Why the tradition of weight gain has held fast
In Risley Hall’s cafeteria, a steady stream of students bearing plates crowded with fries, hamburgers, pizzas and not much else is a familiar sight.
But although some students avoid healthy selections, those options are available. Third-year commerce student Samantha Lush recently completed a work term with Aramark, Dal’s on-campus food supplier.
“Aramark makes it a priority to provide students with a wide range of healthy and nutritious meal options. It is up to the students to employ those options,” she says in an e-mail interview. Lush praises the effort that the national supplier puts into its menu and service.
For many first-year students, proper nutrition is the last thing on their minds. Their new freedom, combined with a decrease in physical activity, acts as a swift punisher to belts and skinny jeans across the nation.
Chantal Gautreau, a third-year psychology student, remembers her first year in Howe Hall. “I had this idea that I had already paid $3,000 for my unlimited meal plan, so I might as well make the most of it,” she says.
“I stocked up on whatever I felt like. I even saw some other students sneaking cake into Tupperware containers hidden in their purse.”
Fifteen pounds may be an exaggeration. The average student will gain three to 10 in their first two years at university, according to kidshealth.org.
But the saying, “freshman 15,” makes an important point that inattention to types and quantities of food consumed has consequences. For instance, a whole grain raspberry muffin from Tim Hortons has more calories than a medium fries at McDonald’s (400 vs. 360), yet Tim Hortons is often considered the healthier option.
Reading nutritional labels and understanding Canada’s Food Guide are vital to a healthy body. It recommends that students eat 7-10 fruit and vegetable servings per day; many students consume half of that on a good day.
Angela Emmerson, Dal’s on-campus dietician, says students confused about nutrition are free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. She advises students opt for lots of vegetables, salads and lean proteins when selecting meals. “You should be filling half your plate with vegetables, ideally,” she says.
She says a student’s best weapons against the battle of the bulge are Health Canada’s Food Guide, regular physical activity, and a little bit of self-control.