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15 Rules for Avoiding the Freshman 15


15 Rules for Avoiding the Freshman 15

Everyone knows about the notorious "Freshman 15" because weight gain during the first year of college has become nearly unavoidable. Deana Gunn and Wona Miniati, who survived college years and stayed healthy in the process, share their best dorm-room-cooking tips and 15 rules for avoiding the Freshman 15 (no access to a full kitchen required!).

PR Newswire

ENCINITAS, Calif., August 22, 2018 /PRNewswire-PRWeb/ -- Everyone knows about the notorious "Freshman 15" because weight gain during the first year of college has become nearly unavoidable. Most students, especially young women, return home weighing an average of 15 pounds more than when they started college in the fall, and those extra pounds often stick around long-term. 15 pounds is the average; some gain even more. Why? Most freshmen enter college not knowing how to select or prepare meals, and many embrace the new freedoms of eating (and drinking) impulsively and to extremes. Staying slim and healthy requires a few simple rules, and let's face it, with the overwhelming workload in college, it has to be simple. Deana Gunn and Wona Miniati, authors of "Cooking with Trader Joe's: The 5 Ingredient Cookbook" share their best dorm-room-cooking tips and 15 rules for avoiding the Freshman 15 (no access to a full kitchen required!).

1) Get an electric kettle. Check the dorm rules first, but most dorms allow electric water kettles. What's all the fuss about electric kettles? Well with hot water, all of a sudden you can prepare oatmeal, tea, and coffee (using a French press), and even rehydrate soups and ramen. If your dorm allows it, a mini-fridge is another useful item, essential for keeping fresh veggies and other perishables on hand.

2) Start the day with breakfast. Breakfast fuels the mind and the body. And of course we are all familiar with the countless studies that show starting the day with breakfast improves metabolism and prevents weight gain. Grab some instant oatmeal at Trader Joe's and mix with some hot water from your electric kettle, spread peanut butter on apple slices, or rush out the door with a handful of roasted almonds and a banana.

3) Snack regularly. Smaller meals throughout the day keep blood sugar levels steady and prevent the insatiable bingeing that happens when you find yourself starving and shaky by dinnertime. Trader Joe's has bags of "Just a Handful" pre-portioned nuts and trail mix, packets of roasted seaweed, bags of baby carrots and snap peas, and fresh fruit sold by the piece.

4) Find an alternative to beer and alcohol. Stick a few cold fizzy flavored waters (available in cans or bottles) in your backpack so you'll have something to drink and hold at the party without being tempted by free-flowing beer and alcohol. Not only will you avoid the calorie count of alcohol, but you won't be regretting it the next morning in class.

5) Fill up on salad. Trader Joe's has dozens of prepared boxed salads for right around $3-5 each. Grab one at lunchtime if Trader Joe's is closeby, or stock up on a few varieties if you have access to a fridge at your dorm. Tip: Use only half the dressing to reduce sodium and fat intake.

6) Sip on green tea and coffee. Green tea and coffee both work to burn calories and control your appetite. Remember to drink both in moderation and not late in the day so the caffeine doesn't interfere with focus or with sleep. With your handy electric kettle, you can have an assortment of green teas and coffee in the morning, and herbal teas at night.

7) Use your meal plan wisely. Don't feel like you haven't maximized your meal plan investment if you don't leave feeling completely stuffed at every meal. Fill your plate with half veggies (roasted or steamed, not slathered in cheese and butter); fill the other half with lean proteins and whole grains (any mix of animal proteins, beans, quinoa, lentils, tofu, or brown rice). Still hungry? Wait a few minutes, drink a glass of water, and fill another plate only if you are still hungry.

8) Choose high fiber foods. A fiber intake that will keep you thin is at least 40 grams a day. Don't worry about counting grams, but instead make sure to include high fiber foods like almonds, chia seeds (mix with water, lemon juice, and honey for an energy boosting drink), apples, raspberries, blackberries, granola bars with flaxseeds and oats. Trader Joe's even sells pre-cooked vacuum-sealed lentils that you can toss with tomatoes, parsley, and dressing for a fiber-rich salad.

9) Read labels. You might be surprised to learn how much junk is in so many convenience foods. If you can't pronounce the ingredient, chances are it's not good for you. We love Trader Joe's because the products aren't full of fillers, artificial ingredients, and artificial preservatives.

10) Be leery of sugar-laden "fat-free" foods. Often the whole fat version is more natural and healthier than its fat-free cousin. When fat is removed, taste is removed, so food manufacturers make up for that by loading up on sugar.

11) Avoid soda. Don't drink your calories with fattening soda. Instead, carry your reusable water bottle on campus and refill throughout the day. Did you know that water helps your metabolism? WebMD suggests drinking a full glass of water before eating a meal or snack, to aid your metabolism and also prevent you from overeating.

12) Make a shopping a list. Decide what meals you're planning for, and use that plan to make a shopping list. Working off a shopping list will keep you from impulse or unnecessary purchases, so it will save your wallet as well as your waist.

13) Don't shop when you're hungry. Studies have shown that people who shop when they're hungry are more likely to buy high-calorie junk foods. It's no coincidence that grocery stores place tempting junk foods at the cash registers. Don't set yourself up for temptation by shopping when your stomach is growling.

14) Exercise regularly. OK, this really isn't a cooking/eating tip, but exercising is an essential part of staying in shape. Get a fitness buddy, walk or bike to school, or join a gym.

15) If you have access to a dorm kitchen, a whole world of simple meals opens up. From "Cooking with Trader Joe's: The 5-Ingredient Cookbook" here are two easy recipes, both under 300 calories per serving:


Gyoza, also known as potstickers, are delicious dumplings, available frozen at Trader Joe's and filled with your pick of chicken, pork, shrimp, or veggies. We pan-fried these little morsels and added bagged stir fry veggies to create a colorful one-meal bowl overflowing with broccoli, peppers, snap peas, snow peas, onions, mushrooms, carrots, bok choy, bamboo shoots, baby corn, and water chestnuts. If substituting your own vegetables, use 4 cups of any vegetables you have on hand.

1 (16-oz) bag frozen gyoza or potstickers, any flavor
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 (18-oz) pkg refrigerated Asian Style Stir Fry vegetables, or 4 cups vegetables
⅓ cup water
⅓ cup Soyaki teriyaki sauce

1 Heat oil over medium high heat in a large skillet or wok. Place frozen gyoza in pan and cook for 3 minutes until edges are browned and crisp.
2 Add vegetables and water. Immediately cover pan and let steam 5 minutes, or until water has evaporated.
3 Add sauce and toss until combined. Use a spatula to loosen any stubborn gyoza that may be stuck to the pan.

Prep and cooking time: 10 minutes
Serves 4


Albondigas soup is a traditional Mexican soup featuring meatballs in a flavorful broth of vegetables and herbs. It is delicious comfort food. We make a speedy version using pre-made mini meatballs. You can substitute other vegetables such as carrots, green beans, kale, or zucchini. Buen provecho!

2 trimmed leeks, or 1 large onion, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 (32-oz) carton beef broth
½ cup salsa of any kind, such as Trader Joe's Salsa Verde or Chunky Salsa
Half (20-oz) pkg frozen Trader Joe's Party Size Mini Meatballs
4 cups chopped Swiss chard or cabbage

1 Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add leeks; cook and stir for 5 minutes until softened, stirring occasionally. Add 1-2 Tbsp of water if needed to speed softening of leeks. If using pre-sliced Frozen Leeks, no water is needed.
2 Add remaining ingredients and heat to boiling. Cover, reduce to low, and simmer for 30 minutes so flavors can meld. Serve immediately.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Hands-off cooking time: 35 minutes
Serves 6

Deana Gunn and Wona Miniati survived the college years at MIT and are authors of the required college book, "Cooking with Trader Joe's: The 5-Ingredient Cookbook"


SOURCE Deana Gunn and Wona Miniati

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