Freshman 15: How to keep your brain and body on track while heading back to campus

CINCINNATI - Part of keeping off the "freshman 15" is prepping your brain to cope with what you'll expect once you get to campus.

Wellness expert Mary Beth Knight believes the transition to college life can be overwhelming for the brain and the body. It can result in lower grades and weight gain, she said.

Knight said one of the biggest reasons for the added weight is related to what people are doing (or not doing) when they leave their homes in the morning. She said going out the door without proper nutritional support can lead to slowed metabolism, which increases weight gain and diminishes brain-power.

The good news for college freshmen is that the weight gain can be avoided by instilling a few small, healthy habits that also prep the brain for neurogenesis, or the building of new brain cells. 

Here are few ways to keep your metabolism roaring and the brain firing on all cylinders!

  • Eat 4-5 small meals a day, 3-4 hours apart
  • Or add a mid-morning and late-afternoon snack to your routine
  • Consume 5-7 grams of fiber in each meal/snack
  • Include Omega 3’s from plant sources 2-3
  • Consume caffeine when needed in small amounts – limiting the intake after 3 p.m.
  • Eliminate calories from drinks, switch to a low-calorie/no-calorie beverages

The small meals or addition of snacks will keep brain energy high and the metabolism roaring all day, Knight said. Fiber helps to hold off hunger pangs, reduce caloric intake and prevent binge eating late in the day when people are typically less active.

Omega 3’s are the building blocks for new brain cells, so taking them in regularly is a "must" for maximum brain power, Knight said.

Caffeine stimulates every cell in the body, but too much can interfere with a person's ability to focus. Too much caffeine late in the day can lead to few hours of restful, brain-restoring sleep. Knight also said people who want to avoid weight gain should switch to no-calorie or low-calorie beverages.

Here are Knight's picks for snacks you should head out the door with, send to your kids in a care-package or stock in their mini-fridge:

  • Planter’s Nutrition energy mix
  • Mojo bar by Builder’s bars        
  • Apples, mandarin oranges
  • Snack-pack hummus and mini carrots
  • Kind Plus bars
  • Coke Zero or Diet Coke mini cans
  • Vitamin Water Zero Go-Go

Do you have any tips or advice for college freshmen as they make their way onto campus for the first time? Leave them in the comment section below.

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