As graduates of Vanderbilt University and University of Wisconsin-Madison, registered dietitians Molly Rieger and Leah Silberman – co-founders of Tovita Nutrition – understand that college is not a time for strict dieting. Too much fun would be missed between late night pizza, hungover bagel runs, and the between class fro-yo trip.

And while all of these things are part of the college lifestyle, trying to avoid all three in one day will make a difference. Here are a few simple tips to avoid the dreaded freshman (or college in general) fifteen.

1. Save the late night food for weekends.


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Having a fourth meal at 3 am more than once or twice a week will add up, trust us. If you are actually feeling hungry after a night out, have some go-to options that you won’t regret in the morning. Think of a whole grain cereal, whole grain toast with peanut butter or natural popcorn.

2. Navigate the dining hall like a pro.


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There are a few small changes you can make in the dining hall that’ll make a big difference.

  • Having eggs or stir-fry? Ask them to not use butter and to go easy on the cooking oil. This adds unnecessary fat and calories to your otherwise healthy meal.
  • Do the salad bar right: skip the dried fruit, croutons, wonton strips and creamy dressing. Yes, these ingredients are tasty, but they can also add up, making your salad as caloric as the chicken fingers or burger your friends are enjoying. Stick to veggies, a lean protein, and a vinegar based dressing. Yes, you can have the avocado.
  • Healthify your sandwich: choose whole grain bread or pita, a lean protein like chicken breast or turkey, load up on veggies like cucumber, lettuce, tomato, sprouts, and peppers and choose hummus, avocado, or mustard instead of mayo.
  • Skip the pizza, burger and chicken finger stations. You know you’ll be getting your fair share of these foods elsewhere, so save it for when its worth it. It would be a shame to waste it on the rubbery chicken from the dining hall.

3. Snack smart.


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Stress eating while studying, or mindlessly snacking while watching TV is a habit many of us are familiar with. Avoid overeating at snack times by pre-portioning your snacks.

Put a serving in a ziplock bag if you’re on the go or plate the snack rather than eating out of the bag. Eating out of the bag while focusing on something else can easily lead to eating way more than you had intended. Put the snack on the plate so you can see how much you are eating.

Snacks should combine protein and fiber to keep you satisfied, and remain under 200 calories. Some ideas include:

  • ½ cup of mixed nuts
  • Apple or banana with 1 tablespoon almond or peanut butter
  • Piece of fruit with string cheese
  • Plain Greek yogurt with ½ cup berries
  • Sliced veggies or 1 serving whole grain crackers with 2 tablespoons of hummus or guacamole
  • Natural popcorn (ie. Skinny pop, or homemade from your microwave)

4. Don’t eat less to drink more.


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We guarantee it will backfire and you will either end up overeating late night or you may have a less classy evening when the alcohol gets to your head faster than usual. We recommend having 3 balanced meals and 1-2 light snacks whether you’re drinking or not.

5. Move it.


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Walk to class rather than taking the bus or catching a ride. It’s also a good idea to make a weekly exercise goal with a friend. You are more likely to make it to the gym if you plan to go with a friend than if you plan to go alone. Hold each other accountable.

6. Drink up.


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We’re talking water here. Staying hydrated is a key component of weight management. Thirst is often masked as hunger, and after a night of drinking your body is especially dehydrated. Carry a 32-oz. water bottle with you and make a point to fill it up at least twice throughout the day.

If you’re drinking alcohol, have a bottle of water before bed and right when you wake up. Avoid sugary sodas, sweetened teas and energy drinks – these are a waste of calories and will add up quickly. Stick to water, seltzer, unsweetened tea and coffee and try to stick to non-caloric mixers with alcohol. Yes, we’re saying ditch the punch and the jello-shots at frat parties, because you probably won’t remember how they taste anyway.