Everyone has heard of the “Freshman 15.”

Those 15 unwanted pounds seem inevitable to new college students. With pizza and ice cream seemingly around every corner in the cafeterias, it may seem that there is no way to avoid weight gain.  But never fear—with basic nutrition knowledge and a little will power, not everyone has to fall victim to the extra pounds.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of obese children from ages 6-11 has increased by 11 percent during the past 30 years, while the percentage of obese adolescents ages 12-19 has risen 13 percent. These higher rates are accompanied by increased risks of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Although students above age 19 are not included under this statistic, the habits that cause obesity in the younger ages are usually carried into adulthood.

“Eating habits aren’t a primary focus during our adolescence, and adopting these habits are tough, especially in the college atmosphere,” said dietetics senior Joann Bahri.

“So in my opinion, a big reason for overweight young adults is a lack of nutritional knowledge and healthy eating habits, which should have been instilled during adolescence,” she said.

This is not to say that there is no hope for those who were not healthy eaters growing up. A simple change of bad habits can reverse damage already done and prevent future obesity problems that will grow worse into adulthood.

One bad habit on the list to crack is poor sleeping.

“Sleep deprivation leads to energy deprivation,” said Bahri. “A strategy to overcome this lack of energy usually involves a high intake of caffeine and sugar to jolt us into motion. Another factor is hormones. Without a sufficient amount of sleep, ghrelin levels are high, which cause us to eat more.”

Because a lack of sleep can cause overeating, correcting bad sleeping habits should be the first priority. Eight to 10 hours per night will help increase energy and decrease unwanted overeating, setting you up for good choices the rest of the day.

The next bad habit to fix is the actual eating itself. Bahri suggests that planning is the key to doing so.

“Having healthy meals prepared ahead of time negates numerous excuses for not eating healthy.” Bahri said.

Having meals prepared can allow you to portion your food intake and evaluate the food groups you are consuming.

For students living off campus, planning ahead is a viable option. For the majority of students who live on campus and eat in the dining halls, doing this seems nearly impossible. Students are forced to make food decisions on the spot, when both bad and good options are present.

Salads are a healthy option offered at any cafeteria

“I don’t think it’s easy to eat well on campus,” said dining hall worker Amanda Cramer. “I think there are too many unhealthy options that don’t outweigh the good.”

The truth is, there are an equal amount of unhealthy and healthy choices. Temptation, though, is where the problems start.

“There are a lot of healthy food choices in almost all the venues on campus but there are also a lot of unhealthy and appetizing choices as well,” said Bahri. “But sometimes it’s hard to resist the candy bar and opt for an apple.”

To help with this difficulty, and to make planning ahead a more realistic option, MSU has a few tools that can be used. MSUtrition on the EatAtState website offers students a daily food tracker to evaluate eaten calories. It also lists the nutritional values of food items within the cafeteria and around campus.

So while venturing into the realm of healthy eating, remember—half is knowledge and the other half is how you take that knowledge and use it to better yourself.

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