Money College: Dump the 'Freshman 15' and fatten your wallet

Dorm eatingIt's sophomore year, and suddenly you're finding that your jeans don't fit like they used to? You're not alone. Although so-called "freshman 15" is an exaggeration, most students gain weight in college. Stress, a less-active life style, and those buffet-style cafeterias lead many students to pack on pounds. A Rutgers University study showed that if students keep up their freshman weight gain, they would gain 27 pounds by graduation.
You can lose those extra pounds all while fattening your wallet. Here are seven tips to shed pounds and save cash:

1) Cook instead of eating out. When time is tight, it's tempting to grab a pizza or a burger. But eating out often becomes a habit that drains the bank account and adds pounds.

"Any meal you eat away most likely is going to be a very big portion size, much higher in fat, calories and sodium," says Megan Campbell, a registered dietitian at Northwestern University.

Campbell recommends learning to cook a few simple, healthy meals and keeping on hand some easy ingredients, like tuna, whole-wheat tortillas, pasta and frozen vegetables. Even making "breakfast for dinner," like scrambled eggs and turkey bacon, is a quick meal that provides good fuel for the body.

2) Bike (or walk, or in-line skate) instead of driving. Keeping the car parked isn't just the eco-friendly thing to do; it's wallet and waistband friendly, too. Trade your car keys for a bike helmet, and you can save some serious cash on fuel, all while burning calories. Don't have a bike? Drag out your Rollerblades--or better yet, walk.

"Every little bit counts," says Jennifer Vimbor, a registered dietitian and founder of Nutrition Counseling Services in Chicago. "You're helping to increase your metabolism every time you move."

How much cash could you save by biking to class? TreeHugger's Bike to Work Calculator can figure it out for you.

3) Dump soda. Overworked college students are quick to reach for the sugary boost that comes from caffeinated soda. But drinking your calories takes a toll on your finances and your health. Vimbor says soft drinks are just empty calories with no nutritional value. "Those extra calories eventually add up," says Vimbor. "One to two sodas a day every week is often 3,000 to 3,500 calories, or almost a pound of calories per week."

Grabbing a soda from the vending machine might not seem like a big expense, but it adds up. Spending just $1-2 every week day could mean as much as $80 a month. Instead, buy a water bottle and refill it often.

4) Measure your portions. Compared to Europeans, for example, Americans eat enormous portion sizes, a fact that adds inches to your waistline and dollars to your grocery receipt. Eat the correct portion sizes, and you'll see a reduction in your pants size and your food budget. But what are good portion sizes? Here are some visual cues from the American Cancer Society that can help:

1 serving of meat = a deck of cards
1 serving of fish = a checkbook
1 serving of pasta = a tennis ball
1 serving of peanut butter = a ping pong ball
1 serving of raw veggies or fruit = a baseball

5) Budget your treats.
Can't bear to be without a strawberry smoothie or that double chocolate brownie? No problem. Make a budget for cash and calories. Think of the treat you just can't live without, and set a budget. How often can you have it? Once a week? Once a month? Decide, and stick to it.

6) Make your own coffee. It's easy to drop between $3-$5 a day at your local Starbucks. But the whipped cream, whole milk and sugary additives also pack on the pounds. A Starbucks vanilla Frappuccino with whipped cream will set you back a whopping 430 calories or about 43 minutes of jogging--soooo not worth it.

With an inexpensive coffee maker, some flavored creamer and fresh grounds from the grocery store, you've got the same taste for far less calories, and a cost of less than $10 a week.

Simple changes can mean a big difference when it comes to both money and weight management. Pick any one of these options, and you'll see reductions in your spending and jeans size within just a few weeks! Just think: More room in your jeans means more room for the one thing you do want fatter: your wallet.

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