Home > Health Library > High Cholesterol: Using the TLC Diet
Diet changes are usually the first step in lowering high cholesterol before medicines are added.
Many people whose cholesterol is high because they eat too many fatty foods are able to lower their cholesterol with diet changes alone.
The TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes) diet is recommended
by the National Cholesterol Education Program of the U.S. National Institutes
of Health. It calls for limiting saturated fats and avoiding trans fats in your diet.
The TLC diet focuses on cutting back on sugar.
The TLC diet focuses on limiting fats in your diet.
Continue to Why?
Limiting the amount of fat in your diet can lower cholesterol. The TLC diet helps you limit how much fat you eat.
Diet changes are usually the first step in lowering cholesterol before medicines are added.
If you use the TLC diet, you may be able to avoid taking medicine.
Following the TLC diet may lower my cholesterol.
You may be able to lower your cholesterol by following the TLC diet, especially if you are overweight.
Continue to How?
The TLC diet may seem complicated at first, but it's really not. Follow the guidelines in the table below, but take one step at a time. For example, start with the meat and beans group. When you feel confident that you're eating the right amount and type of meat and beans every day, move on to the next category.
You can also get help from a dietitian.
Lean meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, and dry
No more than 5 ounces total a day
No more than 2 yolks a week
Low-fat milk and milk
2–3 a day
2–4 a day
3–5 a day
Bread, cereals, pasta, rice, and other
At least 6 servings a day
Sweets and snacks
Within calorie limit (check labels for number of calories per portion)
Choose snacks that are low in fat or are made
with unsaturated fat.
For an example, see the topic TLC Diet Sample Menu.
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.
Check food labels for fat and cholesterol content. Try to:
For more suggestions on foods to eat and foods to avoid, see Healthy Food Choices to Lower Cholesterol.
If I follow the TLC diet, I can't have any sweets.
You can eat sweets on the TLC diet as long as you don't overdo it. Stay within your calorie limit, and choose sweets that are low in fat or are made
with unsaturated fat.
Continue to Where?
Now that you have read this information, you are ready to start following the TLC diet.
If you have questions about this information, print it out and take it with you when you visit your doctor. You may want to mark areas or make notes where you have questions.
Visit the American Heart Association (AHA) website for information on
physical activity, diet, and various heart-related conditions. You can search for information on heart disease and stroke, share information with friends and family, and use tools to help you make heart-healthy goals and plans. Contact the AHA to find your
nearest local or state AHA group. The AHA provides brochures and information
about support groups and community programs, including Mended Hearts, a
nationwide organization whose members visit people with heart problems and
provide information and support.
The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) provides education and tips for patients about how to lower high cholesterol. The NCEP provides clinical practice guidelines for health professionals to treat high cholesterol. The goal of the NCEP is to help people lower high cholesterol because this can lower their risk of coronary artery disease. The NCEP is part of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
(NHLBI) information center offers information and publications about preventing
Return to topic:
Other Works Consulted
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.
June 18, 2012
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Rhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
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