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How Much Basketball Does It Take to Limit 'Freshman 15'?


A typical college dining-hall meal can add thousands of calories to a student's diet.

Telling students how long it would take to burn off the meal in front of them might help control “freshman 15,” or the additional weight students gain when dining buffet style at college.

Many students elect for quick and easy meals that are typically high in fats and carbohydrates, and drinks that taste more like sugar than water. But labeling may “decrease students’ consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and increase consumption of water, fruits and vegetables," said Mary Scourboutakos, a nutrition expert at the University of Toronto who was part a team of researchers who studied the eating habits of students at the university.

The study was conducted at the University of Toronto in a dining hall that offered students various meal and beverage options. It used the physical activity calorie equivalent (PACE) labeling, which shows what amount of exercise it would take to burn off calories in the food.

For example, to burn off 1,000 calories, it would take two hours of hiking, 90 minutes of basketball or 80 minutes of soccer, says Men's Fitness magazine. Nearly 1,000 calories can be consumed in a meal of medium-sized french fries (365 calories), fast-food cheeseburger (300 calories), and 1 liter cola. (310).

Researchers placed posters around campus that explained the PACE scale and measured before and after responses.

French fries are a staple in college dining halls.
French fries are a staple in college dining halls.

"We found a significant increase in students drinking water before versus after the intervention, with 43 percent choosing water before and 54 percent doing so after," Scourboutakos said."Likewise, trips to the fruit bar increased by six percent and trips to the salad bar increased by 12 percent."

Chef Jaco Lokker, University of Toronto director of culinary operations, told the student-run UT press that “all the menus have gone through a full redevelopment.”

A Reddit user and Toronto student with the user name "polargus" praised campus dining facilities, but cautioned others to choose their foods wisely.

"The cafeterias at the colleges are generally good," he said."I would avoid the fast food places on campus, they're not great, and definitely not great for you.I ate hot dogs from the stands almost every day in first year, learned the hard way that how you eat affects how you feel (and how much you weigh)."

The immense dining facility at University of Massachusetts-Amherst offers a wide range of food, including commercial eateries Harvest Diner, Traditional Oaxacan, Alaskan Seafood, and Tastes of Home.The last one uses family recipes donated from the student body to create meals.The dining halls are the largest on campus facilities in the nation, serving nearly 45,000 meals a day.

UMass-Amherst is a perennial favorite among college ranking services for its food court.

“We chose UMass Amherst because ... our selections are primarily based on our surveys of administrators at several hundred four-year colleges.We also visit dozens of colleges each year and give considerable weight to opinions of our staff and our 24-member National College Counselor Advisory Board," said Princeton Review, a rankings publication not affiliated with Princeton University.

"Most importantly, we look at valuable feedback we get from each school’s customers, our surveys of students attending them.”

UMass Amherst student Matt O’Malley concurs.

“The food at UMass lives up to it’s reputation. It's fresh, healthy, and there’s something for everybody.”

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