Listen up, students. The “freshman 15” is real.
For me, it was more like the freshman 20, so dazzled was I by the constant, never-ending buffet of sugary cereals, grilled cheese sandwiches, and other delights at the dining halls. I went there for every meal, and by November of my freshman year, I had gained a full 20 pounds. I was horrified.
I’m now at a healthy weight, and I still have a meal plan. By following a few simple tips and using a little willpower, you can avoid the freshman 15 altogether.
In the dining hall, pizza, pasta, marinara sauce, and carbonara aren’t cooked the same way they are in Italy. In fact, they’re filled with fat, and because whole wheat pasta isn’t always available, the carb options aren’t very healthy. The Italian section is the hardest to ignore when you’re starving, too.
“Don’t let yourself get too hungry before finally eating,” says Julia Lapp, assistant professor of health promotion and physical education. “That’s when most people crave carbs” -- and head straight for the lasagna.
Even though the classic entrées in all three dining halls are packing hidden fat and cholesterol, steamed beans, vegetables, or squash are always available to grab. Fill at least half your plate with steamed vegetables. That way you can’t possibly squeeze a grilled cheese sandwich or an extra scoop of mashed potatoes on your plate. And avoid the temptation to cheat on your veggies. “Taking something healthy and dousing it with cheese sauce is always a shame,” Lapp says.
“Build your meal around a salad,” says Cole Lechleiter ’10, treasurer of the IC Nutrition Club. Forget the lettuce if you want; pile on carrots and cucumbers if that’s more your style, drizzle your concoction with olive oil and vinegar (not honey mustard, ranch, or bleu cheese dressing), and eat it before you start checking out the other areas. Once you finish the salad, you’ll be less eager to go scavenging for more food.
The food industry has succeeded in its campaign to portray wraps as a healthier option than sandwiches. The pool cover-sized dining hall wraps can be enormous calorie bombs. “If you ask for meat, you’d get twice or three times as much as you’d get in a sandwich,” warns dining hall student manager Eva Wermer ’09. “Wraps are a good option to really fill up on vegetables,” says Elissa Goldman ’10, president of the IC Nutrition Club. She advises students to ask for lots of vegetables and be specific about limiting meat and cheese.
All-you-can-eat situations are particularly challenging, since they encourage random sampling -- an easy way to mindlessly pile on calories. And knowing how much food to eat is a more exact science than you may realize, since most Americans are accustomed to wildly outsized servings at restaurants. “For example, a lot of people don’t know a serving of mashed potatoes is one-half cup,” Lapp says.
While college students can battle their affinity for grilled cheese sandwiches or the dessert bar, fighting an oversized culture is a war many students must win to stay healthy. Eating smart in the dining hall is just one way to practice healthier habits that will last through college and beyond. Even though the dining halls are guilty of serving up the stir-fry and the sloppy joes, all hope is not lost -- you can fight (and lose!) the freshman 15!
The IC Nutrition Club, a campus organization dedicated to healthy eating awareness and improving dining hall options, is new for 2008. Founded by Elissa Goldman ’10 and Cole Lechleiter ’10, the club is open to all students who have an interest in nutrition and health sciences. Right now the club is working on a series of healthy food guides for students who eat mainly in IC’s dining halls. So when you’re on campus this fall, check out the IC Nutrition Club, and be a part of changing the way Ithaca College eats -- for the better!
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Fuse is a student produced publication about the Ithaca College experience. All content in the print and web versions of Fuse is developed by current Ithaca College students in a breadth of different areas of study.