Avoiding The 'Freshman 15'

Family members follow an honor guard carrying the casket of Sen. Edward Kennedy during the arrival at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2009, in Boston.
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
You cram for exams, you cram food in your mouth and before you know it, you've put on 15 pounds, the dreaded "freshman 15." It is a story CBS News correspondent Tracy Smith knows too well; she lived it and knows how it goes.

Ahhh, the wonders of a college dining hall: the pizza, the doughnuts, the French fries. It's a noshing nirvana, where, for the first time in many kids' lives, they can eat whenever and whatever they want.

"The ice cream is so good!" says one female student. "My mom didn't allow me to eat junk food at home so having it here is a big change."

A male student adds, "I ate a lot of mac and cheese and Gatorade."

They are not the only ones. Freshman Jackie Albert admits, "So far, it's been pizza for lunch and pizza for dinner. That's not good!"

Albert is worried that not all her growth this semester will be academic.

It's just scary for her to hear the words "freshman 15," she says. What goes through her head is "that I'm going to look in the mirror and I'm gonna be twice the size that I was before. That's the scariest thought."

Nutritionist Ann Litt counsels teens about their diets. She says, "There are a couple of main reasons that kids tend to gain weight. The first is that they're away from home. For a lot of kids, food is very comforting and it's one thing that's familiar, so I think a lot of kids eat out of boredom, out of loneliness."

Albert notes, "It is really hard because there's, like, all this food that you want to eat, but you really can't."

There are, however, healthy choices, too. But Albert says, "I'm not sure which ones they are except for the salad bar. I need some help."

So Litt offered some tips to help Albert navigate the fast-food-filled waters of campus life.

No. 1: Exercise

Says Litt, "There's no excuse any more. The gyms that they're building at college campuses for their students are just incredible and it's kind of a social thing."

No.2: Explore Your Options

Today's college cafeteria offers way more than just junk.

Pat Higgins, director of dining services at the University of Maryland, says, "You can find baked fish and baked chicken. We have a Lite Line in our dinig room. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, we have a vegetarian line. We have salads with low calorie dressings, and sandwiches are made on wheat bread, rye bread, whole grain bread with light mayonnaise. So it's what you choose."

No. 3: Eat Regular Meals in Moderate Portions

Litt explains, "You don't want the servings to get out of hand, and I think that is where a lot of kids get in trouble because if it is all you can eat, you're just going to sit here and pile it up. Just remember: it is not all you have to eat, it is all you should eat."

Follow those rules and you can even have pizza, at least every once in a while.

One of the other things that packs on the pounds in college is, of course, drinking. Not only is alcohol high-calorie, but drinking leades to bad food choices, too.