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Polish Off the Apples
Your college age kids are likely to gain weight: Studies show that on average, students gain 3-10 pounds during their first 2 years of college. Most of that gain takes place the first semester of freshman year. For many, that signals the beginning of a pattern of gradual weight gain that becomes harder to change as the years roll on. Some gain in adolescence is normal as the metabolism shifts. But rapid or extreme gain can become a problem – and if your teen isn’t prepared – a long-term one.
Before your teens go off on their own, establish good eating habits for the whole family. That one simple step, plus talking about the choices you’re helping them make, can set teens on the right path once they’re away at school and on their own.
Lead your family, and particularly teens, in adopting a healthy food attitude by reinforcing your actions with dinnertime chats about:
• Avoiding stress eating, eating while studying/reading or watching TV
• Eating slowly
• Eating at regular times; not skipping meals
• Minimizing between-meal and late-night junk snacking
• Choosing a mix of nutritious foods
• Making lower-fat choices as often as possible
- Low-fat milk
- Low or non-fat yogurt
- Light salad dressings
- Lean meats and fish
• Controlling portion sizes
• Avoiding second helpings
• Just saying no to vending machines and fast food
• Having plenty of fresh fruit and veggies close at hand
• Trading soft drinks for water or skim milk
Take a holistic approach to good health. Let your college-age kids know you understand what it’s like to be their age and be tempted as they will be. It’s up to you to start the conversation.
• Alcohol: Drinking leads to a host of physical and emotional problems and
is a common issue among college students. It’s also high in calories. Tell
them: “If you must drink, drink very little. Overall, avoid it as often as
possible. NEVER drink and drive and NEVER get in a car with someone
who has been drinking.”
• Tobacco: When we’re young, we believe we can quit anything at any time.
But once this habit begins, it’s hard to break – and leads to a lifetime of
health issues. Start with: “Please don’t start smoking or chewing tobacco.
It’s ugly and stinks. If you tried it and like it, stop now before it gets harder
• Exercise: A study found that students who exercised at least three days
a week were in better physical health, happier and more likely to use their
time productively. All it takes is 30 minutes a day. Suggest: “Maybe you can
walk or bike around campus instead of driving everywhere. And let’s check
out the campus fitness center too.”
• Sleep: Getting enough sleep is linked with healthy weight and stress
management. Recommend: “It may be hard to fit it in between studying and
social time, but try to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night.”
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