Avoid temptation and stay healthy this year

An unlimited meal plan… Fries and pizza in the cafeteria every day… Burger Studio and Chick-fil-A in the UC… Could being back in school at Mercer University get any better?

With the college lifestyle and unlimited eating options, you may find yourself struggling to fit into your favorite jeans. Gaining weight in college, the dreaded Freshman 15, is a reality that most of us have to face; however, it is a reality that is easy to fix and avoid.

Instead of grabbing the first slice of pizza that you see or hopping straight into the line to get a greasy hamburger, slow down and take a lap around the cafeteria before deciding what to eat. Signs displaying different options and their respective calorie counts are posted at each food area, so you should take a minute to glance at them and to allow them to influence your decision.

One station in the cafeteria that is always safe to return for seconds is the salad bar. Lettuce may not seem like a satisfying way to get full, but as you walk down the salad bar, you may notice many options such as beans, tofu or tuna that can add protein and other nutrients to your meal. Be wary of the dressings at the end because most thick, creamy salad dressings are loaded with extra calories and fat.

While you should carefully watch what you eat, do not starve yourself to avoid weight gain. Instead, mix and match food to build a well-rounded meal. Remember to include vegetables, lean proteins and complex carbohydrates, all of which are needed to stay healthy.

Tempted by that extra slice of chocolate cake? You do not need it. Rather than avoiding all desserts, allow yourself to have a little bit of pleasure and reward during meal time. Limit yourself by only getting one or two cookies rather than a plateful. When you have cake, try only eating half of a slice rather than all of it or even multiple slices.

Another helpful tip to keep in mind is to avoid making dessert a part of every meal. Instead, use it as a way to reward yourself, grabbing some cookies after you finish classes on Friday or getting a bowl of ice cream after you ace that bio-chemistry test.

Having a refrigerator in your dorm room can also make quite a difference. A refrigerator gives you the opportunity to keep perishable, healthy snacks such as vegetables, fruit, hummus and yogurt.

If you do not have a fridge, work on replacing junk food with healthier alternatives. Switch that bag of chips out for whole grain rice crackers. Trade that jar of Nutella for peanut butter. Swap out the cans of soda for bottles of water.

Check in on yourself every once in a while. Buy a scale that you can keep in your room to help you maintain or lose weight. When you lose or gain weight, think back to the previous week and evaluate what you ate or how active you were and learn from your mistakes or successes for the next week.

A scale is a good way to keep track of how healthy you are being and the impact your choices are having on your body, but do not let the number depicted control your life and how you feel about yourself. Make a goal for yourself this year: aim to be healthy.