For years, when first-year college or university students put on some weight, it was called the ‘Freshman 15’ – in reference to the pounds added during that first year at school.
Not anymore, says Sylvia Emmorey, a registered holistic nutritionist at Durham College.
According to Emmorey, it’s more common for students to add 35 pounds in their first year of post-secondary education.
Emmorey adds weight gain among first-year students isn’t discussed enough because it has become the norm.
The reason for the increase? Lack of knowledge around where to find healthy foods, stress eating and larger portion sizes, says Emmorey.
“We’re no longer having that little bag of chips that people hand out at Halloween. People are buying the big bags. The quality and quantity has definitely changed. The portion sizes over the last 30 years has tripled,” says Emmorey.
Emmorey says students may be gaining weight in their first year because of fluctuating meal times, change in foods being consumed and not exercising with the same frequency as high school.
“Sometimes students live on [residence], so they’re at the mercy of the food available here because they are not used to meal prepping and not used to planning,” says Emmorey. “If they don’t prep food ahead they’re going to grab the food on campus.”
Stress also factors into a lot of what people choose to eat, says Emmorey.
“If you’re stressed, it depletes a lot of vitamins and leads [people] to more sugary foods, fatty foods, fried foods and a lot of carbohydrate-based foods,” says Emmorey.
Emmorey’s tips to eating healthy on campus include investigating – take some time to walk around campus to find healthier options, ask others where they go to eat healthy food and seek guidance from a nutritionist for healthy food ideas.
“There’s lots of healthy food options on campus now, you just have to know where to find them. There’s a smoothie bar now in the new building, the Centre for Collaborative education (CFCE). There’s a place where you can get wraps on the university side,” says Emmorey.
Emmorey says students should always pack food, even if it’s just snacks and to make sure they are drinking enough water. She says a lot of people are eating when they are actually thirsty.
“It is a misconception that healthy eating is expensive. It really doesn’t have to be. A bag of apples, a bag of potatoes, cans of tuna, bags of dried kidney beans or chickpeas are really affordable [for students when they go grocery shopping].”