We all hate it. We deny it, we ignore it, and we just count ourselves out of the whole numbers game, but it’s time to face facts: the Freshman Fifteen is real, and it’s coming to a waistline near you. If you want to avoid the epidemic, follow this handful of simple little tips below, and when swimsuit season comes around next spring, you’ll be glad you did.

Skip the Cafeteria Line

Most college dining halls have regular high school style cafeteria lines, and then fruit, salad, or rotating stands. If you’re living on campus, you’re probably forced to buy a meal plan, but if you want to beat the freshman fifteen without giving up your alcohol, this cafeteria line is your nemesis. Force yourself to eat salads, fruit, or sandwiches for dinner each night instead of high-carb, high-fat cafeteria foods. Face it; none of it is going to taste good, so you might as well choose the waist-friendly options.

Make Smart Alcoholic Choices

You don’t want to hear it, I know, but drinking is the main culprit of weight gain across most age groups. If you’re not willing to stay sober more often, then at least think about what you drink.  A can of light beer at about 4% alcohol is 110 calories, a 10%, 5-ounce glass of white wine is about 120 calories, and a shot of 80-proof (40%) vodka is about 193 calories. If you’re purely in it for the intoxication, you do the math. When choosing vodka, make sure you skip the sugary mixers.

Walk to Class

Nobody wants to leave for class 45 minutes early just to walk there when there are buses and bikes and cars to get you there in just 5 minutes. Just do it. Take the long route, books in hand. College kids are so immobile, so walking just 1 or 2 miles a day puts you well ahead of the curve. Most people burn close to 100 calories per mile walked, so an extra 2 miles a day kills is almost two drinks!

Tell Mom: No More Cookies

Alert the parents, aunts, and grandmas immediately. No, you would not like a batch of freshly baked cookies and brownies sent to your college P.O. box. You will, inevitably, eat the entire box within 24 hours. It’s best to save those treats for when you get home, rather than incorporate them into your monthly routine. If they’ve got to send you something edible, ask for cranberry walnut muffins or apples instead.

Drink More Water

Water is amazing, really. It quenches thirst, fuels bodily functions, and can help you feel full. Skip the soda, fruit juices, and chocolate milk. Before any meal, even that 4 am pizza, down an entire glass of water. It will help you reduce your liquid calories, and make you feel a little more full before you dive into mozzarella sticks and French fries. A single can of cola has a whopping 143 calories, and 8 ounces of orange juice contains around 112 calories. Just drink water!

[Photo credit: cantoni on Flickr]