Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) is a program that can help you lower cholesterol. The lifestyle changes include diet, exercise, weight loss, and not smoking. Your doctor will want you to follow TLC even if you are taking cholesterol-lowering medicine. And medicine will work better if you have healthy habits.
This program is recommended by the National Cholesterol Education Program of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.1
People have varying degrees of success in lowering their cholesterol by changing their diets. Those who are most successful using diet changes to lower their cholesterol are those who lose excess weight. Diet changes are usually the first step in lowering cholesterol before medicines are added.
The diet's main focus is to reduce the amount of saturated fat you eat, because saturated fat elevates your cholesterol. You can reduce the saturated fat in your diet by limiting the amount of meat and whole milk products you eat. Choose low-fat products from those food groups instead. Replace most of the animal fat in your diet with unsaturated fat, especially monounsaturated oils, such as olive, canola, or peanut oil. If monounsaturated fat is substituted for saturated fat, it lowers LDL ("bad") cholesterol and keeps HDL ("good") cholesterol up.
The TLC diet recommends that you eat specific amounts of different types of foods. These amounts are sometimes a percentage of your total calorie intake for each day.
Avoid trans fat. Foods with trans fats include some vegetable shortening, crackers, cookies, and packaged snack foods.
|Food group||Number of servings||Serving size|
Lean meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, and dry peas
No more than 5 ounces total a day
No more than 2 yolks a week
1 whole egg. Egg whites or substitutes are not limited.
Low-fat milk and milk products
2–3 a day
2–4 a day
3–5 a day
Bread, cereals, pasta, rice, and other grains
At least 6 a day
Sweets and snacks
Within calorie limit
Choose snacks that are low in fat or are made with unsaturated fat.
Your doctor or dietitian might recommend that you add soluble fiber or a cholesterol-lowering margarine to your diet. These might help you lower LDL cholesterol. Soluble fiber is found in foods like oats, beans, and fruit. Cholesterol-lowering margarines contain plant stanols and sterols.
Here is a sample one-day menu. The menu contains approximately 2,200 calories, with 25% of calories from total fat (5% from saturated fat, 13% from monounsaturated fat, and 7% from polyunsaturated fat).
Check food labels for fat and cholesterol content. Try to:
For more information, see:
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (2005). Your Guide to Lowering Your Cholesterol With TLC (NIH Publication No. 06-5235). Available online: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/chol/chol_tlc.pdf.
Other Works Consulted
- Raymond JL, Couch SC (2012). Medical nutrition and therapy for cardiovascular disease. In LK Mahan et al., eds., Krause's Food and the Nutrition Care Process, 13th ed., pp. 742–781. St Louis: Saunders.
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Rhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
Current as ofMarch 12, 2014
Current as of: March 12, 2014
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