The Freshman 15 — that extra weight first-year university students famously gain during the fall semester — is not inevitable.
First-time University of Wyoming students can stave off the extra pounds this fall by sticking to some of campus’ healthier options and monitoring their diet.
Doing so will leave students feeling better all-around, said Joanne Steane, Student Health Service director and staff physician.
“A healthy diet will give somebody the balance of the nutrients that they need to have their body perform optimally,” she said. “And it will help with energy. It will help with better sleep. It will help with proper weight control and it will help students perform well if they feel better overall.”
Student Health Service — available to all full time students and to part time students who pay an additional fee — offers a full range of medical services, but does not have a dietitian on staff.
“We, as medical clinicians, can advise students generally on healthy habits in regard to diet,” Steane said. “And if they need more extensive counseling that we can’t provide, then we can refer them to a nutritionist in the community.”
Freshmen living on-campus are required to have meal plans, which gives them access to Washakie Dining Center.
Students in Washakie tend to eat more — or at least take more food, since the cafeteria is all-you-care-to-eat — during the first few weeks of the fall semester, said Amy Bey, Residence Life and Dining Services dietitian.
“It usually calms down a little bit, so either they’re not taking as much or they’re not eating as much,” she said.
“Usually right before spring break, people eat a little less, too.”
Overeating at Washakie can be tempting. Cheeseburgers, pizza, and macaroni and cheese are all student favorites, but the dining hall also boasts an expansive salad bar.
“We’re offering a lot more fruit and vegetable options this year,” Bey said. “ … We’re offering a vegan option right next to most of our protein options as well, so we have the option of using that for your protein to get more fruits and vegetables in.”
Students should fill about half their plate with fruits and vegetables, Bey said, and though Washakie offers desserts every day, students should not eat dessert every day.
“Don’t wait until you’re starving before you come to eat if you can help it,” Bey said. “Try to either have a snack or not wait too long between meals. That way, when you get here, you can make good food decisions.”
Steane suggested eating a variety of fruits and vegetables as well, in addition to whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, healthier proteins such as seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds and soy products.
“We recommend that they eat a diet that’s high in fiber, low in saturated and trans fats, low in added sugar and sodium,” Steane said. “(Students) should stay well hydrated but avoid soda, energy drinks and drinks that are high in sugar and avoid processed and fast food.”
And many students do take advantage of the healthier options available in Washakie, Bey said.
“Students now, compared to when I started here, eat a lot more of our vegetarian and vegan options than they used to,” she said. “We have a lot of different items. We’re bringing in a lot of whole grains and that’s pretty popular, whereas in the past, I don’t know that they were mainstream enough that people would have even known what they were.”
Though it depends on one’s parents, Bey said students should consider what their parents would feed them at home when making food decisions in Washakie.
“They’re definitely not going to feed you pizza every night (though) you may want to eat pizza every night,” she said. “Usually a good rule of thumb is to think ‘What would your mother say?’”
Students looking to dine on campus have other options outside Washakie, in the Wyoming Union and across campus. Menus for most of these locations can be found on Residence Life and Dining Service’s YourNutrition page, where students can find nutritional information for most of the offerings on campus. Additionally, YourNutrition can be used to find gluten-friendly, halal, vegetarian and vegan options.