TLC Diet: Eating Plan

TLC diet stands for Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes and is an eating plan that can help you get rid of “bad” cholesterol. The lifestyle changes include weight loss, exercise, diet, and no smoking. This program is recommended by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and their National Cholesterol Education Program of Cholesterol 1 .

About TLC Diet

The main focus of the TLC diet is to reduce the amount of saturated fat you consume because saturated fat raises your cholesterol. By limiting the amount of whole milk and meat products you eat, you will decrease the saturated fat in your diet. Instead, you should choose low-fat products from these food groups. Substitute most of the animal fat with unsaturated fat, particularly monounsaturated oils, such as peanut, canola, or olive oil. If monounsaturated fat is replaced by saturated fat, it lowers “bad” (LDL) cholesterol and boosts “good” (HDL) cholesterol.

TLC Diet


What to eat? 

This diet recommends that you consume specific amounts of different kinds of foods.  These quantities are sometimes a ratio of your total calorie intake for every day.

  • Saturated fat:Not more than 7 percent of total calories
  • Monounsaturated fat:About 20 percent of total calories
  • Polyunsaturated fat:About 10 percent of total calories
  • Carbohydrate:50- 60 percent of total calories
  • Protein:About 15 percent of total calories
  • Cholesterol:Not more than 200 mg per day
  • Soluble fiber:No less than 5-10 grams per day
  • Total calories:You should balance calories in order to reach and stay at an ideal, healthy weight.

Avoid trans-fats: foods with these fats include packaged snack foods, cookies, crackers, and some vegetable shortening.


Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) diet recommendations
Food group Number of servings Serving size
Fish, poultry, lean meat, dry peas, and dry beans Less than 5 ounces total per day ·         5 ounces’ maximum per day of fish, poultry, or lean meat. Replace ¼ cup dry peas or beans for 1 ounce of meat.
Eggs Less than 2 yolks per week 1 whole egg. Egg whites or replacements are not limited.
Low-fat milk and milk products 2 to 3 per day ·         1 cup nonfat or low-fat yogurt

·         1 cup 1% or fat-free milk

·         1 ounce low-fat or nonfat cheese (3 grams of fat or less per ounce)

Fruits 2 to 4 per day ·         1-piece fruit, such as orange, apple, or ½ a banana

·         1 cup melon or berries

·         ½ cup can fruit

·         ¾ cup fruit juice

Vegetables 3 to 5 per day ·         1 cup raw leafy greens

·         ¾ cup vegetable juice

·         ½ cup cooked or raw vegetables

Pasta, rice, cereals, bread, and other grains At least 6 per day ·         1 slice of bread

·         1-ounce cold cereal

·         ½ cup cooked rice, noodle, pasta, or other grains

·         ½ hamburger or hot dog bun, bagel, or English muffin

Sweets and snacks Within calorie limit Choose snacks that are made with unsaturated fat or are low in fat.

Your GP may recommend that you add a cholesterol-lowering margarine or soluble fiber to your diet. These may help you lower “bad” cholesterol. Soluble fiber is found in foods like fruit, beans, and oats. Cholesterol-lowering margarine contains phytosterols (plant sterols and stanols).

What to avoid? 

Check food labels for cholesterol and fat content. Try to:

  • Avoid trans-fats or partly hydrogenated vegetable oils because these oils get through a process which makes them solid. They are found in some shortenings, chips, cookies, snack crackers, and hard margarine.
  • Limit saturated fat and oils, such as coconut oil, palm oil, lard, bacon dripping, and butter. Instead, use vegetable oils (such as canola or olive oil) or soft tub margarine.
  • Limit fish, poultry, and meat to no more than 2 servings, or 5 oz./140 g per day (a portion is about the size of a deck of playing cards).
  • Limit fatty meats such as processed meats, bacon, sausage, hot dogs, ground meat, steak, ribs, pastrami, and corned beef. Also, limit organ meats (like kidney and liver) and egg yolks. Replace with skinless turkey or chicken, fish, lamb, veal, and lean beef. Try some meatless main dishes, like rice, pasta, peas, or beans.
  • Limit snack crackers, muffins, cakes, croissants, and quick bread made with hydrogenated or saturated fat, whole milk, or whole eggs. Try low-fat baked goods, and use any toppings or spreads lightly.
  • Limit milk products which contain up to 1% milk fat. This includes whipped toppings (that often contain palm or coconut oils) nondairy coffee creamers, most cheese, and cream. Instead, try low-fat or fat-free milk (0-1% fat) and low-fat cheeses.
  • Dip bread in olive oil rather than spreading margarine or butter on your bread.
  • Avoid fast foods like tacos, fried chicken, fries, and hamburgers. They are high in both saturated fat and total fat. When you eat out, choose chicken without skin or broiled sandwiches, foods that are not fried, and salads with low-fat dressing. Ask the server to leave off the high-fat dressings (as mayonnaise) and cheese.


TLC Diet ranked in Best Diets Overall 2016, Best Heart-healthy Diets 2016, and Best Diets for Healthy Eating 2016. 38 diets were assessed with input from a panel of many experts 3 .


Tips for success:

  • Work with your GP on an eating plan to reduce high cholesterol through diet.
  • Gather information about videos, books, support groups, cooking classes, and menus.
  • Think ahead, and create customizes and realistic meal plans.
  • Get help from a nutritionist, if you have any questions about this diet.
  • Learn how to understand food labels. You should always look for the amount of saturated fat in 1 serving. “Low-fat” doesn’t always mean what it seems. Certain labels measure fat content by weight instead of a percentage of the calories in 1 serving.
  • Exercise. You should always consult your doctor before starting an exercise program. Here is a great 30-minute cardio workout that you can do at home:





To effectively lower the levels of high-cholesterol, the National Institutes of Health has come up with an eating plan known as the TLC Diet (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes) recommended by the American Heart Association 4 . This diet is proposed for reducing the risk of heart disease and involves diet together with healthy changes in lifestyle.

TLC Diet doesn’t primarily target weight-loss; instead, it’s for determining the ideal daily calorie intake and maintaining an ideal body weight.

Your GP will want you to follow TLC diet even if you are taking cholesterol-lowering medications. And, of course, medicines will work better if you have healthy eating habits.


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