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NMSU students encouraged to eat healthfully to avoid ?Freshman 15?

Tristen Turner, a sophomore at New Mexico State University, prefers to eat healthy, opting to make his meals at home rather than dine at restaurants.



Sodexo employee Gabby Sermeno serves up grilled chicken with mango salsa and sweet potato fries at the Taos Restaurant inside Corbett Center at NMSU. Taos offers several healthy options for students looking to avoid the ?Freshman 15.? (NMSU photo by Adriana M. Chavez)

NMSU sophomore Tristan Turner loads up on vegetables at the stir-fry station at Taos Restaurant, located inside Corbett Center on the NMSU campus. The buffet-style restaurant offers several healthy options for students and NMSU employees who are watching what they eat. (NMSU photo by Adriana M. Chavez)

Taos Restaurant at NMSU offers many tasty and healthy vegetarian options like this entree, Indian curry over basmati rice. (NMSU photo by Adriana M. Chavez)

But college life has made that a little difficult. Fortunately for Turner, there are a few dining options on campus that has made the ?Freshman 15? a little more difficult to achieve.

?I eat either here or at Chick-fil-A, and here there are some good options,? Turner said while eating a fish and vegetable stir-fry at Taos Restaurant, located inside Corbett Center on the NMSU campus. ?Here I eat whatever I want and the choices are pretty good.?

Providing NMSU students with healthy meals is a priority for Aida Samaniego, the executive chef for Sodexo at NMSU.

Samaniego has been cooking at Taos Restaurant for nearly a year. She eliminated the use of margarine and instead uses either olive or canola oil or real butter. She also got rid of many processed foods the kitchen staff had once relied on to feed large groups of people.

?It?s not always possible to make from-scratch cooking, but I try to incorporate that as much as possible into the recipes,? Samaniego said.

Although the ?Freshman 15? is largely a myth, many studies suggest students, not just freshman, gain between two and 10 pounds while at college. Much of the weight gain is due to unhealthy eating habits, lack of exercise and drinking alcohol, according to the Obesity Action Coalition.

Samaniego suggests students limit eating carbohydrates, especially white rice and white bread. Instead, Samaniego said, they should eat more fruits, vegetables and lean protein.

?The easy stuff, the convenience stuff, is always high in carbohydrates and a lot of sugar, and that?s what promotes quick weight gain,? Samaniego said. ?I think fresh fruits and vegetables and things like oatmeal are not so expensive. Items like rice and beans are a great way to get your protein and your fiber.?

Samaniego also recommended eating salads with vinaigrette dressings instead of creamy dressings or broth-based soups before lunch or dinner to avoid overeating.

At Taos, healthy foods are labeled with an apple icon. Many labels also contain barcodes for students to scan using the MyFitnessPal app on their cellphones. And if students have special dietary needs, they are invited to contact Samaniego to discuss them.

Samaniego said she also tries to have sugar-free gelatin desserts available at the dessert station, along with baskets of fresh fruits like apples and bananas.

Devon Golem, director of the Didactic Program in Dietetics and an assistant professor of human nutrition and dietetics at NMSU, said students should be more mindful of what they?re eating in order to avoid developing unhealthy habits while at college.

?It is important for college students to first be aware of the foods and snacks that they are consuming,? Golem said. ?Then they can learn how to make their diet more healthy.?

For Taos Restaurant hours and menus, visit https://nmsudining.sodexomyway.com/dining-choices/index.html.

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Healthy Lifestyle Tips for College Students to Help Avoid the ?Freshman 15?

?Know what you?re eating: Read the Nutrition Facts label on your food or look for the nutrition information in your dining hall. This information can help you make smarter, healthier choices to build a balanced meal.

?Make your plate half fruit and veggies: Fruit and vegetables are a great source of vitamins and minerals. Another way to increase your fruit and vegetable intake is to add another fruit to your breakfast and another vegetable to your lunch and dinner.

?Make half of your grains whole grains: When choosing bread for your sandwiches or cereal for breakfast, choose 100 percent whole grain.

?Choose your beverages wisely: Reduce the amount of sugar-sweetened beverages you consume. Sodas, energy drinks and sweetened teas and coffees can be high in calories and low in nutrients. These are often referred to as ?empty calories.? By drinking water instead of sweetened beverages, you can help manage your calorie intake.

?Choose healthy snacks between meals: Sliced fruits and veggies or whole grain crackers and lowfat cheese are great snacks between meals. Healthy snacks between meals can help sustain you until your next meal so you can make healthier meal choices.

?Treat yourself occasionally: Desserts or treats are okay in moderation, but be mindful of how much and how often you eat treats.

?Stay active: Balancing calories, meaning the calories you eat and the calories you burn, can help avoid weight gain. Find ways to stay active. Join intramural sports, walk or bike to class, or take advantage of gyms and activity centers on campus.

?Get plenty of sleep: It is recommended that adults get seven to eight hours of sleep. Being well rested can help you make healthier eating and lifestyle choices.

?Manage your stress: College can be a stressful time. Stress can lead to less than healthy eating and lifestyle choices. Find ways to manage your stress, such as physical activity, meditation or talking to peers or your advisors.

Source: Cara Miller, graduate student and dietetic intern in the NMSU MS/Dietetic Internship Combined Program.

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