Northeastern University Dining Services Blog

Friday, November 11, 2011

Freshman 15: Fact or Fiction?

Friday, November 11, 2011 | 10:35 AM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , No comments

According to a recent study conducted at Ohio State University and the University of Michigan (to be published in December 2011 in Social Science Quarterly), the “Freshman 15” is in fact a myth! The origin of this concept goes back to an article published in Seventeen Magazine in 1989. 

After reviewing the data on 7,400 college students it was determined that most freshman do not gain 15 pounds. On average, college freshman gain much less than 15 pounds - or even lose weight. However, it is still important to be a conscious eater for your overall health. All foods can fit into a healthy diet - you just need to practice moderation!

Think of your calories each day like a debit card. Use your calories wisely - you don’t want to spend all your calories at once so spread them out throughout the day. Choose foods that are nutrient dense (low in calories - high in nutrients) and you will have room for those sweet treats or less than healthy choices you want to include sometimes.

Even the most health conscious students can make less than healthy choices while filling their plates in the dining hall. Here are a few simple guidelines to help you make healthy choices:
  • There are no “good” or “bad” foods. When choosing chicken fingers and French fries and/or a few cookies, do not feel guilty. Instead of thinking of foods as “bad” or “good,” think moderation. It is important to pay attention to the size of the portions you take and how often you eat that food. Avoid getting hung up on counting every calorie. It’s more important to concentrate on getting the nutrients you need by eating a wide variety of foods and including plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
  • Choose beverages wisely. Drinking several cups of coffee or caffeinated soda is not the best choice on a regular basis. The caffeine in sodas and coffee is a diuretic (this will increase urine output) and sodas, juice drinks, and sports drinks also contain lots of added sugar, which can add up to extra calories and possibly weight gain over time. Try to choose water and low-fat or nonfat milk most often.
  • Choose a variety of foods. Try not to eat the same few foods all the time! It's better to focus on getting a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grain, and low-fat dairy. Try to include foods from all the different food groups. Think about the MyPlate model when planning your meals: Fill half your plate with vegetables or fruit. Add a piece of chicken, fish or beef (lean protein) and whole grain pasta or brown rice (starch) to round out your meal.
  • Pay attention to eating while socializing. After you are done eating, choose a fruit to snack on or drink some fruit infused water. The dining halls are like endless buffets - you can sit for hours and the longer you sit the more you will eat. Try to avoid continuing to eat desserts while hanging around.
  • Don’t forget to stay active. Fitness is important too! Make an effort to exercise for at least 30 minutes each day. Choose moderate to vigorous activities each day (like walking, running, swimming, or working out at the gym). Look for chances to be active with friends, too - like a pick up game of basketball. Exercise and healthy food choices will help fuel both your body and your mind!
Keep in mind: When you turn to the Internet for facts, choose carefully. Some websites may promote fad diets and/or provide misleading information. Try to choose reputable websites.

  1. Freshman 15 May be just a myth. Obtained November 5, 2011.
  2. Healthy Dining Hall Eating. Information obtained November 5, 2011.
  3. MyPlate. Accessed on November 6, 2011.


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