Back to school for college freshmen usually means the junk food trap

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 31, 2000

The "freshman 15" – it’s something new college students may dread more than exams and term papers.

Thursday, August 31, 2000

The "freshman 15" – it’s something new college students may dread more than exams and term papers. But, unlike the exams and term papers, the freshman 15 is completely preventable.

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According to Linda Baumann, Austin Medical Center dietitian, there are some common traps that college students face during their first year at school.

One of the biggest problems, Baumann said, is an unstructured eating schedule.

"Not that all teens have a structured eating routine before they go off to college, but now they don’t have mom saying, ‘Did you eat breakfast?’" Baumann said.

The unstructured eating routine can leave students ordering pizzas after 10 p.m. and eating potato chips and drinking Mountain Dew in their morning classes.

"I don’t have a problem with pizza, but consuming it late at night, after they’ve already had an evening meal, is not a good idea," Baumann said. "They eat the pizza and go to bed; they’re not doing anything to work it off, so it turns to fat."

Of course good ol’ cafeteria food also shares some of the blame.

"It’s hard for (the cooks) to bake fish or chicken when they have to serve so many people, so they serve a lot of fried foods," Baumann said.

Those concerned about gaining weight should avoid anything "breaded, battered and deep-fat fried," she added.

Young adults also seem to lack knowledge about nutrition, Baumann said.

About 50 percent to 60 percent of an individual’s caloric intake should come from carbohydrates, 15 to 20 from protein and no more than 30 percent from fat.

But what kids are eating to get those carbs and protein is cause for concern to Baumann.

In a recent study, teen-age girls got 37 percent of the carbohydrates from soft drinks. Forty percent of teen-age boys found their carbs in a pop can.

"That’s fairly high, and it’s scary," Baumann said. "They’re using pop as a food source, and it really isn’t. They should get sugar from a more natural source, like fruit or fruited yogurt."

Making better choices is the key to avoiding the classic new-student weight gain.

"A salad bar is always a good choice; just watch the salad dressing. If there’s low-fat, use that," Baumann said.

A salad is a good way to get vegetables into the diet, because, as Baumann is quick to point out, "potato chips do not count as a vegetable."

Getting protein from plant sources like beans also is a healthy alternative to fried foods and greasy burgers.

But Baumann also cautions that "low-fat is not low-calorie. The fat adds to the flavor. When they take that out, it’s usually replaced by sugar or sodium."

For those who are not planning on giving up the Doritos and Pringles, watch portions, Baumann advises. Don’t study with an open bag of chips because it’s too easy to eat more than one portion.

"Listen to your stomach," is Baumann’s final piece of advice.

Although food is a part of many social events – and college is no different – it’s OK to turn food turn, Baumann said.

"If you’re not hungry, don’t feel that you have to eat," she said.