they are)! However, the dreaded “freshman 15” (and any weight gain-related stress for any sophomore, junior or senior) hits a lot of freshmen without their knowledge (myself included) and causes immediate worry in terms of how to lose the weight. A little helpful information, I’ve learned this year, can go a long way. With that in mind, here are some tips for on-and off-campus dining that can hopefully help any college student struggling to eat healthier (and not reach for that extra piece of peanut butter pie).
1. Master dining at the dining halls – The Healthy Havens at Regatta’s and Commons have saved me from making so many unhealthy eating choices this year! That isn’t to say that all food at the dining halls is bad for you; it totally isn’t. Just keep in mind to eat foods served more regularly, like pasta, fries and pizza, in moderation. I alternate my lunches and dinners at Regatta’s with turkey burgers or a salad with a soup or panini. Choosing turkey burgers as opposed to regular burgers has been a majorly beneficial decision; they take slightly longer to cook than regular hamburgers, but are a much leaner protein that’s equally delicious. At Commons, I alternate every lunch or dinner with a salad and soup or sandwich, and always eat wraps (with no cheese) at both dining halls whenever they’re being served. This could be a bit complicated and easily tiring for most, but just keep in mind what you’re eating and if there are any adjustments or routines you need to make to improve your eating habits.
2. Get up in the gym and work on your fitness! – The Freeman Center has fitness classes, personal trainers, and even (sometimes) free classes! Almost any type of class from Zumba to yoga is offered here. If you don’t want to work with an entire group and focus on more routine workouts to adjust your physique and stay healthy, set up regular sessions with one of the Center’s various personal trainers!
3. Avoid unhealthy eating habits. First, slowly decrease the amount of junk food that you consume each week (with a normal serving size). Gradually take a day off of eating junk food every week until you’re only eating it two to three times a week. If you seriously can’t live without it, use unhealthier foods as an incentive for something or only limit yourself to eating them on certain days. For example, I’ve used Greek yogurt bars or chips and guacamole as a “reward” for finishing assignments if I’ve been craving them but don’t want to go overboard. More recently, I restricted myself to only eating unhealthily on the weekends this semester, which has been massively beneficial. With my schedule, I usually only have time to go to the gym on weekday mornings or (occasionally) weekend nights; being able to have a junk food excursion on the weekends and go back into a regular routine of exercise and healthier eating for the majority of the week causes me to have more scheduled periods for healthy and unhealthy eating. It also helps me to lose enough weight during weekdays that I know I can’t gain back over one weekend.
4. Drink two cups of water before every meal. You have to gain water to lose water weight! I read an online article about this earlier this winter, and figured I’d at least attempt it to clear up my skin and shed a couple of pounds. However, within a week and a half after rigorously sticking to this routine, I’d lost seven pounds! It can feel tedious at times, but seeing that number on the scale change so much from where it was a week before is amazing; and the fact that it establishes a regular healthy habit doesn’t hurt, either.
5. Replace your snacks with healthy and tasty alternatives. Try switching from eating regular ice cream to low-fat ice cream, fat-free ice cream, or Greek yogurt bars, which are cheaper and healthier than expensive pints you could spend $6 on (which I’ve been prone to do; I’m not perfect). Replace sodas with sparkling waters, fruit-flavored waters, or sports drinks; the first two are sold for extremely cheap prices, and sports drinks (while they might be slightly unhealthy) replenish your body’s electrolytes and are extremely hydrating. You can also try replacing:
-chips and dip with whole-grain tortilla chips and guacamole or salsa
-cookies with cookie thins or fruits like apples, oranges and bananas
-flavored crackers with whole-wheat crackers or un-microwaveable popcorn
-any type of candy with granola bars, dried fruit or snack mixes
8. Eat produce. This is something your parents have probably told you from the day you were born, but try to eat at least one serving of fruits or vegetables at each meal (and no, some lettuce and tomato on top of your cheeseburger don’t count). Fruit is always available at Regattas and Commons, as well as cooked vegetables at lunch and dinner. Each dining hall has a salad bar with plenty of veggie add-ins like cucumbers and peppers, and omelet bars offer add-ins like green peppers, tomatoes and onions (which can be a healthy alternative to omelets that only have bacon and cheese in them).