Leaving your home, your pets, being on your own, having to adult 24/7 and figuring out what you’re going to do with your life and future. College sounds GREAT, right? Going into college I thought about all of these things, some more than others. One thing that I often associated my freshmen year with, all truly important things aside, was this myth of the “freshman 15”. Few questions people have are what the freshman 15 is and what foods to steer away from in college. 

There have been studies shown that first-year college students are very likely to gain weight mostly during their first semester. I had to learn more and ended up coming up with 15 foods that can be avoided to keep away the unwanted weight. 

1. Beer

Drinking beer in college is so common and isn't a surprise that this can be one of the biggest things to contribute to weight gain in college. Beer has high amounts of calories and interferes with blood sugar levels, causing weight gain.  You can still go out to parties in college without drinking beer, however, in moderation may be the best thing to do. 

Alternatives: drinking beer in moderation, drinking light beer, wine or tequila. 

2. Potato Chips: 

I’m a huge sucker for classic potato chips. The crunchy potato chips we love are sadly high in calories. Being such an easy purchase and a simple add on to a meal, total up more and more calories in the end. 

Alternative: Baked chips rather than fried, baked kale, cheese, carrot, green bean, beet chips, consuming potato chips at the given serving size.

3. Cake

Cake is filled with fat and sugar and hasn’t really been found to contain healthy nutrients. I know that in my dining hall at my school they have some type of cake or pastry served at every single meal everyday. Just because it’s easily available, doesn’t mean you have to grab it.

Alternative: having fruit as a dessert instead or making a plan to have cake or any other sugary dessert every once in a while.

4. Vegetable Oils

Vegetable oils such as canola, soybean, corn, or cottonseed are found to have a connection to artificial trans fats, which are fatty acids that are created industrially. Surprisingly enough, trans fats are associated with increased risk of heart diseases, diabetes, and weight gain or obesity. Usually all oils will contain some type of fat but this component that vegetable oils carry can have major long term effects.

Alternatives: any natural oil such as olive oil, coconut oil, or flaxseed oil.

5. Fast Food Items

Of course, fast foods items generally are not the healthiest options. Fast food is high in sodium, saturated and trans fat, and cholesterol and is usually made with ingredients that are unnatural and cheap. Although easy, the cheapest and healthiest choice would be to make something at home if possible.

Alternative: Eat meals at home when you can, eat natural snacks until you have the option to eat a meal at home, consume fast food in moderation, or choose the healthiest options on the menu at fast food restaurants.

6. Energy drinks

Energy drinks are high in caffeine which accounts for this fast  energy feeling you have, which also contains a high sugar concentration which can contribute to obesity. Energy drinks are easy go-tos for a lot of college students when in need of  improved concentration and performance.

Alternatives: natural fruit smoothies, green tea, or exposing yourself to sunlight in order to stay awake.

7. Candy

Candy isn’t necessarily “bad” (because who doesn’t love candy) but it isn’t healthy to consume daily either. If you’re a lover of the sweet, sour, and salty stuff, there are other options to replace that necessity.

Alternatives: frozen berries, legumes, yogurt, popcorn, dried fruit, consume candy on occasions (on Halloween of course).

8. Ramen Noodles

Ramen a common go-to meal for a majority of college students. It's easy, fast, cheap, but it's filled with sodium, fat, and tons of preservatives. It's hard to resist when it's late at night and you just need something to fill you up, but trust me, there are other ways to fight that late night hunger.

Alternatives: consume in moderation, eating udon, pho, or eating something fresh rather than processed.

9. Soft Drinks

Almost all soft drink beverages have been found to be a contributor to weight gain and obesity due to its high concentration of sugar. Soft drinks are easily available in dining halls especially, giving students no other options besides that and water.

Alternatives: water or any drink low in sugar.

10. Coffee

Similar to energy drinks, coffee too is filled with caffeine and high in sugar, which can add up the more you decide to go to Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts every morning. Simply put, there are other ways to stay awake during the day if needed.

Alternatives: natural fruit smoothies, green tea, consume in moderation, or exposing yourself to sunlight in order to stay awake. If have to drink straight black coffee or sugarless shots of espresso.

11. Canned Foods

It turns out that food that comes in a can may contain unhealthy preservatives such as BPA. BPA is a chemical found in aluminum and tin cans and has been studied to have a link to diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and obesity. Canned vegetables or fruits are common canned goods and can be easily switched out with natural ingredients.

Alternatives: fresh produces or natural ingredients.

12. Fruit Juices

Fruit juices surprisingly contain a large amount of sugar, making it a rather unhealthy item. Despite having “fruit” in the name and somewhere on the ingredients list, fruit juices are not as nutritionally healthy and beneficial as fresh fruits or vegetables may be. 

Alternatives: freshly juiced fruits or vegetables, smoothies, consume in moderation, or any beverage low in sugar.

13. Fruit Snacks

It is researched that most of these fruit snacks are mostly made up of sugar, low in nutrients. Same as fruit juices, just because it has the word “fruit” in the name, do not give the same benefits as real fruits.

Alternatives: organic fruit snacks, natural fruits/vegetables, frozen or dried fruits.

14. Processed Foods

Processed foods can be identified as unhealthy or poor due to their content of salt, sugar, and fat. A shopping tip I have learned is to shop the perimeter in supermarkets; fattening and unhealthy processed foods are generally contained in the inner aisles at supermarkets.

Alternatives: consume whole foods or non artificial foods.

15. Fried Foods

With the addition of the batter or flour that the food is coated in and the extreme amount of oil that it is fried in, the calorie content goes through the roof. Not having much nutritional benefit, consuming fried foods often can add up and lead to extra gained pounds.

Alternatives: baked foods, non-fried foods, or consumption on occasions.

The fabled freshman 15 is not the number one thing that should be in the forefront of your mind when going into college; but it is something worth taking into account. Without your parents by your side, it’s easy to fall off the health wagon for the time being. The 15 freshman 15 foods to avoid may not apply only to first year students. It may have the word "freshman" in the title but wanting to stay in good health and shape is a smart goal to constantly have throughout your college years, no matter what year in school you are. If you have any other alternatives let us know on Facebook or Instagram by tagging us using #SpoonUIC!