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Avoiding the Freshman 15 Can Have Long-Term Health Benefits

Recently, thousands of African-American students started college for the first time and lots of big changes are headed their way. Life away from home includes a whole host of new responsibilities like arriving to class on time, getting good grades, meal planning on a limited budget and the list goes on.

One of the biggest challenges during this time is avoiding the “Freshman 15” ― the amount of weight college students are said to gain in their first year. Obesity is a critical issue in the African-American community, especially for women. Making unbalanced food choices might taste good for a moment but can lead to a long-term struggle with weight. Choices made during this time can put students on the road to a healthy and active future or lead them on a path to bad health.

Here are a few tips for eating and exercising that will set your student up for success.

Don’t Skip Breakfast

  • Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. If in a rush, grab a piece of fruit, cereal, oatmeal or a handful of nuts (keep a breakfast option in the room). Or get up a little early and stop by the dining hall for a bite to eat. Eating breakfast gets the metabolism going and helps curb hunger and overeating later on in the day.

Take the Long Way

  • Get more exercise by going the long way to and from class or walking or riding your bike instead of taking the bus. Also, find the gym or recreation center on your campus where using weights and cardio equipment is usually free.

Eat Fruits & Veggies

  • Yes, eating fruits and veggies while away at college is still required. While they probably don’t have Big Mama’s collard greens or green bean casserole, the dining hall has great options. Add veggies to an omelet or pizza or grab a few pieces of fruit from the dining hall for the room or backpack.

Mini-Size the Mini-Fridge

  • The mini-fridge has limited space and so does the dorm room. Mini-size popular food and drink items to fit in the fridge (and diet). A few options like fruit cups, small bottles of water, jars of soup, cups of yogurt, Coca-Cola mini cans of soda and others can help keep off the extra pounds.

Buddy Up

  • Grab girlfriends, frat brothers or new roommates and get moving! Set a time each night to work out together, take the long way to the dining hall or join a fitness class at the student center. Having an accountability partner to go on the health journey with can help keep things on track.


Dr. Michele C. Reed is a board-certified family medicine physician in the Long Island, New York, area. Her expert opinion has been featured in many publications including Ebony and the New York Daily News and others. She is also a consultant to food and beverage companies like Coca-Cola. More insights from Dr. Reed can be found at

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