By AMANDA FOUN ’17
Before college, students often hear stories about the “Freshman 15” and the struggles of eating healthily in college. Although the “Freshman 15” is simply a myth, weight gain is a harsh reality that affects almost 70 percent of college students according to a study done at Auburn University in Alabama. In another study by Brown University researcher, Elizabeth Lloyd-Richardson, results showed that only six percent of the participants actually gained 15 pounds during their freshman year. Instead, on average, male students gained 5.6 pounds and female students gained 3.6 pounds during their first year in college. Furthermore, Lloyd-Richardson found that these numbers rose even more throughout a student’s four years in school. Lloyd-Richardson’s study stresses the issue of continuous weight gain in college, which is an ongoing problem that can lead to obesity, high blood pressure and depression in students.
Researchers are still trying to explore the reasons behind this drastic weight gain in college. According to Thomas Wadden, the president of the Obesity Society and director of the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, the weight gain may be due to the high-fat foods in college dining halls and the ability to freely decide when and how much to eat each day. In addition, students may also gain weight by drinking alcohol, which is high in calories, and exercising less throughout the year.
Although weight gain among college students is on the rise, it is definitely possible to combat this issue, especially at Wellesley. Wellesley’s food provider, AVI Foodsystems, serves a wide selection of healthy options to students. As stated on their website, many of their dishes include foods that contain 30 percent or less of total calories from fat, 10 percent or less of total calories from saturated fat, zero grams of trans fat and 100 or less milligrams of cholesterol. Thus, even though fruits and the salad bar are always healthy choices, the main hot dishes are often nutritious as well. In order to further inform students, many of the dining halls have binders that contain the nutrition facts labels for the different foods and dishes that are served. Students are encouraged to look through these booklets in order to limit their caloric and saturated fats intake each day.
In addition to reading the nutrition fact labels for the foods in the dining hall, students should also be aware of their portions. Often, when there are multiple food options, studies have shown that students unknowingly eat more than usual. However, in dining halls such as Bates and the Bae Pao Lu Chow, many of the dishes are put out on plates for students to take. This helps students to make sure that they are eating well-portioned meals while at Wellesley. However, not every dining hall offers pre-portioned dishes. In that case, students should limit their intake of carbonated and fruit beverages, drink mostly water, and fill half of their plate with vegetables, a quarter with whole grains and the last quarter with protein. For dessert, students should aim for something healthier than the usual nutrient poor choices of ice cream, cakes and cookies. Instead, students should try to have more calorie-controlled treats, such as having fruits with sweet condiments like caramel, chocolate sauce or peanut butter. If students are still hungry late at night, it is recommended that they do not eat because they burn fat while sleeping. This fat burning process takes many hours, so if one eats until 1 a.m. and eats breakfast at 8 a.m., one’s body may not have been able to burn as much fat that night. However, if students are really craving late-night snacks, they should have small servings of protein-rich foods that will make them feel full longer, such as granola bars or yogurt.
For more information on any topics related to nutrition in the dining hall, students are encouraged to contact the College’s dietitian, Amy Branham. Her contact information can be found on the College’s website.