For many students, college is the first time away from home and their first real taste of freedom. It’s also the first time students do not get to sit down to a home-cooked meal every night.

Graphic by Stephen Kline

While most colleges offer healthy eating options, students tend to reach for the faster, unhealthier options, which can quickly lead to the freshman 15.

Studies have shown that there are a number of reasons as to why students tend to gain weight at college, especially during their first year.

College is a whole new social setting, and our culture associates being social with eating. When meeting up with friends, students almost always go to get something to eat. Southside is popular because you can swipe in and spend the whole day there, doing homework and getting up to grab something to eat every once in a while.

Pilot House and Ike’s are popular for late night hang outs, giving students a chance to eat and chat early into the morning.

Meal plans are designed to give students a wide variety of options as to what they can buy and how many times a day they eat. With a meal plan, a student can decide to eat just twice a day, or several times a day.

Because students do not feel personal responsibility for what they are spending when using a meal plan, they can abuse the system and eat more than they need to.

According to Lois Durant, the resident dietitian at Mason for the past nine years, students tell her that they have been teased by their peers for trying to eat healthy.

She also says that the lack of nutritional education in middle school or high school programs could contribute to unhealthy eating in college, when students have to adjust to making decisions about what they eat instead of just showing up for dinner like they are used to at home.

To help make healthy eating easier, Mason Dining is hosting the Whole Grain Challenge. The goal is to increase the intake of whole grains which have more fiber and B vitamins and are all around healthier than white bread or pasta.

For more information on this event, or for ideas on how to eat better at school, contact Durant for specific tips for eating healthy on our campus.