Health & Medical Nutrition

The Freshman Fifteen: Campus Foods and How Protein Can Help

College is a fun and exciting time in a young person's life.
For many of them, it is the first time they are away from their parent's home and making adult decisions on their own.
While parents are worried at home about the dangers of drinking, drug, and grades; they worry that their children will not sleep enough or will take on more than they can actually handle.
What they may not be concerned with, or what they may forget to talk to their college bound child about, is the campus food.
It is not just a myth that people hit the freshman fifteen, and then some when they enter college.
It is a combination of many factors that leaves many of them gaining weight during that first year away from home.
One of the major reasons that these students gain weight is due to the campus foods and meal plans offered by most schools.
Campus Foods: Offerings For the Average School Most schools are making great strides in the campus dining, however, with budget cuts in virtually every school and university across the country, fresh, wholesome and healthy foods are not always easy to come by.
In some schools, cafeterias are only open during specific times which may be hard for the student to get to- especially if the student is working in addition to classes.
Some schools may offer alternative means for campus food, but not always.
Cafeteria and Other Hot Food Options Campus foods should not be expected to be gourmet meals - after all, these are cooks working in long, hard shifts in industrial kitchens to churn out a variety of foods for thousands of students and faculty members.
These are people who may eat anything put in front of them or may complain and waste the foods that they take.
The problem with the cafeteria style, campus foods might be the very way they are cooked and served.
Fried foods tend to sit in their grease under heat lamps so they do not congeal.
Fresh foods wilt and wither.
At the end of the serving period (which may be as long as two hours) the food that is remaining is thrown away and the next meal's foods are prepared and brought back out.
To give this vast amount of food flavor, typically additional sodium is added and that can be an additional problem for weight gain and campus foods.
Grab and Go Food Options To make accommodations for those students who are not able to get to the cafeterias during their meal serving times, many schools offer a small menu of lesser options that can include sandwiches, fruits and other foods that range from small snacks to more substantial food items.
However, most of these foods are high in fat and filled with preservatives.
Campus Foods and Food Plans Many schools offer a food plan for their students, especially those who are living on campus.
These plans usually allow a certain amount of money to be put into the student's account to be used throughout the month.
These can be set up as part of the tuition at some schools and will be replenished on certain dates.
For some kids, the concept of budgeting, even their food allotment, can be completely new.
They might feast like Henry the Eighth the first week of the month and then live on ketchup, soup,, and ramen noodles for the last week.
Those plans don't specify how much can be spent per day or per week nor do they specifically say what the money can be spent on.
Factors Beyond Campus Foods In addition to the campus foods, weight gain can be caused by other factors.
Many of these students are living alone for the first time - they won't always make the best or most adult choices for their foods.
Moreover, they are under a lot of stress which can also leave them making poor choices and may lead to increased weight gain.
The American Psychological Association released a study that shows that nearly 75% of adults in the United States feel stressed out and that nearly ½ of those people tend to eat unhealthy foods as a direct result of that stress.
One in three is depressed and 42% also feel that the stress has increased since last year (Kimberly Goad Stop Stress for Good.
Fitness Magazine.
September 2010).
That stress tends to lead to an increase in cortisol, the stress hormone that leads to serious weight gain, especially around the belly.
New college students also may start experimenting with alcohol which can also lead to weight gain not only because of the calories that are contained in each drink but because they can lead to a decrease in inhibition.
Making Better Choices in Campus Foods The best thing a parent can do is to instill healthy eating and living choices in their children before they hit their rebellious teen years and certainly before it is time for them to take off and live on their own.
Show them how to choose grilled foods over fried, and that baked, roasted or broiled food choices are also healthier.
Show them that they can destroy a perfectly healthy salad by adding cheese or heavy salad dressings.
Let them see how to make a healthy food choice out of some limited food selections.
In addition, send your student care packages with easy foods that they can keep - foods that will not go bad and require only minimal effort.
Send them gift cards for healthy food places so that they are at least getting a meal or two.
And, send them Profect, a protein supplement from Protica.
Not only is it in a cool, test tube styled package but it is available in a number of refreshing fruit based flavors.
It is also high in protein and low in calories and can be consumed in seconds, perfect for the busy student on the go.

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