Dine on 3: Healthy Holiday Meals

By Meilana Charles

(Note: This post is a part of “Dine on 3,” a new initiative through Prairie View A&M University Cooperative Extension Program. Dine on 3 will use social media outlets to encourage family units to prepare and share home cooked meals more regularly. The initiative’s objectives are to encourage home cooked family meal consumption more frequently and to communicate family life balance ideas and easy recipes monthly primarily through social media outlets. For more information contact Meilana Charles, Extension Agent-McLennan County, Prairie View A&M University-Cooperative Extension Program at 254.757.5180 or macharles@ag.tamu.edu. )

The winter holiday season is in full swing, but with the average person gaining one pound during this time of the year it’s important to stick to normal eating habits. This may be difficult with all of the seasonal foods prepared during this time of the year. Here are some tips to staying healthy during the holidays:

To achieve healthy cooking during the holidays, modifying recipes may be necessary. To reduce fats consumption prepare meat dishes by grilling or roasting instead of frying. To add, cut visible fat and drain additional fat from meat after preparing. Also, skim fat from drippings used to prepare gravies and sauces. When preparing baked goods, use fruit purees such as applesauce instead of oil. Also prepare those baked good with 100% whole wheat flour instead of enriched flour or purchase baked good made from 100% whole grain ingredients. Lastly, use low-sodium broths when preparing dressing and stuffing.

Now that the meal is prepared and ready to be eaten try to prepare your plate similarly to the USDA’s MyPlate food group recommendations. Use a smaller plate and eat slowly. Consume fried foods, sauces, gravies, creamy dips and sweets in moderation. To avoid second helpings move away from the table or food area when done eating.

Many people attending holiday parties find it difficult to stay on their regular health plans but it is doable. At parties, make the primary objective socializing. Try consuming small portions and limit second helpings. If this seems difficult avoid hovering around the food area. Also consider eating a light snack two hours prior to arriving or volunteer to bring a healthy dish.

In all, remember that winter holidays are an opportunity to celebrate year-end accomplishments and interact with friends and families, not a reason to overeat. Avoid emphasizing food during celebrations. Even if that may be difficult to achieve, having modified, healthy food options can benefit all in attendance and go a long way toward starting a new year healthy and happy.

Meilana CharlesThis Act Locally Waco blog post was written by Meilana Charles. Meilana is a Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Agent at Cooperative Extension Program at Prairie View A&M University. Meilana’s priority areas for providing educational resources to McLennan County are general nutrition, money management and parenting. She has a M.S. in Child Development from Texas Woman’s University and is a certified Human Development and Family Studies professional through American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.


Part 2: Payday & Auto Title Lending – Stories from the Community

By Alexis Christensen

I’ve long been drawn to understanding how governmental systems work—whether it’s politics, civic engagement or policy. Often we think about law or policies from an impersonal perspective, but in reality, they can be very personal.

In Part One of this series we learned about the devastating effects payday and auto title lending has on our residents and our city. Because of the negative outcomes produced by these loans, many believe now is the time for action. In the world of community development, the grassroots movement becomes effective in creating change when community members who have experienced, dealt with or struggled through the situation voice their personal stories and ideas into the work.

So let us turn to the voices of the community, who have dealt with the negative effects of payday and auto title lending firsthand. For a moment, let us listen to the voices of experience.

Ms. Lewis, tell us your story.

Lewis: I am a single parent of two kids. My son is 17 years old and chronically ill and I have a 19 year old daughter in college. I got into desperate times and needed money due to my financial situation. I have to travel a lot with my son [to visit doctors]. He requires medicines through IV and has frequent doctor visits. Then I found out my daughter had medical issues too. I kept seeing all these ads and signs, so I went and got an auto title loan.

Christensen: How was that visit?

Lewis: Well, when I got the loan they made me feel so comfortable and they were so friendly but come to find out they were wolves in sheep’s clothing. As a single parent, I am stressed. I am trying to keep up with the bills and sometimes it’s hard but I do what I can to manage. When it comes to payday lenders, yes they are so nice and sweet when you first come through the door but…I wish I had never done it because of the outrageous fees they charge with interest and the harassing calls…When my son was in the hospital, they called me just about every day threatening to come and take my car, it was awful.

Unfortunately, Ms. Lewis is not alone in her experiences with payday and auto title lending. Let’s hear from Mr. Thomas, who is a veteran.

Mr. Thomas, tell us your story.

Thomas: I was in school and temporarily unemployed and took out both an auto title loan and a payday loan to catch up on my water and electric bills and pay for school. I actually got a job in the same week I took out the auto title loan, but couldn’t keep up with the loan payments and had my pickup repossessed. The original loan was for $1,000 and the auto title loan was for $4,000. I’ve been charged twice the amount of the original loans.

I’ll be paying these type of loans off forever because of the interest. There is no way to catch up. Me and my wife are currently trying to adopt our nieces and credit issues have come up as an issue [in the adoption process].

Lastly, let’s hear from Ms. Marks.

Marks: A long while ago I got an auto title loan for $500 and ended up paying $2400 on the whole thing. Loan interest rate was about 800%. I belonged to a credit union and explained situation and they bought out the auto title and payday loan.

It was so hard to get a loan anywhere else besides a payday loan place. The stores keep calling and asking about getting another loan. At [a local payday loan store] I got a loan for $150 and I’m on the way right now to pay $51 in fees today to extend it for two weeks and it won’t go toward principal. I have 6 months to pay it in full.

If I could change anything about them, lower the interest rate. They get away with it [high interest rates] because they say they’re not the lender and they can’t do anything about it.

These stories have come from people right here in our community. These brave ones have shared some of their most vulnerable moments with us to help see change happen at the local level. This is why the ordinance to help address the issues payday and auto title lending create is vitally important to our community. The ordinance is one part of the solution; we also need sound alternatives and education to see true systemic change. Find where you fit in this work and help create a flourishing Waco for all of us.

*Some names have been changed to protect the identity of the community members.

AlexisAlexis Christensen is a Community Organizer at Waco Community Development Corporation (Waco CDC).