Although most first-year college students don't gain the "freshman 15," research does show that almost two-thirds pack on some pounds—typically about 7.5 pounds. And those numbers, like student loan debt, grow over the four years of college: On average men add on about 13 pounds; women, about 9 pounds.

Use these tips to help keep the pounds off.   

Eat Breakfast

It’s important to eat three meals a day, especially since people who skip breakfast are at increased risk for being overweight, says Joan Salge Blake, R.D., spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and clinical associate professor at Boston University. If you don’t like eating breakfast in the dining hall, stock a small refrigerator in your dorm room with skim milk or low-fat yogurt to put over a quick bowl of whole grain cereal (bonus: add in some blueberries or bananas) before class in the morning. 

Avoid Sugary Drinks

Energy drinks might keep you awake in your morning classes, but soda, energy drinks, and sports drinks account for more than a third of the added sugars many of us consume each day—and they cause you to crash. So opt for water instead. Too boring? Add a slice of lemon or cucumber from the salad bar, Blake says. 

Don't Overdue It at the Buffet

Resist the urge to pile on everything as you go down the buffet line. Instead, fill at least half your plate with vegetables and fruit and use the My Plate icon from the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a guide, Blake says. Can’t resist the pizza? Top it with vegetables and eat a salad with it. Better yet, Blake recommends starting with a salad and vegetable soup when you get into the dining hall and then getting up a second time for your next course—if you’re still hungry. 


After your classes are over, squeeze in some exercise by taking a brisk walk around campus, signing up for a gym class for credit like tennis, or getting involved with intramural sports like broom ball or Ultimate Frisbee. 

Weigh Yourself Regularly

To keep the pounds from creeping on, pack a scale, since research shows that successful losers weigh themselves at least once a week. If you do find yourself gaining weight, keep a food journal or use an app like MyFitnessPal to see what you’re eating—and what you’re not eating. “You may find you’re skipping meals and you’re becoming so ravenous that you end up eating anything that’s not moving,” Blake says. Instead, try to eat 4.5 cups of vegetables and fruits per day, which will fill you up without filling you out, unlike calorie-dense chips and crackers. Made-to-order omelets are also a great way to eat more vegetables—add in some spinach, tomatoes, and mushrooms when you’re ordering it. And find out if your university has a program that allows students to meet with on-staff dietitians free of charge. Lastly, skip the body-fat scales - they aren’t that accurate in gauging body fat. 

Skip the Unhealthy Snacks

When it’s late at night and you get hungry, you might have the urge to eat a quick snack—but make sure it’s a healthy one. Campuses these days are filled with small shops where you can load up on unhealthy snacks. Instead, heat up a 100-calorie bag of popcorn in your microwave or a community microwave in a common area. “It’s a neat, efficient, yummy way to get whole grains,” Blake says. For quick snacks in-between meals, skip the instant mac-and-cheese and potato chips, and instead pick up low fat string cheese, chopped vegetables, and dips like hummus and salsa. (The snack suggestions also apply to late-night munching!) 

Avoid Too Much Alcohol

One of the underappreciated risks of excessive drinking is weight gain. A single 12-ounce  Budweiser beer is 145 calories—that’s about 36 medium strawberries. And drinking can lead to weight gain in another way, too, by causing you to eat more. A study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that when under the influence of alcohol, people tend to eat more than when they are sober.

Get Enough Sleep

There is a link between sleep loss and obesity—when you don't get enough sleep your appetite for high calorie foods increases, which contributes to weight gain, a 2013 study from the Journal of Nature Communication says. To combat this, don’t pull all-nighters studying or stay up late watching Netflix. You should set a schedule for studying so you don’t find yourself in the position of having to cram for a test the night before, and you can binge watch TV anytime, so why do it late at night? Instead, get enough sleep.