Fighting college weight gain the healthy way

by Beacon Staff • April 5, 2006

Although some find it impossible to avoid gaining the dreaded freshmen 15, both registered dieticians and students agree this seemingly insurmountable goal is attainable.,Winter is coming to a close and it will soon be time to shed those extra pounds packed on during the frigid months.

Although some find it impossible to avoid gaining the dreaded freshmen 15, both registered dieticians and students agree this seemingly insurmountable goal is attainable.

Robyn Kievit is a family nurse practitioner and registered dietician who started Around the Table with Robyn, an open forum where she eats dinner with students in Emerson's dining hall.

This program started in March as a combination of HERstory Month and National Nutrition Month. Six people attended the first dinner meeting. Around the Table with Robyn will be held every month, but be sure to e-mail her and RSVP because there is a limit of ten students for a more intimate and laid back setting.

The next dinner will be on Tuesday, April 25 at 6:15 p.m. These meetings often have themes, such as dietary supplements, heart health and how to read a food label. Kievit insists, though, that students are not limited to these themes; they can ask anything they would like regarding nutrition.

"There are a ton of healthy options; you just need to know how to navigate around what you need," Kievit said. "Try writing down what you are eating for a week or two. This shows what you are eating and how you can make improvements."

Joanne Keaveney, a registered dietician and part-time professor in the department of communication sciences and disorders at Emerson, counsels students on how to maintain a balanced diet with dining hall food. Keaveney, a TV media consultant, has worked on nutrition stories for New England Cable News (NECN) and has also held gigs with CNN and ABC News.

"I really believe with the right choices most students will not gain weight," Keaveney said.

But what are these "right choices"?

Keaveney provided ways to help students stay healthy and avoid gaining extra weight.

Tips on Staying Healthy

in College

First is the essential rule to not skip any meals, as this lowers your metabolism.

"It is important to spread the wealth throughout the day," Keaveney said, meaning you should have an equal amount of calories for every meal.

Second, always eat breakfast. Breakfast is the meal that starts your metabolism, Keaveney said.

"It's like starting the engine to your car," Keaveney said. "The gas tank is empty until you eat."

It is also important to eat within one hour of waking and pack in all the fiber you can.

This means those sugary cereals you love won't do the trick. Keaveney suggests high-fiber cereals like Chex or Bran Flakes.

If you are not willing to give up the sugary alternatives, try mixing one cup of your favorite cereal with a cup of regular Cheerios, which will cut the sugar intake in half.

If you are not a cereal fan, try a piece of wheat toast with peanut butter and a banana, or an English muffin instead of a bagel, as bagels have much more fat. Pair it with yogurt and a glass of orange juice for added protein and potassium.

Third, don't eat three hours before bed. The less caloric intake at this time the better. Often there is little-to-no physical activity during this time, so you put weight on while you're sleeping, Keaveney said. If you're the type of person that loves snacking at night, substitute potato chips with a bag of pretzels.

Fourth, exercise, exercise, exercise.

"Stress doesn't burn many calories," notes Keaveney. "So get out there."

A 30-minute power walk every day revs your metabolism and reduces stress. A person who weighs 150 pounds can burn 179 calories during this 30-minute block by walking at a rate of at least four miles-per-hour, according to bodybuilding.com.

Kievit suggests using mypyramid.gov, interactive Web site to view the new food pyramid. She also recommends visiting fitday.com for further health tips.

There are Healthy Meals in the Dining Hall

Keaveney took a tour around the dining hall with The Beacon to give some examples of nutritious meals.

She suggested eating a salad loaded with different items, such as tuna, chickpeas, tomatoes, carrots and kidney beans, all of which are available at the salad bar. Make sure you pick lettuce with a dark green leaf, such as spinach, as it packs in more nutrients like potassium and calcium.

"The more different colors the better," Keaveney said. "The more different colors you use, the more vitamins you get."

Carnivores, she said, should make sure to choose healthier meats like lean ham and turkey offered in the salad bar. Try to stay away from fatty bolognas and salami. While many love cheese, keep in mind that just one slice contains 10 grams of fat, so try to limit your intake.

Grilled chicken makes an excellent meal balanced with both a vegetable and a starch. If you are filling your plate with the rotisserie chicken and trying to lose weight, take the skin off. Also remember that corn, pasta and potatoes are all starches, so be sure to eat them with a green vegetable like broccoli or green beans.

A wrap with grilled chicken, lettuce, tomato and light mayonnaise or mustard is also a good choice. This can be paired with a small baked potato. A wrap made with tortilla bread or the dining hall's flat bread has half the carbohydrates of regular sandwich bread.

If you are a vegetarian, try replacing the chicken with a tofu dog or garden burger and apply the same theory as above. Combine that with both a starch and vegetable; skip the fries.

Even if you're not a vegetarian, try these options as a healthy substitute. While a regular hot dog packs around 180 calories and 17 grams of fat, a tofu dog only has 47 calories and half a gram of fat.

A hamburger can contain up to and above 310 calories and 13 grams of fat, while a non-meat replacement has just 100 calories and one gram of fat.

Students agree with Keaveney and Kievit-it is indeed possible to make healthy choices in the dining hall; it just takes a little effort.

"A lot more people eat unhealthy stuff, but it's just a matter of choice if you want to get healthy stuff or junk food stuff," said Erik Meltzer, a senior broadcast journalism major.

Benjamin Bjelajac, a freshman film major, agreed with Meltzer: "If you make a conscious effort to eat healthy, you won't have a hard time."