It’s not uncommon for kids to go off to college and gain weight. Parents aren’t there to buy healthy food, fast food becomes an easy quick fix for hunger, and new freedoms with less accountability typically doesn’t end very well.
I know when I moved out, Ramon Noodles were a staple food in my apartment. Luckily, I worked out and ran so I also was aware of eating healthier than most.
If you have a kid or friend in college, here are some helpful ways to encourage healthy habits – and if YOU are the college kid, I have tips for you too. First the parents…
10 Tips for Parents
2. Purchase some Protein Powder so they can supplement if they are not getting enough protein from whole foods.
3. Send an occasional gift card to a fast food place that is a healthier option, like a Sub or Salad shop vs McDonalds, instead of just sending money.
4. Ask them what they ate today. Accountability is a powerful thing. If they know you are going to ask them how they are eating, they may make better choices when ordering food.
5. Help them grocery shop. Some college kids have never seriously grocery shopped. They may have gone for a few items, but they may need your pointers on how to shop smart. Teach them what to shop for and what to look at (calories, prices, etc).
6. Teach them how to manage their money. If they can’t manage their money, they won’t be able to replenish food with healthy choices. Instead, they’ll turn to cheap options.
7. Don’t just hand out money like it’s going out of style. Kids would often rather go spend money on partying or new clothes than spend it on healthy food. Give your college kid a gift card to their neighborhood grocery store so they aren’t tempted to spend it on frivolous things.
8. Track their activity and sleep with the UP band by jawbone. This is a great way to see how active they are – and how much sleep they are getting. Anyone who joins your “team” (a group of friends and family using the UP band) can see each other’s activity.
9. Set some healthy rules. Even if your kid is all grown up, if you are paying for college, there should be some rules. Whether it’s a maintaining certain GPA, or a budget, accountability is important – especially when someone is on their own for the first time. While they may be in college now, they have zero experience being an adult. Your years of experience can save your child from making unnecessary mistakes.
10. Reward you college kid with things that support a healthy lifestyle. Clothes and money are great, but what about rewarding your child with personal training, a membership to a yoga studio, new running shoes, box of protein bars, fruit basket or small workout accessories like a gym bag, iphone arm band, etc. The healthier your kid is, the better he or she will perform in school – and the more confidence he or she will have on campus.
Ok, so YOU are the student and you want to know what you can do to not be another statistic of one more college kid that gets fat at college?
10 Healthy Tips for College Kids
1. Burn if off. If you admit you eat poorly, or you just eat too much, make the time to burn it off. It doesn’t require a lot of money to go for a power walk or jog. It will help you relieve stress, as well as keep you in good shape.
2. Go to the gym. If you have a school gym, USE IT! You will meet like-minded people there who can help support your goals.
3. Party, but don’t always drink. Most kids don’t want to feel like they are missing out so they hit every party they can. I’m not saying you can’t go have fun and socialize, but you don’t have to consume loads of alcohol calories every single time you go out. NOTE: Most people feel better holding a something (like a drink) when meeting people and are in new surroundings. Like a baby has a pacifier, have a go-to drink option that pacifies you, like a really cool water bottle or your favorite seltzer water.
5. Snack, Snack and Snack some more! The college life is a fast paced life. You are on the go a lot and if you aren’t prepared, you’ll end up STARVING and making poor choices. To avoid temporary hunger retardation (when you get so hungry you make really dumb mistakes), always keep snacks close, like almonds, protein bars, fruit, low-fat cheese sticks and greek yogurt.
6. Trade going to the club, for going to the fitness club. Gyms can be a great place to socialize and hang out. It’s a lot healthier than going to bars. If you don’t hesitate to pay a cover fee at a night club, then you shouldn’t hesitate to pay a day fee at a local gym. Trying different gyms around town can not only be fun, but it can help you learn what gym you like most (and which one has the cutest boys). Hey, don’t laugh, I may be old, but I still remember what it was like to be college age!
7. Stay active. It will be tempting to sleep the weekends away, but it’s super important to stay in some kind of healthy routine. While sleep is also important (and if you need it, of course catch up on it!) however, sleeping until 1pm and lazying around the apartment isn’t smart either. Make plans to go to the beach, go to the pool or play a game of ultimate frisbee or volley ball. The more you stay cooped up in the house, the more tempted you are to eat – as well as hide your growing belly. NOTE: The more you are in a bikini, the more likely you are to be careful what to eat. And, if you are in a northern college where it’s cooler, you can still stay active and accountable in other ways.
8. Weigh yourself. Out of site, often leads to out of mind. If you have a healthy outlook on your weight, weighing yourself can help you catch weight gain before it’s too late. Otherwise, you may just think you are a bad laundry person and shrinking all your clothes. 🙂 Sometimes seeing your weight in big digital numbers is enough to keep you on track.
9. Eat smaller portions. If you are on a broke college girl (or boy) budget, and all you eat is fast food, at least eat less of it. Divide meals in half and stretch each meal out. Not only will you feel better, but your money will go further too.
10. Get good sleep. College kids are often sleep deprived – normally just because kids would rather party, they have full schedules, or they just don’t manage time well. Force yourself to go to bed early when you can. If you can’t fall asleep, try taking Sleepy Time tea to help you get tired so you can get the rest your body and mind needs.
It’s no surprise that our eating habits have changed over the years. Meals used to be simple, and eating out used to be a big deal. In the 50s, you were probably lucky if you ate out once a week. Even our beverage habits have changed. Having a soda use to mean leaving the house and going to the soda shop, not grabbing a can of coke in the fridge. Also, most of our desserts were homemade, not store bought. Having ice cream at my grandparent’s house was an event. We’d all take turns turning the crank on an ice cream machine to churn the ice cream into perfection from the simplest ingredients. Now people turn down ice cream unless it has chopped up candy bars and chocolate syrup swirled in.
Unfortunately, food is all about entertainment and convenience, and less about nutrition and spending quality time with the family. Variety is a demand and eating out on the go is a daily ritual for many.
In addition, we not only eat more, we physically do less. Adults spend more time in the chair in front of a computer for work and less time doing physical work. Kids spend more time on computers too. They play computerized games instead of doing traditional activities like jumping on the trampoline, playing ball, riding bicycles and playing chase.
The Dinner Table is Empty
Dining room tables have become more of a decorative piece of furniture than a place the family gathers to eat. Why? Because the whole American lifestyle has changed. Families live fast-paced lives, more women are working, and high calorie food is more accessible to nearly everybody. Here are some other reasons why America is continuing to fatten up.
- Families dine in a hurry
- Eating out is the norm
- Sweets are no longer limited to dessert after dinner
- Weekly treats are now daily habits
- Soda is a staple beverage
- Families eat dinner in front of the TV
- Furniture companies enable TV snacking, by offering built-in cup holders for the couch
- Companies make fancier, tastier and flashier pre-packaged snacks
- People have more access to high-calorie gourmet recipes, via the web, to cook like a chef
- There are more ready-to-eat products to choose from
- Restaurant chains use bigger portion sizes to attract customers
Eat Like It’s 1950
Maybe we should eat like it’s 1950 again. Bring the family back to the table, limit pre-packaged foods, save sodas for the weekends only, and cut back on eating out. Get more creative with activities and less creative in the kitchen. When it comes to fitness, there is something to say about going back to the simple life. Simple eating and living may result in a slimmer, healthier household.
Biggie Size Me
Just portion size alone has gone through quite a transformation over the years. No wonder Americans are getting bigger by the minute. Look at this graph from Making Health Easier that really puts things into perspective.
SHOW & TELL
What changes have you noticed over your lifetime?