What’s Trending: College eating and the ‘freshman 15’ are worrisome

By: Paula Hendricks, Granite Bay View columnist
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Many high school graduates will be leaving the home nest and heading off to college this month, ready to embark on a life of independence. This next chapter as emerging adults will require a balancing act of academics, social life, eating, exercise and sleep without parents’ watchful eyes. Is your graduate ready?

“Whatever’s fast” is the typical college students’ motto for meals. Although there are usually a plethora of food options available from the cafeteria buffet-style dining, coffee kiosks, cafes, and vending machines, students just don’t seem to take time to eat regularly. A recent survey showed that a high percentage of college students subsist on noodles, microwavable burritos, mac n’ cheese, pizza, coffee, energy drinks, chips and candy. These are quick, cheap, high-carb meals void of nutrients that don’t take time to prepare.  

They think “breakfast? No time.” Just roll out of bed and run to class. Lunch: whatever’s quick and the goal is to not to fall asleep during afternoon classes. Dinnertime will typically be the most nutritious meal, while the remainder of the evening is often filled with studying, socializing, snacking, and more caffeine-fueled drinks.

How can we bestow upon our college students the importance of eating well and engaging in exercise to enhance their chances of having a more successful academic experience? How can we help them avoid the common Freshman 15-30 pound weight gain? Or what if they develop an eating disorder because of stress? I suggest we offer sound advice before they leave the nest.


1.      Help them prepare a list for groceries and supplies to stock their fridge in their dorm room or apartment

Grocery List:

      - Ready to eat hard-boiled eggs (or teach them to microwave eggs)

         - Greek yogurt and low-sugar granola

- Peanut or almond butter

- Backpack snacks such as nuts, seeds, apples and protein bars

- Protein powder for easy shakes (DIY coffee smoothie)

- Vegetable and fruit snacks; carrots, celery, bananas, berries

- Cheese sticks

- Tortillas and shredded cheese to make just about anything from breakfast burritos, quesadillas, to wraps

- Salami and deli meats

- Healthy frozen meals for apartment living

- Plastic utensils, paper plates, cups and napkins

2.         Encourage them to take inventory of the school cafeteria and other eating establishments on campus or near their apartment, learn their hours of operation and determine which foods will be the best go-to choices. For example: A lettuce wrapped burger from In n’ Out, a chicken salad from Jack in the Box, or a deli lettuce wrap from the cafeteria. These are quick, fast and nutritious.


3.         Budget for the amount of money your student can spend on food outside a meal plan. Perhaps $10 per day is not acceptable for them to spend at Starbucks. A prepaid or secured credit card may be useful. You can also add your student to an existing family credit card with a limit. 


4.         Encourage them to take an exercise class, join a sport, or just walk around campus. Exercise will help your students sleep well, better deal with stress and can even reduce late night junk food cravings.


5.         Talk to them about stress eating, skipping meals, eating disorders, junk food and alcohol.

Most importantly, let your college students know that you love them, are there for them and ready to listen anytime without judgment, and that you are willing to send them care packages from home.