SUNDAY, Aug. 19, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Although the dreaded "Freshman 15" -- a reference to the pounds gained by new college students -- has been revealed by researchers to be a bit of an exaggeration, students should still take steps to avoid gaining unwanted pounds, an expert warns.
Kari Kooi, a registered dietitian at the Methodist Hospital in Houston, noted that most college freshman gain 3.5 pounds, but even a small weight gain should not be ignored.
"Everything from late-night eating, lack of exercise, increased alcohol consumption and an abundance of all-you-can-eat dining halls leads college students to pack on the unwanted pounds," explained Kooi in a hospital news release. She added that gaining weight in college puts students at risk for chronic disease, including diabetes and heart disease.
Kooi said that there are several cost-effective ways college students can eat healthy and avoid gaining weight, including:
- Keep healthy snacks handy. Dorm room refrigerators should be stocked with healthy, satisfying snacks, such as fruit, string cheese, Greek yogurt, hummus and baby carrots.
- Drink water. Too many calories from sugary drinks and alcoholic beverages can lead to weight gain. These drinks can also cause spikes in blood sugar that can increase hunger.
- Stay active. Exercise plays a key role in staying fit and healthy. Boost your daily activity levels by walking to class, going to the gym or participating in intramural sports.
- Eat regular meals. Skipping meals can lead to overeating and weight gain. Eating breakfast can also jumpstart your metabolism and help you concentrate in class and on tests.
- Get enough sleep. Sleeping less than six hours each night can affect hormone levels that control appetite, cravings and metabolism. People who do not get enough sleep often crave high-calorie junk food the body can quickly break down for energy.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about college health and safety.