The threat of the “Frosh 15” begins to loom over the heads of first year university students from the time we start applying to schools. This phenomenon refers to the tendency of university students to gain up to 15 unwanted pounds during their first year of being away (also known as the freshman 15). For almost everyone, university is the first time we’ve had to live on our own – which for many of us is a rude awakening when it comes to things such as laundry, cleaning, not to mention shopping for, and preparing, all of our own food.  With the shock of a sudden immersion into the “real world,” most of first years may not be aware of several sneaky factors that can influence both weight gain, and our budgets.

The most obvious, but also the most difficult obstacle to overcome in the battle to eat healthy, is fast food. We all love it, but it doesn’t seem to love us back. It’s hard on our bodies and harder on our wallets. For example, for a little more than the price of just one chicken wrap at Warmington’s Bistro ($9 – yes, they waive the tax and you get a free pop, but that’s still pretty pricey), you can buy an entire package of 10 tortillas, chicken breast, lettuce, and cheese, and make yourself chicken wraps all week at home. Yes, it’s more work than just walking in and ordering what you want, but we all have kitchens conveniently located in our apartments – why not use them?

Convenience foods are the second factor of the Frosh 15 phenomenon. Many of the “cheap” options at the grocery store are quick and easy to prepare, but convenience foods are usually very high in saturated fats and sodium – two big no-nos if you want to eat healthy.

When it comes to making your food last, your freezer should be your best friend. I’m not promoting frozen microwave dinners (let’s be real, they taste like cardboard anyway). Find food that you can eat and freeze the leftovers. Take meatballs, for example. You can eat them a million different ways, and if you’re only eating a few at a time, a $10 bag in your freezer will last you forever. Freezing food is also a great option if you have food that will go bad before you’ll have time to make it all, and eat it. This works well for bread and meat, but a lot of fruits and vegetables might not freeze so well and are better eaten fresh.

Bringing leftovers from home isn’t an option for everyone, but a lot of Laurier Brantford students go home on a regular basis. If a majority of parents are anything like mine, they use home cooking to entice you to visit more often. Bringing food back to school with you can save money on groceries and cut down on the amount of work required on your part to prepare a meal. There’s also the nice added bonus of a little taste of home – literally.

Drinking water is so crucial, but a lot of students just don’t do it because it doesn’t occur to us. Let me tell you, a Brita filter will do great things for you. It costs $30 (plus the cost of filters every 4 months) and will provide you with unlimited, and fresh, drinking water. This eliminates the need to buy bottled water as well as cuts costs on juice, pop, coffee, and other expensive drinks, with all of the added health advantages.

Potato chips are sinfully delicious and an easy go-to snack for busy students, but they’re full of fats, sodium, and all sorts of other bad things. If you like almonds (or other nuts), buy these instead to munch on when you’re not really hungry but just looking for a snack. You’ll find that you’re not tempted to eat the whole bag like you might be with potato chips, and nuts actually have some nutritional value.

Instead of eating all of your leftovers or purchased food at once, try to make it last. This is an important skill if you can make each item span a few meals – if you make your food go further, you’ll find you don’t have to buy groceries as often.

First year university students are at a time in their lives when growth and metabolism from childhood are starting to slow down as they begin to take the shape of what they will look like in adulthood. This is one of the contributing factors to the “Frosh 15”, as a lot of teenagers are used to eating whatever they want and never gaining weight – this is unique to childhood and you will not find many adults who are so blessed. But don’t lose hope! Exercise and healthy eating habits are your two best weapons to combat the dreaded Frosh 15. Your eating habits don’t have to be determined by your budget – look into practices such as price matching (most grocery stores do this) and look for coupons!

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