How to stay Healthy during College

By: Maegan Hafley. Published: March 14, 2011.

imageNew college students have heard the theory about the “Freshman 15”, where supposedly incoming freshmen will gain 15 pounds within their first year. In most cases, this is not true; the majority of students do not gain the whole 15 pounds, and usually not all in their first year. Students are expected to gain weight; however, it is spread out gradually.


This information may sound good, but according to, “doctors are concerned that students who gradually put on pounds are establishing a pattern of weight gain that could spell trouble if it continues.”

The new found freedom of having the choice to eat whatever the students may want is the main foundation for weight gain in college. No longer are students hindered by what their parents want them to eat – they have the liberty to eat foods of their choosing. Students can opt out of the supposed five servings of vegetables they ought to have a day, while also having a second serving of delicious cake.

These unhealthy ways of eating can easily become a habit, but there is still hope. By tweaking a few minor details throughout the day, students can be on their way to having a healthy life-style.

Eating in Ames Dining Hall may seem like an unhealthy place to eat, but they have many healthy options. A selection of steamed vegetables is offered at every meal, and the wok bar is an alternative to getting some servings of vegetables as well. A good way to cut back on fattening foods is to be creative! Instead of having a boring salad every day, add some fresh turkey or ham with it. Instead of the fried chicken, go for the grilled chicken with some fresh veggies and make a wrap.

This does not mean that students should deny themselves something if they are craving it, but it also is not good to indulge either. Dr. Onstott, from the School of Nursing and Health Professions department here on campus, says healthy eating is about moderation. “Don’t tell yourself you can’t have something.” It is all about having the right mindset of eating more nutritious foods that generally contain a lower amount of calories. “Having something sweet once daily is okay.” However, it should be sensible.

Along with moderation, serving sizes are important. Students should “know what a serving size is,” says Dr. Onstott. Dr. Onstott gave the example of how eating a whole can of fruit or a whole box of macaroni is more than one serving. According to, students should “take smaller portions to start and go back for more if [they] are still hungry.”

There are also ways vegetarians can eat nutritiously. For most meals, Ames offers vegetarian entrees, such as wok bar, pasta, pizza, and other vegan options. Integrating protein-rich ingredients within these offered meals will give students the protein their bodies need to maintain their muscles. Suggested ingredients consist of beans, eggs, and peanut butter.

Annie Bierman, senior, is one student at McKendree that makes up the vegan population. While Bierman currently lives in the McKendree Village and does not eat Ames daily, she is still mindful of what she eats. “I have to think every morning about what I’m going to eat for the day.”

Whenever Bierman does get the opportunity to eat in Ames, she goes directly for a nice salad. She gets “lots of vegetables with Italian dressing” and definitely nothing with grease because it grosses her out.

In some cases, students have class whenever meals are being served and do not have the opportunity to eat. However, food is fuel for the brain, so skipping a meal is never the option! Dr. Onstott is against skipping meals, especially breakfast. “It really messes with one’s metabolism.” She suggests keeping healthy snacks on hand, such as fruit, granola bars, or yogurt. These vitamin packed foods are sure to keep students tuned in to the class and help them concentrate.

Another valuable thing to keep on hand is water. says proper hydration is most important for keeping healthy skin and organs. Students should keep spare water bottles or containers in their backpacks or gym bags. People should drink water even if they are not thirsty. Waiting until they are thirsty means their bodies are lacking internal fluids and are already partially dehydrated. Staying hydrated also keeps the metabolism up.

Late night snacking is a tendency for most students, especially if they are up late studying. Contrary to what most people think, eating late at night is not necessarily a bad thing. “That is a myth,” says Dr. Onstott. “Calories are calories. Your body is not going to digest them differently.”

According to, keeping the room stocked with healthy snacks to cure those hunger pains is encouraged. Snacks such as canned fruit, nuts, oatmeal, tuna fish, and popcorn are healthy and delicious foods students can eat to keep their appetite at bay. Refrigerated items can consist of baby carrots, yogurt, string cheese, and low-fat milk.

Along with healthy eating habits, regular exercise is a great way to stay fit. Dr. Onstott points out that people cannot just change their ways of eating, they need a “change in activities, too.” Since McKendree is a relatively small campus, walking or biking to class is promoted. Throughout the year and especially during the cold season, intramural sports are suggested. This is a great way for students to continue to be active throughout the off season of particular sports. Not to mention, a great way to meet new people.

Many students take advantage of McKendree’s Fitness Center. This is a convenient way to exercise indoors, where treadmills, bicycles, and elliptical machines are arranged for students’ use. For students who have never been to the Fitness Center, it is supported that you go try it out. Bring a friend!

Incorporating these small changes throughout the day can help students become healthier in the long run. Some students may have the outlook of staying healthy and fit as being a challenge, but it does not have to be. Simple things such as staying hydrated, implementing portion control, and staying active are easy ways to head towards a healthier lifestyle.

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