City of Ukiah, California

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Rethink Your Drink

On Saturday, July 13, Jill Santos, Katrina Frey, Anne Molgaard, Doug Crane and I, served as “celebrity judges” to pick the best recipe for a yummy, healthy drink as part of Mendocino County Public Health’s Rethink Your Drink campaign. As a judge, I got to taste test many different infused waters (water with slices of fruits, vegetables and/or herbs), and I have to say – they were really good. 

The Rethink Your Drink Campaign focuses on replacing sugary sodas with healthier choices, like water and water-based drinks (like tea and even lemonade). Along with most people, I knew sodas and sports drinks weren’t good for me, but until Saturday I hadn’t spent much time thinking about it, and just how damaging these drinks can be to our health—especially for kids.

Our Public Health Department is working with local health care organizations and a regional health advocacy group called the North Coast Nutrition and Fitness Collaborative (NNFC) to educate the community.

Local health advocate Tarney Sheldon is the NNFC co-chair and a program manager for North Coast Opportunities’ Nutrition Basics program. She has been keeping a close watch on the health of our community, and I learned a lot from her.

“America is in the middle of an unprecedented obesity crisis and obesity is associated with many serious illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and certain types of cancers. In Mendocino County, 43 percent of our children are overweight or obese. Just think about that for a second: close to half of our children are now at a higher risk for serious diseases like diabetes. It’s difficult for me to even think about that,” she said.

So Sheldon does more than think about it. For years now, she has been taking action by educating her community about health and nutrition.

She explained, “Sugary drinks are the largest single contributor to empty calories in American’s diet, so to me it makes sense that if you’re going to take baby steps to better health, the first step should be to reduce or eliminate sodas, sports drinks, and other sugary beverages from your diet. I’m a big fan of the Rethink Your Drink campaign that the NNFC is spearheading this summer. We’re simply reminding people to choose water over sugary drinks.”

When Sheldon does educational presentations, she asks participants to read beverage labels and then measure out the same amount of teaspoons of sugar into a cup. “People are always shocked to measure it out and see how much sugar there actually is in that drink,” she said. “And every time I do this, someone, somewhere, will run into me later and tell me how that demo changed their life…so I’m just going to keep on doing it.”

As a judge, I really had fun, but more than that, I got to try delicious alternatives to sodas. And it’s not just sodas—sports drinks are also full of sugar. If you read the labels of those sodas or sports drinks, you won’t usually find “sugar,” but instead you’ll see one of these other names for sugar:

Dextrose, Lactose, Sucrose, Fructose, Glucose, Levulose, Maltose, Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Maple Sugar, Turbino, Mannitol, Molasses, Milk Sugar, Maltodextrin, Sorbitol, Honey, Xylitol, Invert Sugar, Maltitol, Evaporated Cane Juice, and Brown Rice Syrup.

As a parent, it’s hard to say no to our kids, but if it’s for their own good, we need to figure out a way. According to the Rethink Your Drink information, the average California adolescent drinks 39 pounds of sugar from sugary drinks every year!

And it’s not just kids, most of us don’t want to exercise any more than we have to in order to maintain our weight (or lose a few pounds). Did you know that a 154 lb. individual would have to walk for nearly an hour to burn off the calories in a 20-ounce cola? I’m thinking I’d rather have a glass of water.

At the contest on Saturday, the Savings Bank’s water drink, “Tropical Infusion,” was the judges’ favorite drink and also won the “People’s Choice” award. The recipe for Tropical Infusion couldn’t have been simpler: it was water mixed with slices of coconut, pineapple, orange, lime, and basil. Second place in the contest went to the Uncorked entry, “Jamaican Me Refreshed,” which was made with coconut, pineapple, ginger and jalapeno peppers.

As a police officer, I’m usually focused on keeping people safe by combating crime. However, another way to keep people safe is by helping them stay healthy. I sure liked the waters I tasted Saturday, and I know in the future I’ll choose water with some orange, lime, or lemon, instead of a soda or sports drink, while I’m out working.

If you’d like more information about Rethink Your Drink and other healthy lifestyle changes, go to www.northcoastnutrition.org.  

As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have any suggestions or comments about how we can improve, please feel free to call me, complete our online survey, or leave a crime tip on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com.  


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Safety · Professionalism · Community Service