Back to school nutrition: How to avoid the dreaded 'freshman 15'

Students should focus on healthy foods, make sleep a priority

SAN ANTONIO – Getting good grades and making new friends are among the top priorities for college freshmen, but what about eating healthy meals?  Here are some tips on how to avoid gaining the "freshman 15."

Independence can come with challenges when a person makes the transition to college from a life at home with parents.

"Parents would kind of make sure that they eat the right thing and the right amount. Now, they are on their own so they have control and they don't have the willpower so they are faced with temptations," said UTSA professor of health and kinesiology Meizi He.

"It's kind of hard when you are on campus because you have, like, Panda Express, Chik-fil-A so it's always easier to pick up those," Raneisha Washington, a sophomore at UTSA, said.

Eating lots of high fat foods, not choosing healthy options like fruits and vegetables, drinking a lot of soda, coffee, and a lack of exercise and sleep is why many gain what is called the "freshman 15" He said.

Pizza and burgers are commonly in university or college campus cafeterias, but UTSA is focused on offering its students healthy and nutritional alternatives including several options that are lower in calories and sodium.

"One day you eat healthy, you can have a salad. They have pasta, sandwiches, sometimes they have different dinners with broccoli, grilled chicken and rice, so I feel like there's good food options," Washington said.

He explained that it's all about making good choices. She suggests that students carry water to stay hydrated, have a healthy snack handy, and in the dining hall eat fruits and vegetables first so they can fill up on nutritious foods rather than greasy alternatives.

"You are on the right path for a bright future," He said. "It's also very important that you have the power to keep yourself healthy for a good future, because without health there's nothing," He said.