Health Team

Despite 'freshmen 15' myth, NCSU promotes healthy choices

Posted August 29, 2012

— During the first weeks college freshmen are on campus, their diet is often at the bottom of a list of concerns a mile long. By the end of that first year, however, it's usually a different story. 

By then, students have packed on the dreaded "freshmen 15," the magical weight gain number most assume is true.

In fact, the number for the majority of college freshmen is closer to three or four pounds. A far cry from 15, but still something worth watching, especially considering the fact that 4 pounds a year for an entire college career can quickly become 15 to 20 pounds. 

To help promote healthy eating choices, registered dietitians at North Carolina State University are using technology to teach students. 

In Fountain Cafeteria on NC State's main campus, an iPad app and codes on each buffet item let students know exactly how many calories they're eating for each meal. Placement of food in the cafeteria also matters. 

"If they touch on an entre, like a hamburger on a bun, it shows the calories," Lisa Eberhart, a registered dietitian, said. "When you first walk in, the first thing you see is fruits and vegetables."

Each line offers low-calories choices and popular, less healthy items, such pizza. 

NCSU dining technology NCSU trying to get students to improve diets

For students not interested in counting calories, experts recommend the plate method. 

"With the plate method, half of what you eat for lunch or dinner should be low-calorie vegetables," Rex Wellness dietitian Diane Danchi said. "Then a quarter is healthy protein and a quarter healthy starch." 

Danchi says vegetables make students feel fuller and whole grain help them stay that way for longer. 

"We know it helps manage weight and prevent chronic disease," Danchi said. 

On top of diet concerns, college students need to be more aware of their sleeping habits and exercise routines. Students need 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night and should try to exercise at least three times a week.


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  • iwannareply Sep 5, 2012

    Ah youth! Almost all people will gain weight if they consume more calories than they burn.

  • esquire Sep 5, 2012

    I guess I'm an outlier for putting on 15 lbs in the first semester. Nothing like having all-you-can-eat two or three times a day on your parents' dime, eh? College!!

  • whatelseisnew Sep 4, 2012

    I am constantly amazed at how supposed problems are invented. Surely there must be a syndrome attached to this and all we need is a new drug to consume that will solve this problem.

  • carrboroyouth Aug 31, 2012

    And by freshman, I meant "freshmen."

    I may have to change it to "sophomores" because I think you are required to have a meal plan as a freshman

  • JoJo82 Aug 31, 2012

    College students also start drinking alcohol (not all of them, but a lot of them :) and eating late night snacks after going out at night. These were the reasons that I gained weight in college. If they don't counteract these extra calories with exercise and healthy meals during the day, they are sure to gain the "freshman 15".

  • carrboroyouth Aug 31, 2012

    I beg your pardon, but I am not making excuses. When did I say it was the dining room's fault for the obesity of students? I did not even use that word! Nor the word "overweight" or "fat."

    I am saying that there are conditions that make it easy for students to fall into the trap of eating poor food. One of them is the dining halls at many colleges - which by the way, a meal plan can cost up to a thousand dollars. Not worth it, at least not at NCSU. If you paid that much, would you not expect to see some healthy, diverse options? I'd rather have that than an iPad telling me what to do!!

    I accept responsibility for what goes into my mouth and that is why I only ate salads and drank water at the dining hall -- there is nothing else to eat. I didn't gain a pound.

    I would strongly encourage the freshman to go to the farmer's market on campus and avoid a meal plan entirely.

  • readme Aug 31, 2012

    carroboroyouth, you represent to me the #1 reason we have an obesity epidemic. People accept no responsiblity for what goes in their mouth, and they continually make excuses. There are plenty of healthy choices there. Or god forbid if you just ate less of whatever they did have or what they could afford! Even 20+ years ago when I was in college there were plenty of ways to eat healthy. Sure, it's the dining hall's fault that the ADULTS that eat there might be overweight.

  • carrboroyouth Aug 31, 2012

    I was a student from 2009-2011. With the exception of the salad bar, it was very difficult to find good food in the dining halls. Most items were hamburgers, pizza, french fries, heavily salted or smothered in cheese. The average entree vegetable consisted of potatoes, corn or rice --greens were rare. The "juices" were from powder and clearly had a lot of sugar in them, so I never saw how they were better than the sodas offered. I'm talking about Fountain dining hall here, not the fancy Case dining hall - I have heard that they cater nicely to the athletes...

    In the Atrium, you can find healthy food - for about $7-10... who can afford that? Chik-fil-a on the other hand goes for about 4 bucks.

    I do not intend to rag on NC State but I am saying that it is clear why students gain so much weight in college!

  • NCSU_FB Aug 30, 2012

    I'm not sure when you "went" to state, but I work for the university, frequent their dining halls. They have made quite a few changes over the last couple of years. One of the dining halls has even gone fry-less, offering baked chips instead. Not to mention there seems to have been a big push to use more fresh ingredients. I've always been able to find something healthy.

  • carrboroyouth Aug 30, 2012

    I went to State for two years

    they do NOT have affordable healthy choices! I struggled to find good food in the dining halls