TLC Diet

What is TLC Diet?

The TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes) diet was created by the National Institute of Health’s National Cholesterol Education Program with the goal of cutting cholesterol as part of a heart-healthy eating regimen. It calls for eating plenty of veggies, fruits, breads, cereals and pasta and lean meats. The guidelines are broad enough that you’ll have a lot of latitude with what you eat.

Pros & Cons

  • Heart healthy
  • Not a fad diet – it’s government-endorsed
  • You’re on your own
  • Must decode nutrition labels

How does TLC Diet work?

You can start the TLC diet by choosing your target calorie level. If your only concern is lowering LDL, the bad cholesterol, the goal is 2,500 calories per day for men and 1,800 for women. Need to shed pounds, too? Shoot for 1,600 (men) or 1,200 (women). Then cut saturated fat to less than 7% of daily calories, which means eating less high-fat dairy, like butter, and ditching fatty meats like salami. And consume no more than 200 milligrams of dietary cholesterol a day – the amount in about 2 ounces of cheese. If after six weeks your LDL cholesterol hasn’t dropped by about 8 to 10%, add in 2 grams of plant stanols or sterols and 10 to 25 grams of soluble fiber each day. (Soluble fiber and plant stanols and sterols help block the absorption of cholesterol from the digestive tract, which helps lower LDL. Stanols and sterols are found in vegetable oils and certain types of margarine, and are available as supplements, too.) A 2008 review in Physiology and Behavior concluded that intake of water-soluble dietary fibers is recognized as an effective way to lower LDL cholesterol levels.

On the TLC diet, you’ll be eating lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or nonfat dairy products, fish and skin-off poultry. Exactly how you meet these guidelines is up to you, though sample meal plans are available. Here are tips to help you get started:

  • Keep meat consumption to a minimum, no more than 5 ounces a day, and stick to skinless chicken or turkey and fish.
  • Eat two to three servings a day of low-fat or nonfat dairy.
  • Load up on fruits and vegetables; up to four servings of fruit and three to five servings of vegetables.
  • Eat 11 servings a day of bread, cereal, rice, pasta or other grains.

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