As a parent, you can help prevent unhealthy weight gain during your child's college years. It starts by teaching good eating habits long before that critical freshman year arrives.
For starters, try showing your kids good eating habits starting at a young age. Children do as they see. So when you show them how to eat the right portions, choose nutritious foods and avoid snacking on junk food, your child is likely to do the same.
And In addition, learned behaviors tend to be repeated, so talk with your teen at the first sign of a problem. If a teenager eats for stress relief in high school, chances are he or she will do the same in college.
Before your teen heads off to college, talk with him or her about the importance of a healthy diet. Things at college will be very different from what they have known at home. There may be many temptations, including lots of food. So your teen should have a good game plan for dealing with these temptations when they come up. Share these tips with your child:
- Become aware of habits. The first step to changing old habits or avoiding new ones is to become conscious of them.
- Plan meals. Most campus cafeterias post the week's menus in advance. Plan which items you will eat before entering the cafeteria, where the smells of high-fat foods can be tempting.
- Time meals. Some students sit in the cafeteria for hours, using it as a social gathering place. This can mean eating with two or three different groups of people. Set a time limit of 20 minutes to eat — and then leave.
- Plan activities. People who eat when they are stressed or bored should make an effort to plan activities. Make a list of things you can do when stress strikes.
- Eat at "home." If the dorm has a small kitchen, plan to cook some healthy things. Make a social occasion out of it by inviting friends.
- Take advantage of physical activity programs. Aim to keep up the physical activity level you had in high school, or aim for even more. For example, play intramural sports, take a ballroom dancing class, join a running club or learn yoga.