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Food and Freedom as Freshman

Blog post written by,

By Bhritanie Jardine, PsyD

This month, over 3 million high school students will start their freshman year of college. Many of them will have moved out of their parent’s house and are experiencing living on their own or with roommates for the first time in their life. This time period represents one of the most drastic transitions we undergo in our lifetimes, and while it is often experienced primarily with excitement, it also comes with a number of unique challenges. Freshman moving away for the first time are learning how to balance responsibility with freedom and navigating how to nourish themselves appropriately in their new environment.

The true key to success with any transition is to prepare for it as much as reasonably possible beforehand. High school seniors who have been given amble time to learn how to complete tasks of daily living while seeking assistance from their parents, are in a much better position to thrive as freshman. Parents may have spent most of their child’s life do things like laundry, cleaning, making appointments, managing their finances, and keeping a schedule for their child in an effort to make their life easier. But if your teenager cannot do these things on their own by the time they go away to college, they will hit a steep learning curve that can leave them feeling overwhelmed. It is recommended to give your child more responsibilities at home to foster their independence and improve their skills. Once they are away at college, you can then simply strive to maintain a nonjudgmental presence with them over the phone so that they see you as someone to call to ask for help when they come across a problem outside of their current ability level.

One of the tasks of daily living that can feel particularly challenging for freshman is learning how to nourish themselves. This is really a complex task when you break it down into all the steps and education necessary to complete this. Your teenager must be able to conceptualize an adequate nutritional plan that contains both the variety and volume required to sustain their lives. Then they need to be able to create a grocery list, match this grocery list with their new budget, figure out transportation to get there and back, and prepare all of their own meals. This is further complicated by the fact that many freshman dorms only provide mini refrigerators in their room, and a microwave or shared kitchen for a dozen or more students. Lastly, if they get all of that down, they still have to figure out how to manage their time well so they can complete these tasks even with back to back classes, or while being overbooked with educational and social engagements.

As a result of this complexity, many college freshman report living off of the easiest and most convenient food items, or rack up large credit card bills on food delivery services or exclusively eating out. Many large universities offer educational appointments with the campus dietitian to address these exact issues. They will sit down with the students and discuss what their school provided, or sorority/fraternity provided meal plan entails, and how to make balanced choices from the options available. Some universities even offer cooking classes, and grocery list making workshops for freshman, as well as provide booklets for some of the most convenient yet balanced recipes’ that have been proven to be dorm friendly!



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