A major factor that contributes to the freshman fifteen in college students is unhealthy eating habits and food choices. Rapid weight gain in college can put a student at risk for long-term obesity for the rest of their adulthood, therefore students must follow a healthy lifestyle that includes healthy eating habits.1 Maintaining healthy eating habits can be difficult for college students due to the lack of nutritional options at the University dining hall and lack of time to plan meals ahead of time. Therefore, many students may rely on quick, low priced, large portioned meals that do not provide a lot of nutrients. The Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) 2 study shows that consuming fast- food that has a high fat, sodium, and sugar content can have a significant impact on weight gain. Another major risk factor of weight gain in the freshman year of college is alcohol consumption.
According to the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Students under twenty-one are more likely to binge drink alcohol. An unhealthy diet can not only affect a student’s physical healthy, but also their mental health such as cognitive function. Research shows that a healthy diet is linked to better cognitive ability in students.5 Additionally, weight gain is linked to lower immunity, therefore rapid weight gain in college freshman can put a student at risk for easily getting sick. In order for students to follow a healthy lifestyle and eating habits, they must limit the amount of fast-food and alcohol they consume.
Students should try their best to follow a healthy balanced diet and eat regular meals that contains fruits, vegetables, low-fat protein, and whole grains. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) My Plate program helps promote healthy eating by providing information on portion size and nutrition to help individuals choose the healthiest food options. According to the My Plate program, making small gradual changes to our diet, reading the national facts for the food options we choose, and following a diet that contains the five food groups of the My Plate program, will help develop healthy eating patterns that can be maintained long-term. The My Plate program’s mission is to prevent long term chronic illness such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes by preventing high blood pressure and obesity in children and young adults. At Wilkes University, our campus is partnered with the American Heart Association to promote the Healthy for life Initiative that provides students with healthy, whole ingredients that have a high nutritional value. At the Henry Student Dining Hall, you can find nutritional facts on the TV’s above the food stations that provide calorie counts for prepared foods.
The nutritional facts can also be found on the Henry Student Center’s Dining Hall website, along with the menus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the week. There is a nutritionist available to speak with to learn more about choosing nutritious options while on campus. Although it can be difficult to maintain healthy eating habits from the transition college from high school, there are many resources that are available to make healthy eating easier and more convenient for students. Healthy eating is very important to help students succeed in their classes, focus on their studies, and prevent them from getting sick throughout the semester.
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