For Immediate Release: August 9, 2010
Contact: Mya Nelson 202-328-7744
Five Ways to Prevent the "Freshmen 15"
College is a Crucial Time to Develop Habits
That Prevent Weight Gain and Protect Against Cancer, Say Experts
WASHINGTON, DC – The everyday choices kids make when they go away to college establish the patterns they’ll follow for the rest of their lives, experts at the American Institute for Cancer Research said today. Setting healthy patterns can help them in the short-term—and help lower their lifetime risk of cancer and other diseases later in life.
For many college students, unhealthy choices lead to modest weight gain which may or may not become permanent. But AICR experts warned that unhealthy behaviors can quickly harden into lifelong habits. Research shows that poor diets, lack of physical activity and excess weight lead to increased risk for cancer and other chronic diseases.
"This is a crucial time in a person’s life," said AICR nutritionist Alice Bender, MS, RD. "It’s the first time young adults are making all of their own choices about food and activity. The changes in lifestyle that occur at this age—whether good or bad—have an enormous impact on health down the road."
Healthy habits offer immediate advantages to life on campus, said Bender, who spent 20 years as a nutritionist in a university health center. "Eating well gives students an edge - physically, mentally and socially. A healthy balanced diet, together with physical activity, keeps stress manageable and helps them avoid an unwanted 'freshman fifteen.' "
Five Ways To Stay Lean And Prevent The Freshman Fifteen
AICR’s advice to new and returning college students is the same: Focus of five key strategies that can turn healthy living into a habit.
- Keep Your Portions in Proportion: Bender advises, "Whether you eat in the dining halls, cook for yourself or eat out, focus on fruits and veggies. In the dining hall, head for the salad bar first and fill about 2/3 of your plate with veggies, fruits and whole grains, then choose a small portion of fish, chicken, or meat."
- Plan Meals Ahead of Time: Often overlooked, with student’s busy schedules, but a little foresight helps prevent impulsive eating. Focus on meals that are simple with few ingredients. Many cookbooks and websites for meals with quick cook times are budget-friendly.
- Limit Alcohol Consumption: There’s a direct link between alcohol and cancer risk, so the best advice is not to drink at all. And keep in mind that alcohol calories add up quickly.
- Don’t Forget to Move: Being physically active is important to maintaining a healthy weight. It can also help you reduce stress, sleep better, and improve your concentration.
- Get Accurate Nutrition Information: Check the college’s Health and Wellness Center’s website or pay them a personal visit. Some even have registered dieticians for more personalized help in dietary counseling and education. Websites like USDA’s MyPyramid offer free diet and physical activity trackers.
Challenges to Healthy Living
In this new, independent stage of life, many students are faced with new challenges. Concern about body image can cause some students to turn to unhealthy starvation diets instead of balanced meals. Weekend binge drinking can lead to a dysfunctional relationship with alcohol. For most college students, the greatest challenge is the physical environment—24-hour access to food in the cafeteria.
"The temptations are many, and the pressures are great," said AICR’s Bender. "But the habits that form at college are the ones that students will carry with them forever. And when it comes to cancer risk, those habits make a real and measurable difference."
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $96 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, www.aicr.org. AICR is part of the global network of charities that are dedicated to the prevention of cancer. The WCRF global network is led and unified by WCRF International, a membership association that operates as the umbrella organization for the network. The other charities in the WCRF network are World Cancer Research Fund in the UK (www.wcrf-uk.org); Wereld Kanker Onderzoek Fonds in the Netherlands (www.wcrf-nl.org); World Cancer Research Fund Hong Kong (www.wcrf-hk.org); and Fonds Mondial de Recherche contre le Cancer in France (www.fmrc.fr).
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