Healthy Hints To Help You Slim Down And Feel Better

by Diane, M.P.H, M.S.

Although our food markets, media, restaurants, social functions, and western culture often try to tempt us into buying or trying new foods and products which are highly processed and unhealthy for us, it would be much better for all of us to live more simply, thoughtfully, and economically, like the ancient Greeks advised. Ancient Greek philosophy taught the importance of doing things in moderation, rather than excess, in order to have a more healthful and balanced life. The traditional Mediterranean diet, as passed down through many generations of Greeks, has been associated with better health and longer life expectancy than our Western diet, especially a reduced risk of cancer of the breast, cervix, colon, lung, pancreas, and rectum, as well as lower rates of cardiovascular and chronic disease (2, 3, 4, 6). The diet emphasizes plant foods, is easy to prepare, tasty, and relatively inexpensive. Foods most often eaten include, in descending order: fresh fruits (especially citrus, grapes, and figs); vegetables (including plenty of leafy greens); legumes; whole grains (bulgur, rice, couscous, pasta, and crusty breads); nuts and seeds; a significant amount of yogurt, some feta cheese; fish and other seafood; olive oil; poultry; a few eggs; and a little lean meat. The principle sources of fat are olives, olive oil, nuts, and fish, which are low in saturated animal fat. High-fat dairy products are limited, and butter and hydrogenated fats are rarely used, if at all. Therefore, the Mediterranean diet tends to be low in saturated fat, very low in trans fat, and rich in unsaturated fat, nutrients, phytochemicals, fiber, and starch (2, 3, 4, 7). The association of this diet with improved health outcomes encourages us to ingest high-fat animal foods in moderation, as well as “eat to live,” rather than “live to eat.”

Hippocrates (460?-377 B.C.) was born on the Greek island of Kos where he lived much of his life, though he practiced medicine in Athens and other Greek cities. During a time when most people were generally uneducated and superstitious, Hippocrates believed that by studying facts and applying logic and careful analysis, one could better understand the laws of nature and consequently how to heal humanity. Determining that disease had only natural causes, he promoted the philosophy of moderation in lifestyle habits and the importance of pure, wholesome food in maintaining good health. Hippocrates claimed that “Our natures are the physicians of our diseases” and treated his patients with proper diet, fresh air, and attention to habits and living conditions. While he objected to the use of strong drugs without careful tests of their curative value, Hippocrates understood the relationship between nutrition and disease, stating: “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food” (2, 9). His favorite food for sick people was whole grain barley gruel and preferred medicine was honey. For pain Hippocrates prescribed a solution of vinegar and honey, whereas for extreme thirst, a drink of water and honey. Though quite capable of treating dislocations, fractures, and wounds, and relieving pressure in the skull caused by brain tumors or other disorders, he used surgery only as a last resort. These principles of medical science eventually formed the basis for medical theory developed in the 1800’s, earning Hippocrates the title “father of modern medicine” (2, 4, 9). The wisdom of Hippocrates and ancient Greece is still relevant in today’s world and can guide us all toward better health.

  1. Drink eight to ten glasses of water each day, or as much as you comfortably can with and between meals. Just as water helps us to wash the outside of our body during a bath or shower, it is also needed to nourish and bathe the internal organs of our body. Avoid juices, sodas, energy drinks, punches, vitamin waters, and other beverages which may contain excess calories, sodium, sweeteners, flavorings, preservatives (e.g., sodium benzoate), and other chemicals. The latter do nothing to preserve the health of your organs and may actually make you hungrier. Try to get into the habit of drinking two glasses of water before each meal, as well as at bedtime. Very often we mistake dehydration for hunger and reach for food, when in actuality the body needs water. Giving your body the water it needs for proper functioning can help curb your appetite by making your stomach feel full, keep you regular, improve your immune system’s ability to fight infection, as well as your ability to focus and concentrate, reduce the intensity of headaches, promote better blood flow throughout the body by reducing the viscosity of the blood, and consequently reduce your risk of a muscle injury, heart attack, or stroke.
  2. Try to establish a routine and eat at the same time each day. Eating at the same time each day, while not always possible, has been shown to help people control what they eat and lose weight.
  3. Eat slowly, taking the time to savor and chew each bite of food carefully. Spend more time chewing and enjoying your food, and less time gobbling it up like a vacuum cleaner. A study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism indicates that people who take thirty minutes to eat a meal or snack end up eating less food and fewer calories than those who eat more quickly.
  4. Make time to start the day with a nutritious breakfast. Breakfast should include fiber-rich fruits such as an apple, pear, grapefruit, orange, papaya, or other nutritious fruit that takes time to ingest, rather than a glass of juice which goes down too easily and often includes more calories and sugar per serving than the fruit itself. Taking the time to enjoy and eat a piece of fruit gives your stomach a chance to begin to feel full. A boiled or poached egg, or serving of lowfat or nonfat plain yogurt or cottage cheese with a sprinkling of wheat germ, ground flaxseeds, walnuts, or other nuts, or bowl of old-fashioned or steel-cut oatmeal cooked with skim milk or water, or other high-fiber cereal without any sugar or flavorings added, like shredded wheat, bran flakes, kamut, cream of wheat, can keep you satisfied and help to keep your blood sugar from dropping for several hours.
  5. At lunch and dinner, fill half or more of your plate with vegetables and/or fruit, one quarter of the plate with whole grains, and one quarter with a nutritious source of protein. Try to include three ounces of protein at each meal. Protein, like fish, chicken and turkey from which all skin and fat have been removed, lean beef from which all fat has been trimmed, edamame, lentils, beans, and tofu, helps to maintain steady blood glucose levels and therefore curbs the appetite longer than carbohydrates. Remember that eggs, as well as nonfat or lowfat dairy products, like the milk in your morning cereal, are also healthy sources of protein.
  6. Have a cup of unsweetened, non-caffeinated, herbal tea following dinner, with a piece of fresh fruit, instead of a rich dessert or unhealthy snack.
  7. When you shop, try to buy unprocessed, “nutrient-dense” foods (i.e., foods with many natural nutrients, minerals, and vitamins per calorie) as close to the way Mother Nature grew them as possible. If you can afford them, choose U.S.D.A. organic foods when available, in order to reduce your intake of pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones:
    • Whole, unprocessed, fresh fruits and vegetables when in season or available. Organic frozen fruits and vegetables are fine, as long as they do not include flavorings, additives, preservatives, etc. Avoid canned or frozen fruit in syrup. The more naturally colorful the fruits and vegetables are, the more nutrients they will provide for your diet.
    • Legumes like dried and/or canned, unsalted beans (any kind), chickpeas (garbanzo beans), lentils, peas, edamame (soybeans). Avoid baked and refried beans.
    • Low-fat tofu; eggs.
    • Plain (unsalted and unflavored) nuts and seeds.
    • Whole grains like barley, brown rice, bulgur, millet, oats, rye, wheat, wheat germ, and quinoa. Choose low-fat, whole grain cereals like shredded wheat, old-fashioned or steel-cut oatmeal, and low-fat, whole grain breads and pastas that include wholesome ingrediants, and exclude sugar, preservatives, partially-hydrogenated fats or oils, trans fats, artificial colors and flavorings.
    • Lowfat or nonfat dairy products such as buttermilk, milk, yogurt, kefir, cottage cheese. Fat free dairy products are generally higher in nutrient density and should be chosen more often for losing weight and maintaining a healthy vascular system. However, young children should be offered lowfat dairy products, since the fat content is needed for brain development, as well as normal growth and development .
    • Fresh, frozen, or low-sodium, canned fish low in contaminants like mercury and PCBs. Avoid red snapper, swordfish, tilefish, tuna, King Mackeral, farm-raised or Atlantic salmon, tilapia from Asia. (For a complete listing of fish which are safe to eat and least contaminated, obtain a Seafood Selector Chart from the Environmental Defense Fund website (2,3,4).
    • Lean or low-fat meats from animals raised as naturally or organically as possible: poultry (no skin), fat-trimmed beef, game, ham, lamb, pork; Avoid bacon; fried meat, fish, poultry, eggs, or tofu; ground beef, hot dogs; luncheon meats, marbled steaks, poultry with skin, sausages, spare ribs.
    • Healthy oils which contribute vitamin E and essential fatty acids, such as olive oil or canola oil.
  8. Limit intake of food and beverages with solid fats and added sugars. Solid fats, like bacon and sausage fat, butter, and Crisco, provide saturated fat and trans fat which promote the development of cancer, heart, and vascular disease throughout the body. Solid fats and added sugars offer too many empty calories with few nutrients. Therefore, they have “low-nutrient density”.
  9. Read food labels carefully. Avoid processed foods which often contain artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives, as well as those high in sugar, salt, saturated fat, trans fat, and calories. Avoid cakes, candy bars, pastries, pies, and artificially flavored “junk” foods, drinks, punches, and sodas. These foods offer little to no nutritional value, and can be quite tempting and high in empty calories.
  10. Avoid or minimize alcoholic beverages, as these are full of empty calories and can contribute to many health problems when ingested too often or in large amounts.
  11. Cook food in ways that reduce fat: baking, boiling, broiling. grilling, roasting, stewing. Try to skim any fat that solidifies on the surface after the food has been refrigerated. Avoid frying food in oil.
  12. Slowly increase your intake of whole foods naturally high in dietary fiber, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, and drink plenty of liquids, in order to avoid bloating and gas. High-fiber foods can help you lose weight and maintain your weight loss, because they take longer to chew than processed foods and provide a sense of fullness and satisfaction with fewer calories. Moreover, intake of foods naturally high in dietary fiber has been associated with a reduced risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, constipation, diabetes, diverticulitis, obesity.
  13. Think about how to handle temptation. Learn to say “No, thank you” when offered unhealthy, or calorically-rich, foods. When eating out, try to select places that offer healthy, low-calorie foods.
  14. Walk and exercise as much as possible each day. Be physically active! Climb stairs and avoid taking the elevator or escalator whenever you can. Limit how long you sit, whether in front of the computer, television, while watching a movie, or sitting in an airplane. Try to exercise at least three times a week, or get some chores done before sitting down to breakfast. Your heart, blood vessels, muscles, organs, skeleton, and waistline will all benefit. Furthermore you will concentrate, focus, and feel better, more positive, and less depressed, as well as improve your flexibility, range of motion, and strength.
  15. Get a good night’s rest, preferably eight to ten hours of sleep each night. When people do not get the sleep they need to function each day, they become more easily fatigued, accident-prone, and lose their ability to concentrate and perform tasks properly. Very often a person will reach for any food available, as a “pick-me-up”, when this happens. People who do try to get adequate sleep each night tend to avoid this problem, have an easier time sticking to a healthy diet, and avoiding unhealthy snacks.


  1. Danziger, Lucy and the staff at SELF. “Seven Secrets of Slim People.” YAHOO! HEALTH. March 22, 2011.
  2. “Eat like the Greeks for better health: Mediterranean diet shown to reduce risk of cardiovascular, chronic diseases.” Heart Center News. Massachusetts General Hospital, Department of Nutrition and Food Services. April 27, 2009.
  3. “High-fiber Diets and Weight Loss.” WebMD: Better Information, Better Health. 2010. (Article link:
  4. “Hippocrates.” World Book Encyclopedia. Volume 9. World Book, Inc.: Chicago, 1986. page 227.
  5. Pratt, Steven and Kathy Matthews. Fourteen Foods That Will Change Your Life: Superfoods Rx. Harper  Collins Publishers, New York: 2004. pp. 90, 172.
  6. Sizer, Frances Sienkiewicz and Ellie Whitney. Nutrition Concepts and Controversies: 11th Edition. Thomson Wadsworth, California: 2008, pp. 180-184.
  7. “The Mediterranean Diet: A Better Way to Eat?” Consumer Reports on Health. Vol. 6, No. 11, November 1994.
  8. “Why Should I Lose Weight?.” American Heart Association. Publication: 10/07LS1466. October, 2007.
  9. Williams, Spice. “History of Health and Medicine” and “Health and Medicine Quotes.” The Spice of Life. (Source:


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Diane, M.P.H, M.S. October 26, 2011 at 3:39 pm

I have research experience in immunology, virology, and the National Breast Cancer Detection Program; a Master of Public Health degree in epidemiology from the University of Pittsburgh, a Master of Science degree in Human Nutrition from Columbia University, and worked at the local, state, and federal level as a nutrition consultant in maternal and child health for a number of years. While remaining involved in the health field and raising a family, I have become more concerned about nutrition and disease, environmental issues, medical testing which exposes Americans to too much radiation,and the need for safer, renewable energy production. I did try to enter this information on my website but am having difficulty getting it to appear. Thank you for your comment.

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