Fighting off the freshman 15

It’s far too common that freshmen start school and fall victim to the belief that they have to live off of instant noodles for the next four years. The result? The infamous freshman 15.

The freshman 15 typically refers to the 15 pounds you’re bound to gain when you get to college and leave your parents’ cooking behind.

While most of us don’t want to gain 15 pounds for aesthetic reasons, an unhealthy diet will hinder you in other ways, too. An unhealthy diet can make you feel sluggish, lazy and unmotivated, which is the exact opposite of what you should be while in school. A healthy diet will make you feel better overall.

So, the stigma about starting college is that you will gain weight and live unhealthily. But that doesn’t have to be the case. It’s actually much easier than you might think to maintain a proper diet while in school.

Follow these simple tips to start making healthier choices

Buy healthier alternatives to food you are already eating. For example, buy whole grain bread, pastas and rice dishes as opposed to white and more refined grains. Whole grains help with weight management, maintain lower blood pressure and may reduce the risks of many diseases, such as type 2 diabetes or heart disease. If you usually eat bagels with cream cheese, switch the cream cheese for hummus.

Take advantage of your resources

Portland State is fortunate to have a farmers market on Saturdays right on campus and now it’s year-round. The Portland Farmers Market provides local fruits, vegetables and foods that can benefit your diet.

If money is stopping you from buying healthier options, there are resources for that, too. PSU has a free food pantry in Smith Memorial Student Union room 325 that supplies nonperishable foods for students currently taking at least one credit. You can get up to five items a day, one from each shelf. It often has canned vegetables and soups available. During winter term the pantry is open Monday–Friday from 12:30–2:30 p.m. If you do go to the pantry, be sure to bring your student ID.

If you have a meal plan, take advantage of all the vegetables at Victor’s at Ondine, a dining hall on campus. Half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables for a balanced meal. The salad bar is always open and offers many great options for you to choose from, but be careful with the dressings. When you soak your salad in fat-filled dressing it loses much of its health value.

Eat more vegetables

A big problem with going to college is that students don’t get nearly enough fruit and vegetables in their diet. When it comes to vegetables, the greener the better. Kale and spinach are extremely high in antioxidants and vitamins that will boost your health. Fruits like grapes and apples are packed with vitamins and high in fiber to keep you fuller so you are less likely to snack throughout the day.

Get moving

You need to exercise too. As a PSU student, you have access to the campus Rec Center, which offers many options for a good workout. There is a track, a weight room, and a room with cardio machines.

The Rec Center also offers rock-climbing, use of the pool, and classes. I like to do Zumba because it’s a fun way to get your cardio workout in, but you can choose whatever workout suits you best. Swimming and rock climbing are both fun workouts that will really work your body. The Rec Center also offers low-rate sessions with personal trainers.

Remember to sleep. I’m sure everyone has heard it enough, but it’s essential to your health that you get seven to eight hours of sleep every night to function at your best. As much as you might think, you can’t only survive off of caffeine. Trust me, I’ve tried.

Lastly, remember to drink water—especially if you drink a lot of coffee. Coffee dehydrates your body. Good hydration facilitates healthy organ function, better skin and calorie control.
These changes can help ensure that you have a healthy year and a better experience in college.

Don’t get stuck in a rut; you have many choices to stay healthy. And remember that the most important part is not a number on the scale; it’s about living a healthy life.