Health experts advise Oklahomans to lose holiday weight

Monday, January 2nd 2006, 2:46 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Health experts are advising Oklahomans to shed their holiday pounds by exercising and eating healthy foods.

Many foods marketed for weight loss can carry a hefty price tag, Karen Massey, registered dietitian for Integris Health, said. But buying cheap groceries can also be harmful.

``Its easy for busy people or people with tight budgets to buy quick fixes like Ramen noodles, prepackaged snacks and other foods that are poor in nutrition. Its also easy to become malnourished that way,'' she said.

``I hear people complain about the price of an apple being 50 cents, but don't hear the same from someone buying a big bag of chips for $3 or $4. The chips are more calorically dense than the apple, but less nutritious and less satisfying.''

The trick is to cook and shop smarter. Moneysaving options include buying generics instead of brand names, cooking in batches and freezing for quick meals later, reducing meat portions or replacing them with beans, and drinking water, iced tea or coffee instead of sugary sodas, Massey said.

In addition, fresh produce can be replaced by nutritious and less expensive canned or frozen alternatives.

``The canned produce industry has come a long way over the last few decades,'' she said.

Exercise can be a healthy_ and free_ approach to weight loss when combined with portion and calorie control, Massey said. Aerobic exercises like running, swimming, dancing, cycling and walking can be done at little to no cost.

A bicycle can provide cheap transportation and fitness at the same time, said Hal McKnight, owner of Wheeler Dealer Bicycles in Oklahoma City and chairman of the Oklahoma City Trails Advisory Committee.

``The nice thing about cycling is our weather is so mild, you can ride your bike literally every month in Oklahoma,'' he said.

When the weather is cold or inclement, devices called bicycle trainers can be used indoors to transform a bicycle into a stationary bike, McKnight said.

At health clubs like YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City branches, families can join for one price that includes activities for children such as sports leagues and discounts at summer camp, said spokeswoman Cara Langer.

Memberships with the nonprofit organization are about $40 per month for adults and about $60 per month for families.

Using moderation is the key to good health, Massey said. Crash diets, skipped meals and excessive exercise are not part of being healthy, and can be harmful.