Better Living for Texans: Maintaining discipline during the holidays

(As I’m sure most of you probably know, one of our Prosper Waco community goals is “McLennan County residents will live healthier lifestyles and access the best available care.” With that in mind Act Locally Waco is teaming up with Better Living for Texans to bring you a monthly blog post full of tips for healthy living. For more of the posts in this series, click here: Better Living for Texans. – ALW)

by Lindsey Breunig

Traditionally the November and December months are packed with celebrations and fun, with food at the center every time. We enjoy the holidays but quickly regret the after-effects when looking at our post-holiday waistlines. From the special meals, tasty treats, and delicious desserts, it’s easy to take in extra calories during the holidays. A small snack here and another there, combined with a large dinner and dessert, can add up to a few extra pounds. Not to mention the office party, friend gathering, or cookie decorating that come up! Fortunately, there are things we can do to discipline ourselves during the holidays. Below is a checklist to prevent overeating while having a wonderful holiday season:

  • Eat slowly so your body has more time to signal fullness.
  • Eat a small to medium-sized breakfast and lunch during the day and drink lots of water. Starving yourself in anticipation for the main meal will lead to overeating.
  • Use a smaller plate to control your portion size. (Try a 9inch plate!)
  • If you have many foods to choose from during the main meal, keep the size of your portions in mind. If you want to try everything, do so in moderation so that your portion sizes don’t get out of control.
  • Be physically active on a daily basis (walking, jogging, biking, etc.) – our goal is 30 minutes every day!
  • Make sure half your plate has fruits and vegetables.
  • Look at your plate for a variety of colors represented from the different food groups.
  • Try new fruits and vegetables to bring a bit more excitement into traditional meals.
  • Involve your kids in meal preparation.
  • Don’t be afraid to have that slice of pie or cake. However, when enjoying your desserts try having a small sliver instead of a large slice.
  • Beverages: drink water with your meals rather than sodas, or holiday drinks like eggnog which can be high in fat, sugar, and calories. Alcohol or sweetened beverages should be consumed in moderation.

Don’t get complacent. Remain disciplined in your approaches to eating healthier and engaging in physical activity. It’s much easier to break a habit than to start one, so stay engaged and committed and have a great rest of your 2018!

December Produce and Recipes

Shopping for seasonal produce means cheaper, tastier, and healthier produce.  Look for these products at the Farmers Market or grocery store this December: Beets, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cantaloupes, carrots, celery, cucumber, grapefruit, greens, herbs, honeydew, mushrooms, oranges, bell peppers, spinach, squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, turnips.

Recipes to try:

Cranberry Crunch Salad: Cranberry Crunch Salad is filled with winter time favorites such as cranberries, brussel sprouts, quinoa and pecans.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Potatoes, and Chicken: This all in one sheet pan meal was easy and very tasty! We made this dish and it was a hit!

Grapefruit Salad and Vinaigrette:  Did you know that the official state fruit of Texas is grapefruit? Here the whole grapefruit is used by including it in the salad and the delicious vinaigrette.

Lindsey Breunig is a graduate of Baylor University and currently works as the Better Living for Texans Educator for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. She is originally from Grapevine, TX and now calls Waco home. Here in Waco she loves to venture out to Cameron Park, visit the local Farmers Market, and try out the awesome eateries in Waco. If you see her and hear a loud bark, that’s her pup Lucy just saying hello.

Prosper Waco: 2018 in Review

By Matthew Polk

2018 has given us lessons in the challenges and opportunities that come from working together to improve the lives of people in our community. The most obvious of these was the threat to five chronically underperforming Waco ISD campuses by a state law that requires such schools to be closed. One of the few options for Waco ISD Superintendent Dr. Marcus Nelson was to partner with a community organization to create an in-district charter school zone to provide additional support for these schools.

Through Dr. Nelson’s dynamic leadership, Waco ISD navigated this challenge first by partnering with the Prosper Waco initiative and then creating a new entity—Transformation Waco—to carry the work of school transformation forward. Before the school year started in August, Texas Education Agency announced that improved performance under Dr. Nelson had lifted the threat of closure from four of the five schools. Still, all five campuses are now overseen by Transformation Waco under the leadership of Dr. Robin McDurham.

This has created an opportunity for the community to rally around children and families in our highest need schools to provide resources and support. Students have received free eyeglasses, new early childhood and parent education programs have been launched, every WISD second grader received a personalized book to promote reading skills, and more than 840 volunteers from 41 churches are mentoring 1,650 Waco ISD students through book clubs and similar programs. From crisis has come a truly transformational community effort to provide opportunity and support for our youngest community members.

Mental health is also a crisis for many communities because of inadequate funding resulting in too few services. Our community is actively working to address this challenge. Under the leadership of the County and City, the McLennan County Behavioral Health Leadership Team is expanding the mental health resources available in our community and creating a more effective system for providing care. 2018 saw additional mental health services added at McLennan County jail and the development of court programs to divert individuals toward treatment instead of jail. School-based mental health services expanded in numerous school districts, and grant funds were awarded to Family Health Center and Heart of Texas Region MHMR to provide maternal mental health services and expand mental health support in primary care.

Among the collaborative efforts to improve the financial security of people in our community is the Bank On Waco Coalition, a collaborative group of local and national banks who have partnered to offer low- or no-cost bank accounts to folks who aren’t currently able to access banking services. The Bank On Waco Coalition also works to align its financial literacy and community outreach efforts. If you know someone who needs the security of a bank account, send them to the Bank On Waco website. Organizations can partner with the Bank On Waco members to provide financial literacy to members or clients. The Heart of Texas Community Loan Center is continuing to expand its capacity to offer low-cost loans to folks who want to avoid the cycle of payday or title loans. The Waco Employer Resource Network (WERN) continues to expand its base of employer partners and the number of employees they are connecting with local resources and services so that hardworking people in our community are able to hold down their job while tackling the bumps in life’s road. At last count, the WERN Success Coach had worked with 220 employees of partner businesses and provided more than 750 support services and referrals.

These are only a few of the ways in which our community is locking arms to improve the lives of people in Waco and McLennan County. There are many organizations and individuals playing their part in a coordinated effort to improve the education, health, and financial security of our community. Look for the 2018 Prosper Waco Initiative Report to be released in January for more information about where we stand, what we’re doing, and where we’re going as a community. And mark your calendars for the Prosper Waco Summit on March 7 to celebrate the work of the many community partners who are helping to make Waco better in 2019 than ever before.

This Act Locally Waco Blog post was written by Matthew Polk. Matthew is Executive Director of Prosper Waco. Prior to that, he served as Superintendent of Rapoport Academy Public School. He and his wife attended Baylor, and after spending a few years in the northeast, they returned to Waco to raise their family. They have four children, ages 10 to 2 years old. You can contact him at

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 for more information.