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UNH Nutritionist Offers 15 Tips to Avoid the ‘Freshman 15’

Release Date:
8/23/2011 11:02 AM

Aug. 23, 2011

University of New Haven: Georgia Chavent, features Georgia Chavent

WEST HAVEN, Conn. -- A University of New Haven dietetics instructor has 15 tips to help students avoid gaining weight when they head off to college -- the so-called “freshman 15.”

Georgia Chavent, director of the UNH nutrition and dietetics program, says students have to consciously avoid certain foods and seek out others to avoid gaining weight at college.

“Unfortunately, for a lot of students the ‘freshman 15’ can even be the ‘freshman 25,’” Chavent says. “Not only do students have to pay close attention to what they are eating, but they also have to seek out foods that will provide healthy nutrients, along with the energy they need in college.”

Chavent says students also need to find ways to exercise. “Many students are so focused on studying and, since they are no longer involved in a formalized high school sports program, they forget that they need to balance food intake with daily exercise,” she says.

Chavent recommends study stretches, reading on the treadmill, taking long, deep breaths to relax, and enjoying energetic walks on or off campus with friends.  “Enjoyable exercise should be a daily requirement of college life.”

“Step up the pace while walking,” she says.  “Use the stairs, throw a Frisbee in the quad, organize a game of volleyball… just get out there. I’m noticing more and more students walking at a slow pace while texting! Why not limit that text time to treadmill time?”

And for students who need more calories because they are athletes or training for an event, Chavent says to add portions of protein, vegetables, fruit and non-fat dairy or soy products.  

Although some college students make a habit of eating foods like chicken wings and potato chips, Chavent notes that those are very fatty and wings, especially coupled with high- fat dips, are particularly high in calories.  Likewise, soda, sports, energy or vitamin drinks contain very few nutrients and sneak in extra calories that few students need.

 A registered dietitian, Chavent has some tips for healthy eating.

In the dorm room:

  1. Stock the fridge with 100 percent fruit juice, seltzer, low fat milk (chocolate or non-flavored), unsweetened iced tea and water bottles.  Use fresh lemons or limes for adding flavor to drinks.
  2. Buy packaged sliced meats such as turkey, chicken and lean ham, and eat them on whole wheat bread or crackers with mustard or low fat mayonnaise; include protein with each “mini meal.”
  3. Snack on raw veggies with low fat dip, salsa or humus; nuts, trail mix, raw fruit or easy open cans of fruit packed in juice.
  4. Switch to baked tortilla or baked potato chips and serve them with salsa.
  5. Feed your sweet tooth with oatmeal raisin or peanut butter cookies or graham crackers.
  6. Use half the cheese in macaroni and cheese mixes and add more whole grain pasta. Try adding microwaved carrot pieces or broccoli florets for added nutrients.
  7. If you buy tuna fish, buy it packed in water; and look for low fat soups (vegetarian soups are usually lower in fat and calories) and natural peanut butter, which does not have added sugar.
  8. Look for low sugar, low fat breakfast bars or granola bars and whole gain bars but avoid most sports bars, which Chavent says are usually not worth the price.
  9. Good snacks include Chex mix, low-fat popcorn for the microwave, bread sticks, pretzels and whole grain cereals such as Cheerios, Shredded Wheat, Total and GrapeNuts, Add nonfat milk or yogurt for added protein and calcium.

In the cafeteria:

10.  Most cafeteria food plates contain two or more portions so request only a fist-sized portion of the main dish.

11.  Try to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, low fat- dairy, lean protein and whole grain carbohydrate foods.  Avoid sugary cereals, sweetened beverages, sodas, candy, breakfast pastries, bagels, fried foods and entrees with cream sauces.

12.  Add protein with nuts, seeds, lean meats, low-fat cheese or eggs. Try plant-based options such as veggie burgers, tofu and couscous. 

13.  Eliminating cheese from sandwiches saves between 100-200 calories. Processed sandwich cheese is salty and very high in fat. Better to get calcium from non- fat dairy or fortified soy drinks.

Heading to library or class:

14.  Bring your own food – instead of grabbing chips or candy bars from the campus store, bring along a granola bar, nuts, veggies, small low fat (“string”) cheese chunks, fresh fruit or another healthy snack.

Out with friends:

15.  Order smaller portions, share food with friends, avoid supersizing and enjoy baked entrees or plain burgers without mayonnaise, bacon or cheese. Use barbecue sauce, ketchup, mustard and calorie-saving toppers.

“It’s the little things that add up to good health,” Chavent says.  “If you develop healthy habits during those stressful college years, you’ll be health ready for the rest of your life.”

A leader in experiential education, the University of New Haven provides its students with a valuable combination of solid liberal arts and real-world, hands-on professional training. Founded in 1920, UNH is a private, top-tier comprehensive university with an 82-acre main campus. The university has an enrollment of more than 5,900: approximately 1,700 graduate students and more than 4,200 undergraduates, 70 percent of whom reside in university housing. The university offers 75 undergraduate graduate degrees through the College of Arts and Sciences, College of Business, the Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences, the Tagliatela College of Engineering and University College. University of New Haven students study abroad through a variety of distinctive programs.