How to avoid (or gain) the Freshman 15

Rachel-Feder

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It can be difficult to keep the Freshman 15 in mind when you go to the dining commons or out to dinner with a group of new friends during Welcome Week. Berkeley’s foodie culture means there’s no shortage of options to enchant your taste buds and keep you exploring the city.

While there’s plenty of advice on how to lose weight, or at least avoid gaining more, most of it focuses on limiting what you eat. We at the Daily Cal are a group of self-professed foodies for whom limiting what we eat is simply not an option. Instead of cutting out certain foods, we’ve compiled a list in two parts to teach incoming freshmen how and what to eat in Berkeley.

Rather than tell you to stick to salads, we’ve come up with the best ways for incoming freshmen to both gain, and lose, the Freshman 15. Visit these places and you’ll be able to strike a balance throughout your year, so you can be just as satisfied with that double scoop of ice cream as with your vegan breakfast.

To gain:

If you’re looking to a put a little extra meat on your bones, these Berkeley institutions will make you wonder how you’ve survived the past 18 years without having tasted their delicious flavors.

If you’re going to stress-eat, you should indulge in some cheesy sticks from West Coast Pizza. These cheesy, doughy strips of goodness come with containers of ranch and tomato sauce for dipping and have been scientifically proven to make students forget about the 10-page papers they still have due the next day.

Once you’re ready to celebrate actually having turned in that paper, Smitten in Rockridge is the perfect place for a congratulatory ice cream cone. Smitten makes each scoop to order, using a special process that involves instantly freezing the ice cream mixture with liquid nitrogen. The mint chocolate chip flavor is a clear standout. It actually tastes like fresh-picked mint with pieces of chocolate from the San Francisco company Tcho.

If ice cream alone isn’t enough for you, Cinnaholic certainly will be. These expertly crafted cinnamon buns are so fluffy and surprisingly light that you can easily eat the whole thing without feeling too full. The charming shop near campus features an array of toppings and frostings so that hungry students can completely customize their cinnamon bun experience. From maple frosting to cookie dough, Cinnaholic has everything traditional and outrageous.

When Friday night rolls around and you just can’t stand the dining commons food any longer, Gypsy’s is the place for you. Featuring cheap Italian food, large portions and a location close to campus and the dorms, Gypsy’s is the perfect place for a quick dinner out. The pastas are a good choice and come with a variety of sauces, vegetables and meats. Perhaps the best part about Gypsy’s is that the portions are so huge, they’ll make a yummy lunch the next day. Two meals for the price of one is always welcome on a college student’s budget.

On Saturdays and Sundays, Clark Kerr brunch provides an excellent way to eat a lot without having to spend any real money. Just swipe into the dining commons and you’ll be greeted by a vast feast. Whether you’re craving Belgian waffles complete with the Cal logo, a cheese frittata or a made-to-order burger, this brunch has you covered. Be prepared to spend at least an hour eating and catching up with friends here, as well as making at least three trips back and forth for more food.

To lose:

By now you’ve put on a few extra pounds because of all the ice cream and pizza you’ve been eating around town, as you well should. The best way to really get to know Berkeley is, without a doubt, to eat your way through it — which is why, despite a few extra pounds, you shouldn’t stop eating. Instead, shift your focus toward Berkeley’s plethora of healthy, affordable dining options.

Limiting your snacking is a great way to lose some weight. For those who would rather not limit calorie intake, look no further than Berkeley Bowl. The mind-blowingly wide selection of fruits, vegetables, nuts and dried fruit means that you can snack healthfully. You can even make a crazy-cool trail mix that’s both a portable and shareable snack.

Conveniently located right across the street from campus on Bancroft Way, San Francisco Soup Company offers hungry, healthy students more than just soup. The salads are huge and feature a range of toppings to spice up the typical lettuce-and-dressing formula. They’re so large that they’ll fill you up and still give your wallet room for one or two more meals. Once again, multiple meals for the price of one is a college student’s dream.

When you want to go out for a healthier Friday night dinner with friends, Joshu-ya is a good choice for sushi. Since Japanese food is typically lighter, you’ll be able to comfortably eat a lot of it. Though the prices tend to be more on the expensive side, the flavors are worth it, and they’re certainly different from anything you can get in the dining hall.

If you’re still a brunch person dreading having to give up those Clark Kerr brunches, then head over to Cafe Gratitude on Shattuck Avenue for a hearty vegan brunch. The breakfast menu is heavy on tofu and potatoes, featuring bold flavors and spices that will keep you full until dinner.

But if you can’t justify spending the extra money on food outside of the dining hall, opt to use your meal points at Cafe 3 and go straight for the burrito bar. The dish is nutritious and delicious and without a doubt one of the best ways to use up those meal points. Another great option is the adjacent Bear Market, where students can use meal points to purchase actual food. Amy’s frozen meals make for good lunches or dinners when you don’t want to leave your room but still want warm food. It makes a variety of ethnic and comfort food dishes, all with high-quality ingredients, so you can feel good about your little indulgences.

Contact Rachel Feder at [email protected].