College Students: Drop That Twinkie

Debt isn’t the only thing that weighs down students when they attend college. They also get fatter.

Undergrads who head off to college are warned about the “freshmen 15.” That’s allegedly the number of pounds freshmen gain when they arrive at college.

Some nutritionists and physicians, however, believe that the freshman 15 is now more like the freshman 30. A recent study in the Nutrition Journal concluded that one in four freshmen gained an average of 10 pounds in the first semester alone.

You can see how this happens. For the first time in their lives, students can eat anything they want. Want a bagle with cream cheese, waffle, juice, cereal, scrambled eggs and bacon?  You can have it all and if you can’t cram it all onto your tray, you can come back for seconds or thirds.

Compounding the problem is the the phenomenon that I call the culinary admissions arms race. To compete for new students, colleges and universities have beefed up their cafeterias. The food at many schools today can rival high quality restaurants. One school that I visited recently that served amazing food was Lake Forest College near Chicago. Among its many food stations was a stir-fry bar where you could select the type of noodles, meat and veggies you wanted the cook to prepare for you. When I wandered over to the the salad area, I was overwhelmed by the amazing cold salads. I walked out of that cafeteria stuffed.

Some schools, however, have recognized that too many students have little to no self control. A recent article in the Boston Globe described the efforts of colleges and universities in Massachusetts to get students to eat healthy.

Here are some examples of how schools are trying to get kids to eat healthier:

Northeastern University is serving up tapas—style dishes to encourage students to eat smaller portions.

Babson College is offering five-ounce ice cream servings instead of the old 10-ounce ones.

University of Massachusetts-Amherst is offering more fruit desserts.

Merrimack College has stopped frying chicken and is using milk instead of cream in the mashed potatos.

Here’s my own suggestion on how students can avoid gaining weight in college. Skip the tray. Without one, a student won’t be able to carry as much food to the table. Just a thought.

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3 Responses to College Students: Drop That Twinkie

  1. Helen December 7, 2009 at 10:12 am #

    Sorry I meant to say, “Eliminating trays can also help save water and energy…”

    • Lynn December 7, 2009 at 10:57 pm #

      Hi Helen,

      Thanks for that great suggestion. I think all schools should do away with trays! Make it harder for kids to overeat.

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  2. Helen December 7, 2009 at 10:11 am #

    Trays can also help save water and energy…
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/29/nyregion/29tray.html

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