Everything changes when high school students become college freshmen, but those changes don't have to include an expanded waistline.
While freshman at Central Lakes College have spent two weeks becoming acclimated to their new surroundings, it isn't too late to reverse bad eating habits that could result in the dreaded "Freshman 15," gaining weight their first year of college.
Nancy Smith, a CLC health instructor, said many times freshmen aren't aware of the subtle changes that occur their first year of college. They may be driving their cars more instead of walking. Students may not be as active as they were in high school or they're consuming additional calories by grabbing a quick snack and a pop between classes.
Smith said about one-third to one-half of her students usually bring a pop or flavored coffee beverage with them to class, a habit many of them weren't allowed to do while in high school. This can provide students with additional calories they may not be aware of, extras that contain little or no nutritional value.
"Realize that everything has changed for them," Smith explained. "Their exercise routines have changed, their eating habits have changed, and they need to be alert to that. Be alert that there are things they used to do and that's now gone and they're still eating the same way. You may have an hour or two off between classes. There's a lot more nibble time."
Smith said students need to schedule exercise into part of their day, whether it is through buying a discounted student membership at an area gym or by signing up for a physical education class, like tennis or golf, every semester, which forces them to exercise. Central Lakes College has a weight room, exercise bikes and other equipment that is free for students to use. Many people, even those from the community, will walk the halls of the college for exercise, she said.
While students at Central Lakes College continue to nosh on fried foods, many are taking advantage of the college's salad bar and its offerings of fruits and vegetables.
Jana Lueck, a mother of two from Pequot Lakes, recently started courses at CLC to become an elementary teacher. She attends classes two days a week, two 10- and 12-hour days, and has made a conscious effort to eat healthy while at school.
"I'm trying and the food's really good so you really have to watch," said Lueck. "I see lots of kids eating hamburgers and fries and I wish I could have that. I had one taco for lunch today, no sour cream. ... And a lot of pop and coffee to keep my brain awake."
B.H. Food Service, which operates the cafeteria at CLC, offers many healthy choices, such as a salad bar, but it's up to the students themselves to make the decision to eat healthier.
Janet Beck, a B.H. Food Service employee at Central Lakes College, prepared a plate of chicken and rice in the cafeteria.
"Most days I bring a lunch but today I had work study and I didn't have time to pack a lunch," said Shayna Motes, an 18-year-old freshman from Little Falls, who was eating a California burger and fries for lunch Thursday at CLC. "I really don't want to gain the Freshman 15. Most people I know do that, come in here and eat whatever they want."
"When you're broke, you don't have a choice," said Heather Luberts, a CLC sophomore from Buckman. "You eat whatever looks good. At home it's Ramen noodles."
Smith said many students will snack throughout the day instead of eating healthy meals because they believe they're saving money. She said students can still eat the less expensive meals, but just add vegetables or other foods that have nutritional value.
"Nutrition is a huge issue, not just a health issue," said Smith. "It's about energy and attitude and what it means long term for our lives. When kids buy macaroni and cheese, they can throw some tuna in that and it's not as expensive."
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