Freshman 15

Fresh thinking on the Freshman 15

Carol Harrison Yummy Lunch Club Leave a Comment

I won’t be helping to pack lunches for one of my kids this fall. Yesterday I moved my son into residence at university where someone else will prepare all his food and he is in charge of deciding when, what and how much to eat and drink. And you can bet the Freshman 15 chatter is as active as it was when I was in university but is it for real?

A recent meta- analysis reviewing the results of 32 studies suggests the Freshman 15 maybe be an urban exaggeration. They found weight gain in the first year to be about 3 pounds and when the numbers were teased out a bit more, 60% of students gained 7 pounds in the first year.

In the case of my 17 year old son who spent the last couple years of high school shooting up in height, I’d expect him to gain weight as his body changes from a lanky teenager to a young man. My point is some weight gain is not always a bad thing.

I’d like to see the conversation shift from a negative focus on concerns about weight gain to a more positive one that shows the many benefits of healthy eating:

  • Fire up you workouts
  • Keep your immune system in tip top shape
  • Feel energized and alert in class
  • Feel good about yourself
  • Better manage stress

Students have enough on their plate starting university so I kept the how to eat well on campus advice to my son simple:

  1. Eat 3 meals, 1-2 small healthy snacks
    • To power through your day and feel terrific, organize yourself so you don’t skip meals. It leaves you tired, irritable and likely to overeat later in the day which then makes you feel sluggish – it puts you behind the eight ball every time.
    • Keep healthy snacks in your school bag and in your dorm for times when you have to eat and run.


  1. Build a healthy plate with steamed, grilled, baked or fresh foods.
    • Aim for a plate with:½ vegetables and fruit, ¼ lean hunger-curbing protein (fish, beans, meat, tofu, nuts, eggs) and ¼ grains (choose whole grains often).
    • Drink water with all your meals. With the exception of milk, I say eat your calories don’t drink them. It’s more filling.
    • Limit how much and how often you eat fast food. Order smaller portions and ask for extra veggies.


  1. Live by the 80:20 rule. Make healthy choices most of the time and have treats some of the time. Choose ones you really enjoy and keep the portions reasonable.


  1. Manage your stress. It can lead to overeating or undereating. Eating right can help you to manage stress too.


So where did the time fly? Just as I let go of my son’s pudgy hand as he got into the JK line up many years ago, today I’m asking myself yet again, have I prepared my son well, this time for university life away from home? The Freshman year is a lot for kids to take in and enjoy.

Student need to give themselves time to adjust and trust that they will settle into their own healthy groove and not beat themselves up over a 3 pound weight gain.

Weigh in! What do you think of all the fuss made over Freshman 15? Legit or legend?



Would love to hear from you!