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.
In my last blog, I talk about the evolution of dining – from eating with the family at the dinner table in the 50’s to eating in the backseat of your mom’s car after going through the drive through window. There’s no doubt about it, American’s eating habits have changed drastically – and so has our waistline.
In the 50s and 60s my dad either brought a bag lunch with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or he ate the school lunch with was also pretty basic, like a hamburger and green beans. Bottom line, food was simple – but not any more.
Today, it’s all about choices, but kids rarely make healthy food choices. That’s why they have parents. Unfortunately, even if a school serves a set lunch menu, many kids have access to vending machines too. When I was in high school, it was a daily thing for me to grab some chili cheese Fritos and a coke from the vending machines and call that lunch. Schools also have a “salad bar” and many extra options like pizza, hamburgers, french fries and chicken nuggets – and there’s really nothing keeping these kids from just walking away with fries and a coke.
The best way to help your child to eat healthy is to pack your child’s lunch. This way you can choose healthy foods the like, and they are less likely to skip foods they want to avoid like my mom did when she was in school. She said there were some days she didn’t eat anything at all if she didn’t like what the lunch room served. Then she’d save her lunch money from a few days of skipped meals to spend more money on the food she did like when it was available. So, essentially, she was already a yo-yo dieter by her mid teens.
6 Ways to Improve Your Child’s Eating Habits
- Pack your child’s lunch together, to help them get in the habit of preparing their food for the day – plus you’ll learn what foods they like and don’t like.
- Review the school lunch menu for each week and give your child the choice to eat off the menu or bring something from home.
- Ask your child to provide receipts for food purchased, so you can see what they are ordering – especially for teens who go off campus.
- Verbally follow up with your child on how they liked their lunch and get feedback on what they ate.
- Put a list of “approved” snacks on the refrigerator to help your child create healthier snacking habits.
- Continually analyze your children’s eating habits to make adjustments that are healthy, but also keep your child happy. Healthy eating shouldn’t be miserable eating. It’s important your child does not think healthy food is nasty food, so work hard to help them discover healthy foods they really love.
Evolution of School Lunches
Look how the menu has changed – and grown.
- Vegetable Soup
- Milk or Cocoa
- Peanut butter sandwich
- Pea salad
1953 – A basic meal could be only 3 items & milk
1971 – Meals were still simple, but growing
- Vegetable beef
- Peanutbutter or ham salad sandwich (EL)
- Biscuit and butter (SEC)
- Cole slaw
- Ice cream
pFIT pFACT: Vending Machines were introduced to schools and kids started drinking less milk and more soda pop.
1985 – Fried Food & Salad Bars were becoming popular
- Fried chicken
- Mashed potatoes
- Roll and butter
- Salad Bar Option
- Milk or Chocolate Milk
pFIT pFACT: Of the milk served in U.S. schools, 71 percent is flavored.
- Cheeseburger, chicken nuggets, spaghetti or Pizza
- French Fries or Tater Tots
- Salad Bar (healthy options kids still could skip)
- Bread or Roll
- Fruit cobbler
- Vending Machines with Coke, chips, cookies, crackers and candy
- Food Bar for high schools with fast food style options
What are your children eating for lunch?
Do you approve of the school lunch menu?
Is it getting better or worse?
How do you manage healthy eating while your children are out of your sight?