Freshman 15 Turning Into 50?

Sep 12, 2011

A recently released study shows that college students might not be eating as healthily as they should be. Could this lead to the infamous weight gain of the freshman 15 becoming the freshman 50?

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By Jessica Lyons

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Study Examines Eating Habits

Researchers at Oregon State University recently examined 582 college students' eating habits, looking specifically at how the habits of men and women compared. Most of the students were in their first year of college.

The study found that women tended to have better habits than men, including being more likely to read food labels. Women didn't consume as much fiber as men, but men ate more fat. Students also aren't getting the recommended five daily servings of fruits and vegetables; men reported only having five servings each week and women only four weekly servings. For both genders, fat accounted for in excess of 30% of their calorie intake.

Also among the study's findings is that skipping meals is a problem among many students. One of the study authors, Brad Cardinal, said that skipping meals could be one reason why students aren't getting as many fruits and vegetables as they should be.

How These Habits Impact Students

Poor nutrition could lead to health problems. The Lance Armstrong Foundation says that 'skipping meals is never a good idea' and that it can cause a person's metabolism to slow down. According to the McKinley Health Center at the University of Illinois, having too much fat in a person's diet could lead to obesity, diabetes or heart disease.

Developing bad eating habits in college could be difficult for students to break after they graduate. Students used to skipping meals now might continue to do so once they've joined the workforce. Those who typically avoid eating their vegetables in college could also be less likely to decide to eat veggies even after college.

The Need for More Education

Cardinal believes that one reason students have poor eating habits is because health and nutrition are not being emphasized enough to children. He said, 'Health is an area being neglected yet all the available research shows that healthy habits and healthy kids can lead to better academic success. We are doing a disservice to our kids by not teaching them these essential life skills.'

By increasing the amount of health and nutrition lessons taught to students, schools and parents can help improve the eating habits of children. This knowledge can also help students make positive choices once they're no longer at home and making their own nutrition choices in college.

How Students Can Create Better Habits

There are several things students can do to make a conscious effort to improve their eating habits. First of all, students should be sure to make time for regular meals, no matter how busy their schedules might be and how tempted they are to skip a meal. If having time for a meal seems like it might be a real concern, students should pack a sandwich in their bag so they'll at least have something to eat.

Students can also pay close attention to the food choices they're making. Sometimes it might just be a matter of being disciplined and selecting a fruit cup for dessert instead of a piece of cake or a salad for lunch instead of that juicy burger.

Finally, students should be sure to find the time in their days to get in some exercise. They might be able to do this by parking further away from campus to get some more walking in or taking advantage of an on-campus fitness center during breaks in between classes.

Find out about the myths and realities of brain food.

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