Northeastern University Dining Services Blog

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Avoiding the Freshman 15

Wednesday, October 3, 2012 | 2:17 PM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , , , No comments

According to a recent study conducted at Ohio State University and the University of Michigan (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:
  • Try not to think about foods as "good" or "bad." Practice moderation and consider that all types of foods can fit into a healthy diet. It's 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. Listen to your body cues - stop eating when you feel full.
  • Choose beverages wisely. Soda, juice drinks, and sports drinks contain lots of added sugar. These sugary beverages 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 consuming a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grain, and low-fat dairy products and include foods from all the different food groups. Think about the MyPlate model when planning your meals: Fill half your plate with vegetables and/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.
  • Be aware during extended 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 you are hanging around.
  • Pay close attention to portion sizes. Check out this link for a wallet size visual portion guide from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI). This can help you visually estimate recommended portion sizes by comparing them to common items.
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.


Nutritionist Christine Clark works with Dining Services to provide you with tips and techniques to stay healthy during your time at Northeastern. If you have any further questions about this topic or are looking for more information about any other nutrition or diet topic, such as food allergies or sports nutrition, please contact her at

  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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