08/15/2012 01:27 pm ET Updated Oct 15, 2012

Six Ways to Beat the Freshman Fifteen

No doubt about it, when your family and friends heard you were going off to college they issued warnings about the "freshman 15." Well, there's some good news and not so good news. First, the good news... the dreaded "freshman 15" is only a myth. According to a study by Ohio State University, students tend to gain just 2 to 4 pounds on average during their first year of college. However, the not so good news... they don't always lose the extra weight.

College can be the best four years of your life. It's also a time of transition and comes with many challenges and changes in physical activity, emotions and eating habits. It's a time to focus on learning, being social and preparing for the next phase of life... not a time to fear the freshman 15. Here are some simple tips to help you make the transition and get through your college years with your waistline intact.

1. Get adequate sleep. Poor sleep and sleep deprivation may increase appetite and lead to weight gain.

2. Eat regular meals. Late nights and early morning classes is a recipe for skipping breakfast. Research supports that breakfast skippers tend to weigh more. Eat something, even if it's a yogurt or a peanut butter sandwich.

3. Say no to late night noshing. While body doesn't store calories eaten at 8 any differently than those eaten at 12 midnight, people tend to make unhealthy choices late at night. Wings, pizza & burgers are cheap and easy to get delivered to the dorm but unfortunately these foods help you pack on the pounds with ease.

4. Beware of buffets. All you can eat buffets encourage overeating.
- Instead of filling your plate right away, take a pre-meal walk thru. Survey the scene and decide on your
must haves.
- Start with a vegetable salad (w/low calorie dressing) or a broth based soup. Eating these first has been
shown to reduce total calories for the entire meal. Not to mention you get a jumpstart on veggies for
the day.
- The sight of food sends a message that it's time to eat. Sit far away from the food or with your back to
the buffet. Out of sight = out of mind.

5. Snack smart. Beware of the vending machine. Keep healthy snacks in your room but be mindful that too much of a healthy option can still pack on the pounds. Popcorn is a great snack for the evening. Skip the movie theater butter style. Instead, sprinkle on cinnamon, garlic powder, hot sauce or chili powder on plain popcorn for a flavorful twist. Fresh fruit like apples and bananas are easy to keep in the room. Pair them with a couple tablespoons of peanut butter for breakfast on the run.

6. Walk (or bike). Don't take the shuttle around campus. Every step counts to keep you healthy and ward off weight gain.