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Colleges Try Sneaking Healthy Options into Dining Halls

October 29, 2009

by Agnes Jasinski

Do you think you could get tricked into eating more healthy foods on campus? A recent article in the Boston Globe describes the strategies being taken by some schools in Massachusetts to get their students eating more nutritious meals and smaller portions, and it has required some sneakiness.

Most of you have probably heard of the "freshman 15," the 15 (or more) pounds that you're at risk of putting on that first year away in college when you're making your own decisions on what to eat. According to the Globe and the Nutrition Journal, recent studies have shown that at least 1 in 4 college freshmen gain an average of 10 pounds in their first semester alone. (That'd make it more like the "freshman 20.") Data like that and an increased awareness of obesity among young people has led schools like Wellesley College, Tufts University, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst to take matters into their own hands by shrinking plate sizes and sneaking veggies onto students' plates. And they're not publicizing their methods, as anecdotal evidence has shown that if students are given a choice in whether to eat healthy or not, they'll usually go for the burger and fries.

Elsewhere, schools are doing things like offering miniatures of popular food items (sliders vs. burgers) and substituting fattening ingredients for more low-calories options. Getting students to eat healthy and exercise portion control is made even tougher in cafeterias, where they can often make return trips for second and third helpings with no one there to stop them. “Whatever restraining influences parents might have had when the teenagers were at home are unshackled when kids go off to college,’’ Dr. David Ludwig, director of the Optimal Weight for Life program at Children’s Hospital Boston said in the Boston Globe article.

If you're particularly worried about the choices you've been making when eating (or drinking), consider burning off some of those calories. Try to make time for a club sport or a couple hours a week at your schools' gym. Your tuition fees are already paying for your privileges to use their facilities, so you may as well visit them once in a while. And check out our site for options on healthy eating and eating on a budget, another difficult hurdle when you're looking not to order pizza for the third night in a row.


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