By Corey Bobco

It doesn’t take a college degree to know that eating junk plus exercising less equals the end of your smokin’ bod. But sometimes, on-campus crunch-time habits like scrimping on exercise and binging on convenient, crappy food can stick -- especially if they begin while you’re lazin’ out at home on break.

Factor in a colossal workload (aka hours of inactivity while your butt is nailed to your desk chair), and you’re looking down the very-real barrel of your freshman 15. Want to avoid ‘em? Try practicing healthful habits on the home front so you’ll be ahead of the game once stress strikes when you’re back at school. Here are some tips:

Fork in Five a Day

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends eating five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables each day to reduce your risk of disease and give you a good dose of dietary fiber -- which pushes digestion along, quite literally. Scarfing down adequate servings doesn’t mean throwing back a whole bunch of bananas in one sitting or repurposing your funnel for competitive juice chugging (especially because it only takes half a cup -- that’s 4 ounces -- of fruit juice or vegetable juice to yield one serving). While you have access to your parent’s grocery funds and home cooking (if you’re lucky!), make it your daily goal to increase your fruit and veggie intake.

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Hit up the dining-hall salad bar and enlighten your tray with some greenery. To avoid in-class grumbles, snack throughout the day -- and make your snack of choice fruit. Apples, bananas and oranges can usually withstand the wrath of your books when thrown in your bag for a between-class snack. Plus, it’s easy to grab a piece or two on your way out from breakfast in the dining hall.

Plan Accordingly

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At home, you might not have control over what kind of tempting food finds its way into your pantry. But make sure there are healthful snacks in there too to help you avoid stuffing your face with the worst of the worst when hunger strikes.

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When stocking your dorm room with snacks, don’t feel the need to get everything your parents keep in the house (because it’s familiar) or everything they don’t keep (just because you can). Rather, stick with the following mantra: “If I don’t buy it, I can’t eat it.” So what should you buy? Try portion-controlled trail mix, dried fruit or 100-calorie bags of popcorn -- and get it at a supermarket or health food store in bulk quantities. Individual servings save you from yourself (aka overeating), and buying in bulk saves you cash. Stocking up instead of buying individual items at a vending machine or quick store will save you serious cash -- especially when you’re munching on these snacks instead of ordering deep-dish pizza late-night. 

Get Physical

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With nothing but time on your hands over summer (or any) break, you have no excuse not to be active. Luckily, this doesn’t have to be painful. Take a swim for an awesome way to get exercise while working on your tan. Dust off your old bike and take it for a joy ride around the block. Or try walking -- you may be surprised how far your legs can take you around your hometown.

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Take the time to research what facilities your school offers. Most campuses offer free gym membership, indoor pool access, free or low-cost exercise classes and bike racks --which, by the way, you should totally use, since two wheels are cheaper than four and faster than walking to class. Since you’ll probably know when you’ll be in class before you get to campus, it should be easy to figure out how to fit exercise classes or gym sessions into your day. Once you set aside the time, keep it interesting by inviting friends to join you or trying something new, like yoga, Pilates, tai chi, step aerobics, kickboxing or capoeira.

Sleep in

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In the long run, sleep deprivation encourages weight gain. Use your spare hours to determine -- within reason -- how much sleep you actually need to feel well rested. Then, make sure you get it. (Hint: If you think you need more than 12 hours, you’re wrong. More likely, you need between six and eight.)

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Depriving yourself of sleep typically raises stress levels while impairing mental and physical performance, so you really need to get your z’s. Early class? Set a bedtime and stick to it. If you feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to do your work and get sufficient rest, reassess the way you spend your time. It’s possible that interruptions like your roommate’s incessant BBMing or distractions like Facebook browsing are robbing you of precious hours. Reclaim ‘em and rest up!  

Available on Amazon.com:

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