Stay Hydrated and Healthy with Infused Water

by Meilana Charles

With the weather in McLennan County regularly reaching 90 degrees or higher, staying hydrated is essential. Unfortunately for many people staying hydrated means the overconsumption of fruit juices or drinking sugary-carbonated beverages because water may lack a desired flavor.

Well, there’s a simple solution: Infused Water.

Infused Water is the combination of water with fresh fruits and herbs. For the past year I’ve been hooked on Infused Water. I’ve discussed the different recipes I’ve tried informally with several local groups, and I even created a mini-program about the benefits of drinking infused water that was presented at Restoration Haven, a local community ministry located in the Estella Maxey Public Housing complex, last year. Even children at several summer day camps have noticed the “leaves” (mint) floating around in my water.

I can’t take all the credit for my yummy discovery. Infused Water has been used as a refreshing drink in several cultures. According to Basu (2014), Infused Water may be a derivative of Aguas Frescas, a flavored drink popular in the Caribbean and in Central and South American countries.

Not only is Infused Water refreshing, it’s also healthy. Danielle Hairston-Greene, a Program Specialist with the Cooperative Extension Program wrote in her “What’s on My Plate” blog that, “There are many health benefits of infused water including appetite control, hydration, immune defense, heartburn prevention, blood sugar regulation and weight management.” Hairston-Greene even provided several combinations with their specific health benefits.

infused water chartPreparation of Infused Water is relatively easy. Once you decide which recipe to use simply cut up the fruit than use a fruit squeezer to extract the juice leaving the pulp. Next, add the juice to filtered water than let it sit overnight. I personalize my creations with fresh Ginger Root and Mint.

Alternatively, some people prefer to cut up their fruits and add then them to the water. Infusion water bottles are also popular.

So the next time the Texas summer heat has you thirsty, pass on the soda, skip the sugar and use your imagination to think up a refreshing and nourishing Infused Water recipe for you and your family to fall in love with.

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 for more information.


  • Basu, B. D. (2014). Beat the Heat by Gulping Fruit Infused Water Drink. Positive Health,(218),
  • Hairston-Greene, D. (2014) The Health Benefits of Infused Water. What’s on My Plate blog.


No one Fights Cancer alone! Free YMCA program helps you fight for your health!

By Crystal Hernandez

May 2, 2015. Pacquiao vs. Mayweather. Billed as the Fight of the Century, this matchup was expected to be the highest-grossing match in history. The revenue from pay-per-view purchases alone proved that it was. Some might argue that the fight was less than expected.

I’m here to tell you, though, a fight bigger transpires every day. Imagine you are standing in one corner of the ring. As your opponent climbs through the ropes, you find yourself eye to eye with cancer. That’s right. You’re up against the big “C.” That’s the fight of your life, but you don’t have to fight it alone. LIVESTRONG® at the YMCA is right beside you, gloves on and ready to help you overcome your opponent.

Punch one: Cancer steals your peace and rocks your world. Punch two: Cancer takes away your hair, your breast, your endurance, your stamina, your energy, and your self-esteem. Punch three: Cancer staggers your family, destroys your finances and leaves your head spinning while you’re clinging to the ropes with all you’ve got.

Advances in medicine help many claim victory. However, the battle leaves the champion black and blue, tired and broken. When the fight is over, supporters and fans move on, leaving survivors alone to figure out what happens next in their stories. In the quiet that follows, survivors are left searching for a “new” normal. LIVESTRONG at the YMCA can help.

LIVESTRONG at the YMCA steps in to be the Creed to your Rocky helping you reclaim your health and wellness. The free program improves endurance, stamina, strength, balance and flexibility. You find a new group of fans in the survivors that join you, and emotional healing occurs. The twice-a-week 90-minute sessions help develop better health through cardiovascular and weight machines, free weights, resistance bands and modified classes. Two specially trained instructors take you under their belts to show you the “ropes”.

Support continues after each 12-week session with LIVESTRONG at the YMCA Nights. Survivors and caregivers reunite with other participants and take part in fun activities, such as belly dancing, bunco and visits to the theater.

If you are a cancer survivor and would like more information about the next session, contact Chronic Disease Prevention Specialist Crystal Hernandez at (254) 776-6612 or If you would like to show your support, sign up for the LIVESTRONG at the YMCA Race. The 4th annual event will be Oct. 3, 2015, at Woodway Park. Sign up for the 1K, 5K or 10K via or at the Welcome Desk at Waco Family YMCA. Sponsorship opportunities are available. Donations can be made directly to the Y to support the LIVESTRONG at the YMCA.

LIVESTRONG at the YMCA is our way of making sure no one fights cancer alone. When cancer throws a blow to you or a loved one, the Y can help pick you up, dust you off and give you the strength and endurance to come back swinging. Together, we can take back what cancer takes away.

crystal hernandez2This Act Locally Waco blog post was written by Crystal Hernandez. Crystal is the Chronic Disease Specialist for the Waco Family YMCA. She received her degree in Exercise Science and Health Promotion from the University of Memphis. She and husband Shawn are blessed to be the parents of 4 beautiful children. In her free time, she loves hitting the pavement and pounding out a good run.

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.





MEND: Mind, Exercise, Nutrition, Do It!

by Crystal Melton

Four weeks ago I welcomed baby number four into my arms and into the world. I’m biased, but this little person that I’ve been given the privilege to raise is absolutely perfect. However, I realize that feeling is universal among parents. We gaze in awe at the unblemished miracle we’ve been given, and, with the best of intentions to maintain that perfection, we make lofty promises in an effort to keep that child as healthy and well as we can.

Promises like “I’ll never let the television babysit my child” or “I will never feed my child fast food.” And sometimes the promises aren’t about what we’ll never do, but what we’ll always do. “I’ll always take time to play hide-and-seek with my child” or “I’ll always find time to push my child on the swing.”

I’ve made those same promises. I don’t know about you, but life and the chaos that it brings seem to always get in the way. I’ll admit it: I’ve counted on cartoons to occupy my children on more than one occasion, and, yes, a trip through the drive thru has rescued us more than once. And, sadly, at times work expectations have come between me and that game of hide-and-seek with my child.

Parents, you’re not alone. We all have the best of intentions with our children, but sometimes we don’t quite accomplish what we set out to do. An occasional upset to those promises probably won’t derail their health, but a constant lifestyle of those choices definitely could begin to send your child down the path of poor health. Although we don’t need to beat ourselves up about it, we do need to open our eyes and see what’s happening to our kids and their health and begin to reapply ourselves to those goals we may have once set.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2012 one in three adolescents was overweight or obese. The reality surrounding those numbers is sobering because what we are seeing with this increase in bodyweight is an increase in risk factors for heart disease in our youth, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure. This increase in body mass also puts them at risk for prediabetes, bone and joint problems, sleep apnea and poor self-esteem. And all those risks are present right now during their youth- in the past, these problems didn’t occur until people aged! Today’s kids head into adulthood ahead of the curve when it comes to being at risk for heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer.

After you’ve digested that, let me reassure you that we can help our kids get their health back on track. It’s not too late to help lead your child to a life of health and well-being. Programs, such as MEND, can help you and your child learn to change behaviors and make healthier choices. MEND (Mind, Exercise, Nutrition, Do It!) is a free 10-week program that meets twice a week that helps children ages 7-13 who are above their healthy body weight learn about nutrition, physical activity, goal setting and more. Together, parent and child move through an engaging research-based curriculum that not only educates the family but also often reduces tension and stress at home surrounding food and activity. The lessons include fun, thought-provoking activities, like a supermarket tour where kids get to be MEND detectives, finding healthy food options on the shelves of the grocery store. Each meeting also includes a fun, progressive, noncompetitive, game-based physical activity session. Another one of the endearing things about this program is that you’re diving into this material and making these lifestyle changes with other families that are struggling to be healthy, too. There is support, accountability and shared ideas among parents and children.

Finding the help you and your child are looking for is no farther than the YMCA of Central Texas. The MEND program is offered several times throughout the year. Space is limited, though, so you’ll want to sign up soon. Remember: lots of parents just like you want a healthier future for their child. For more information call the DORIS MILLER FAMILY YMCA at 254 752 1605 or WACO FAMILY YMCA at 254 776 6612.

crystal hernandez2This Act Locally Waco blog post was written by Crystal Hernandez. Crystal is the Healthy Living Director for the Waco Family YMCA. She received her degree in Exercise Science and Health Promotion from the University of Memphis. She and husband Shawn are blessed to be the parents of 4 beautiful children. In her free time, she loves hitting the pavement and pounding out a good run.

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.






Break through the Baylor Bubble … become a citizen of Waco!

by Christian Bolaños

“Baylor Bubble”   [ bā-lər ˈbə-bull ] –  Noun: A thin sphere enclosing Baylor University and living areas immediately surrounding its campus, from the rest of Waco.

Baylor was my dream school in the sense that it was out of my reach. But, like many who attend, I have parents that work day in and day out to give their children an opportunity to live a life they could only dream of. That, along with financial aid and academic scholarships, has kept me enrolled all four years.

The hefty Baylor price tag pays for a phenomenal faculty and a seemingly limitless number of opportunities waiting to be tapped by students eager to make a difference in the world. Baylor does an outstanding job at educating its students in their respective professions, and does so in such a way that students keep integrity and ethics ever-present and in the forefront of students’ minds. Baylor University’s course offerings include business ethics courses and an entire Medical Humanities degree program. Baylor’s Law School even includes “a study abroad program devoted to the art of advocacy” to ensure that Baylor attorneys represent the interests of their clients in the best manner possible.

There is, however, one inconsistency in all of this. As students we learn all kinds of skills out of textbooks filled with different scenarios, simulations and situations that are supposed to reproduce real life. I believe it’s a great way of teaching; it’s only missing one thing. Real life.

One of my professors offered a solution to this dilemma. We learned to call it “service-based learning,” and it made the biggest impact on me during my entire time in Waco. Despite all of the brilliant professors, state of the art facilities, and wonderful resources available on campus, one of the best, and most underappreciated opportunities that Baylor has to offer us as a valuable teaching lesson lies a few steps right outside of the “Baylor Bubble.”

I strongly believe that community service is the missing link for students. It gives us the chance to apply what we’ve learned in the classroom to real human needs. By breaking down the barrier between Baylor and Waco, we were able to more fully engross ourselves as citizens of Waco and better understand the dynamics of the city. The best thing that students can do during their time at Baylor is to participate as active members of the Waco community. For example, in one class I took, we not only learned the importance of grant writing, but we were actually able to apply for real world grants and actually help non-profit organizations in the area. Nearly every course could be tailored to include some form of service-based learning. I would urge those of you that are in school to come up with ideas with your teacher/professor on how you can take the learning outside of the classroom and do some form of work, no matter how big or small, that leaves an impact beyond that of a letter grade. And for those of you who are not in a classroom, find a place where you can serve. Even if you can only commit to an hour a week, there are plenty of places where you can make a world of difference.

I have gotten involved in the Waco community through an internship at the Public Health District.  Through this involvement I have learned first-hand about the health challenges that many cities face such as a shortage of family practice doctors and lack of access to care among lower income neighborhoods. I have also learned about the things a city can do to promote the health of its citizens, like creating programs and coalitions that serve to raise awareness and educate the general population on health disparities. Because of this understanding I will be a better, more informed citizen, whatever profession I end up pursuing and where ever I end up living. I consider this an extremely valuable part of my education, something that I wouldn’t have been able to experience had I not made the effort to work outside the Baylor Bubble.

Here is how Baylor’s strategic vision, Pro Futuris (“for the future”), describes Baylor’s role as an institution of higher education: “We strive to prepare students to make a difference in our world as citizens and leaders who have the faith and integrity to do what is right in the face of competing pressures and to have a passion to apply their knowledge to ends that transcend mere self-interest.”

Rather than only venturing out to Waco to grab a bite to eat or enjoy the nightlife, we should actively seek out opportunities for not only our growth, but also for the growth of Waco. It should be our duty as citizens to do our part and work towards building a better future. So start early and start now. It is never too late to begin making a difference in your community. And rather than being like the dreadful, monthly visit to the in-laws, community service should be something you (and hopefully your family or close group of friends, the more the merrier!) look forward to doing when you meet up. There are so many different ways to give time, each with its own positive impact on our community. Find something that you like. For a list of ways to serve Waco, click the following link Thank you.

Christian BolanosThis Act Locally Waco blog post was written by Christian Bolaños. Christian is an intern at the Waco Public Health Department and a senior at Baylor University. His interests range from biology research and technical writing, to learning more about his rich Latino culture. Focused on helping the community as a whole, Christian ultimately plans to matriculate to medical school to become a surgeon. In the meantime, he plans on graduating in May and either pursue research interests or obtain a writing position in the medical field.

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.

Get to know the YMCA

By Crystal Hernandez

Hi. It’s nice to meet you. We’re the YMCA of Central Texas.

Many folks in Waco have never been formally introduced to the YMCA of Central Texas. First impressions or chatter among friends often portray the Y as just another gym, a place to don spandex, pound out a mile or two on the treadmill, knock out a couple of reps on the weights or swim a few laps.

When you join the Y, though, you belong to more than a gym although we do have a great gym. When you join the Y, you join a community. We’re a gym with a mission — a mission to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all. Our mission governs all we do. Here’s how.

We are for you. We are for your neighbor. We are for your child. We are for the healthy and those struggling to reclaim their health. We are for those that love spandex and those who hate it. We are for everyone. At the Y, a supportive community and friendships are a big part of wellness. At every age and every activity level, you’ll find people just like you looking to live a bit healthier.

If an expansive cardio and weight area are what you’re looking for, we have it. Between our two branches (Doris Miller Family YMCA and Waco Family YMCA) we offer more than 100 land-based group exercise classes each week. If you’re more of a water baby, we offer group exercise classes in our pools, too. (By the way, we have five pools). From Zumba® to yoga, from Insanity® to Aquatic Boot Camp, we have a class for everyone.

We don’t stop there, though. We believe that everyone is entitled to better health, and we want to help. Here are some examples of some of our special programming that helps build up the health of our community:

  • LIVESTRONG® at the YMCA, a free 12-week program, helps adult cancer survivors reclaim their total health and find a community of support.
  • Our children’s health is important, too. Kids ages 7-13 who are above their healthy body can enroll, along with their caregivers, in MEND (Mind, Exercise, Nutrition, Do it!). The dynamic and engaging curriculum of this free 10-week program guides kids toward healthier eating and a more active lifestyle.
  • The safe, low-impact exercises of Enhance®Fitness improve endurance, strength, balance and flexibility among those with arthritis.
  • The YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program is a 12-month lifestyle behavior intervention that is part of the CDC-led National Diabetes Prevention Program. It helps those at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes adopt and maintain healthy lifestyles by eating healthier, increasing physical activity and losing a modest amount of weight to reduce their chances of developing the disease.

Our friendly, knowledgeable staff members are guided by our core values of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility. We’re here to do more than help you reach your goals; we’re here to build a relationship with you. If you’re a gym rat, we’ll cheer you on! If you’re new to the fitness world, we’ll take time to get to know you while guiding you in achieving your goals.

And do you want to know one of the most amazing things about the Y? It’s for everyone! The generosity of others is at the core of our existence. It is only through the support of our volunteers and public and private donors that we are able to give back to the communities we serve. We offer financial assistance so that cost is not a barrier to anyone wanting better health. The Y is for community. The Y is for you. You should get to know us. We’d like to get to know you.

crystal hernandez2This Act Locally Waco blog post was written by Crystal Hernandez. Crystal is the Healthy Living Director for the Waco Family YMCA. She received her degree in Exercise Science and Health Promotion from the University of Memphis. She’s blessed to be the mother of 3 beautiful children, Norah, Robbie and Sammie and she and husband, Shawn will be adding number 4 to the mix in less than a month. In her free time, she loves hitting the pavement and pounding out a good run.

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.