It's that time of year again _ people are getting prepared for the start of school. For some, this coming fall will be the start of their freshman year at college.

College preparation comes paired with a whole new list of stressors. Many may feel the anxiety that often comes with balancing university course loads, work and being away from home. One common concern for these new college students is the dreaded "Freshman 15." Many students tend to gain weight their first year away from home. It is important to recognize what contributes to weight gain, and know helpful tips on how to avoid it.

A teen's first year at college brings plenty of new experiences. Some of these new temptations may contribute to weight gain. Not many households have all-you-can-eat buffets for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Although there are usually salad bars and alternative choices included, dining halls are well-known for being unhealthy. Also, if you were like me, and grew up in a small town, the idea of "ordering-in" becomes a reality. I had no idea how convenient Domino's delivery was until I was thinking about it on a weekly basis.

Settling into a new schedule, new friends and new surroundings could take time to get used to. Once you are familiar with the area and used to breaks from classes, start infusing healthier eating and lifestyle choices into your schedule. Stash healthy snacks, such as the following in your dorm room:

"¢ Fruit (can be carried out after dining hall meals)

"¢ Yogurt

"¢ Whole wheat crackers or chips

"¢ Peanut butter

"¢ Power bars

"¢ Oatmeal

Pack healthy snacks into your bag for in between classes. It will help curb appetite, prevent unhealthy choices, help save money, and it will also give you proper energy until your next meal.

Not only are the food selections of a bigger city and college dining hall less healthy, but the freedom that comes with college could also be a factor of weight gain.

Unlike high school, college schedules are extremely flexible, and classes may be more spaced out. Instead of going back to your dorm room to nap or watch TV, a good thing to start right when you get to school is to check out the athletic facilities.

Almost everything that a college athletic center has to offer is free, and it is a perfect way to make up for the more convenient eating habits.

Students transitioning from high school to college may find a void in their schedule if they played sports in high school. High school sports are a great way to get exercise, make friends and have fun.

But sports teams in college are much more competitive, and joining a team might not be an option. Going to the gym on a regular basis, joining an intramural or club team, or signing up for a fitness class will help maintain the weight you are at.

Syracuse University junior Sara Tracey of Clifton Park said she remembers her freshman year and the changes she had to make to avoid weight gain. She recommended taking every advantage of walking to class, the dining halls or anywhere you can on campus.

"I would say try to walk around as much as you can and limit getting take-out," Tracey said. "You'll save money and probably your heart. As a college student, both are good."

The little things such as walking to class, taking the stairs and limiting your unhealthy food intake can really make a difference. State University College of Agriculture and Technology at Cobleskill's nutrition professor Dr. Anne Rogan suggests students should weigh themselves to keep track of the way they are eating. New foods may have a positive or negative effect on your body and weight management. "If you notice you are gaining … skip a dessert or two … it pays to address the weight gain when it is only a few pounds than to wait until you have 20 pounds to lose."

Most college campuses try to bring awareness to healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle. There are usually health and wellness centers on campus, which have tips and advice on weight control and exercise. University at Buffalo junior Kerrie Martin of Mount Upton said her campus has a center where you can meet with a nutritionist. However, she says, "most people don't know about it or care enough to set up a meeting."

If going to college is in your near future, there are many ways to stay healthy and avoid the Freshman 15.

Stay away from fried and greasy foods at the dining halls and don't always go back for seconds. Take the stairs as much as possibly and walk to and from classes.

Freshman year is a new and exciting time for many students, and incorporating these tips into a new lifestyle will help eliminate the stress of unwanted weight gain.

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