TLC Diet – High Cholesterol-Lowering Diet for Better Heart

What Is the TLC Diet?

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The TLC diet refers to the Therapeutic Lifestyle Change diet a healthy eating plan created to enhance heart health. It was created by the National-Institutes-of-Health help to lower the risk of stroke and heart problems. The goal of the diet is to increase blood levels of complete and bad LDL cholesterol to clear arteries and manage heart health. It works by adding components of the diet, workout, and weight control to save against heart disease. Unlike different diet programs, the TLC diet is planned to be followed in the long term and should be evaluated extra of a lifestyle change instead of a fad diet.

Additionally, to reducing cholesterol levels, the TLC diet has been linked with a range of different health benefits, from more immune functions to lower oxidative stress and more.


How It Works

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The TLC diet has a mix of both lifestyle and diet changes that have been indicated to enhance heart health. Especially, it concerns changing the fat types you eat and boosting your consumption of health-boosting syntheses like soluble fiber and plant sterols that can help to drop cholesterol levels. It also pairs dietary changes with more physical activity to help weight control and increase heart muscle strength.

The primary guidelines for following the TLC diet have:

Eat some calories to manage a healthy weight

25-35% of everyday calories should come from fat

Lower than 7% of your everyday calories should come from saturated fat.

Lower than 7% of daily calories should come from saturated fat

Dietary cholesterol consumption should be limited to lower than 200 mg each day.

Have a goal for 10-25 gm of soluble fiber daily

Eat at least 2 gm of stanols or plant sterols every day

Get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each day

Following the TLC diet commonly involves boosting your consumption of vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, seeds, and nuts to bump up your fiber consumption. Adding 30 minutes of physical activity each day to your routine is also suggested, which can involve activities like running, walking, swimming, and cycling.

Meanwhile, you should lower high fat and cholesterol-rich foods like dairy products, meat, processed foods, and egg yolks to stick within the suggested everyday amount, which helps to increase results.


What Can You Eat?

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Overall, the TLC diet is considered a low-fat diet that has low cholesterol and can be followed in the long term. While it imposes different rules and restrictions, it has been successfully called to help people reduce their cholesterol levels. Followers of the LC plan manage to the following nutritional rules.

Consume only some calories to manage a healthy weight

25%-35% of calories should come from total fat with saturated fat.

Saturated fat should account for lower than 7% of calories

Lower dietary cholesterol to lower than 200 mg per day

Eat 3 grams of stanols and plant sterols each day.

Boost soluble fiber to between 10 gm and 25 gm each day

Lower meat consumption to 5 ounces or lower each day

If heart health is your only goal, the TLC manual recommends 2500 calories each day for males and 1800 for females. If weight loss is a secondary aim, a male should lower calories to 1200 – 1600 daily, and a female should focus around 1000 – 1200 calories each day.


What do You Need to Know?

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The TLC diet is divided into 3 components: physical activity, diet, and weight management. The program suggests 30 minutes of moderate-intensity-workout to boost weight management. Followers should aim to work out most days of the week, if not each day. Both physical activity and diet contribute to healthy weight management. According to a medical expert, being obese or overweight boosts the risk of high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and more. The TLC diet improves people to make an effort to reach a healthy weight to lower the risk of serious health problems. The TLC diet also focuses on eating behaviors. For example, the program suggests against eating snacks or dinner while watching TV, as this can cause overeating. You can also practice slowing down your food to give your brain more to register fullness.


What to Eat


Whole grains

Nuts and seeds



Lean cuts of skinless meat

Low-fat dairy products


Some vegetable oils


What Not to Eat

Processed meats

Fatty cuts of meat

Egg yolks

Fried and processed foods

Excess sugar and  salt

Full-fat dairy products

Large amounts of alcohol


Whole Grains

The TLC diet is not a diet with a low-carb diet, so grains are strongly improved with at least 6-servings of whole grains each day. It includes brown rice, old grains like pasta, quinoa, cereals, bread, and crackers made with whole grains.



Increasing legumes consumption like lentils and beans will promote the intake of heart-healthy fiber. There is no suggested amount of serving each day for legumes, but they should be regularly taken because they are a strong source of soluble fiber.

Nuts and Seeds

While the TLC diet is a low-fat diet, it is not a zero-fat diet. People with this plan are motivated to eat good sources of fat, like seeds and nuts. Eat them in moderation to assure you keep within the range of 25-35% of total calories from fat.



High-fiber vegetables are suggested for the TLC diet. They have naturally low fat and calories, so they can help to get both weight management and heart health goals. It is ideal to eat 3-5 servings of vegetables.



Fruit is another way to boost fiber consumption in this diet. The TLC diet guidelines suggest including fruit in cereals and eating fresh fruits in place of fruit juice. Dried and canned fruits without including extra sugar are allowed. Aim for 2-4serving each day.


Low-Fat Dairy Products

Low fat or fat-free dairy products can be eaten 2-3 times each day. Ensure there are no more than 3 grams of fat in each ounce.


Lean Cuts of Skinless Meat

Poultry, red meat, and fish are all allowed on the TLC diet as long as they are skinless, lean, and low in saturated fat. Lean protein sources made with soy like tofu are also allowed. If you eat meat, the maximum is 5 ounces each day.

Some Margarine and Vegetable Oils 

People following the TLC diet can eat unsaturated vegetable oils like canola oil and olive oil. They are also motivated to eat particularly labeled margarine and vegetable oil applied that consist of sterols or plant stanols, which are thought to help in lowering cholesterol.


Fatty Cuts of Meat

While you can eat meat during the TLC diet, meats containing high saturated fat are off-limits. Examples include fatty cuts of pork, beef, and lamb. You should also skip meat with skin, such as poultry with skin. Always trim extra fat from meat.


Processed Meat

Processed meats like sausage, bacon, and hot dogs are very high in dietary cholesterol and saturated fat for the TLC diet. These are foods that lead to raised cholesterol levels and the risk of heart problems.


Fried and Processed Foods

To lower your trans-fat consumption, skip foods fried in hydrogenated oil. Examples have fried chicken and french fries. You should also remove other processed foods from your diet, including crackers, potato chips, cookies, and more. These foods are typically high in added sugar and salt and are also linked with more risk of heart problems.


Egg Yolks

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The TLC diet takes a strict view against egg yolks because they are high in dietary cholesterol. Egg whites are allowed, however, and the suggestion to skip dietary cholesterol may be outdated.


Full-Fat Dairy Products

Whole milk dairy products include butter, cream, and cheese. Since these are not low-fat options, they’re not recommended on the TLC diet. These foods are high in both saturated fat and dietary cholesterol, which should be limited to this plan.


Extra Salt and Sugar

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Lowering salt consumption is particularly essential for people who wish to reduce blood pressure. The TLC diet needs followers to restrict their consumption of salt to one teaspoon of low each day. Extra sugar is also restricted sugar is also banned as a measure to reduce blood triglyceride levels.


Excess Alcohol

Alcohol on the TLC diet is not suggested, but small amounts are allowed. When should eat no more than one serving each day, and male a maximum of two servings each day?

High-calorie alcohol is not suggested for people who wish to lower their weight on the TLC diet. Alcohol is also thought to contribute to high triglycerides and high blood pressure.


Sample Shopping List

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The TLC diet has whole foods and lower foods high in cholesterol and saturated fat. The following sample shopping list provides recommendations to help you begin this plan. Note that this shopping list is not all-inclusive, and there may be different foods to choose from.

Fruit like apples, berries, and bananas

High-fiber vegetables like carrots, broccoli, and Brussels

Whole grains like pasta, whole grain bread, rice, oatmeal, and quinoa barley

Legumes (kidney beans, lentils, black beans, peas)

Low-fat dairy products like yogurt, milk, and cottage cheese

Seeds and nuts like walnuts, almonds, macadamia nuts

Heart-healthy oils like canola oil, olive oil, and sunflower oil

Lean protein sources like turkey, chicken, salmon, tofu, tuna, and lean ground beef

Eggs (consume the whites only)

Margarine (with plant sterols)


Sample Meal Plan

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The TLC diet has one snack and three meals. Meals are divided into breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you generally avoid breakfast, that is one habit the TLC diet wish to break, as avoiding meals is not allowed.

Waiting a long time between meals can cause overeating later or create food choices that do not align with the guidelines of the diet.

The following 3-day meal plan will give you a sense of the TLC diet. Note that this meal plan is not all-inclusive. If you do select to follow this diet, there may be different meals that are extra appropriate for your tastes, budget, and preference.


Day 1


Have ounces of orange juice, buckwheat groats, and 3/4 cup maple pumpkin pie


Eat feta salad and roasted beet, 1-serving of hummus tuna cucumber bites


One serving of honey, herbed mustard salmon, 3 ounces of spring mix greens, 11/4 cups oven roasted potatoes, tossed with extra virgin olive oil.


Day 2


Eat one papaya with walnut boat and yogurt, one serving of green juice


Eat one cup of chicken salad containing almond, greek yogurt served on two slices of 12-grain bread.


Lentil and kale stuffed sweet potato, one cup rainbow vegetable soup.


Day 3


Eat one serving of overnight oatmeal with half a cup of mixed berries


Eat fennel and 11/2 cups of roasted tomato soup and 10-whole-wheat rosemary crackers.


Eat one serving of Mediterranean heart of palm salad or one serving of spinach Spaghetti Aglio e Olio.


Pros and Cons

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  • Sustainable
  • Boosts healthy lifestyle habits
  • Includes many whole foods
  • Linked with several health benefits


  • Demands diligent tracking
  • Outdated information
  • Not adapting to dietary restrictions


Promotes Healthy Lifestyle Habits

The TLC diet is not the best fad or fixed diet. It is a combination of healthy lifestyle changes that can be encouraged in long term to enhance complete health. While the focus is on heart-healthy food, the TLC diet also makes an effort to increase followers to work out regularly. Other healthy lifestyle habits boosted on the TLC diet have eating slower, drinking sufficient water, and reading nutrition labels.


Add Nutrient-Dense Whole Foods

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You must eat fewer calories than you are burning to lower weight, which is the basis of the calories in vs calories out equation.

However, the TLC diet is not only about weight loss. Some foods must be removed or drastically to lower cholesterol and the risk of a heart ailment. The diet improves nutrient-dense whole foods like vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains, seeds, and nuts, which have low saturated fat and low calories.


Tolerable for Long-Term Health

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The TLC diet was created as a long-term solution to the widespread risk of a heart ailment. While followers might begin to see results in a matter of months, they can suddenly enhance their cholesterol levels and heart ailments markers if they stick with it for the long term.

The TLC diet improves healthy, whole foods, which can boost weight loss and be particularly helpful in reducing cholesterol while also lowering the heart disease risk.



Might Be Outdated

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One of the largest critiques of the TLC diet is that it is outdated. Several studies on the TLC diet are from the early 2000s. There is concern that some of the suggestions of the TLC diet manual are not necessary, such as lowering dietary cholesterol to 200 mg per day.

The 2020 report issued in Circulation indicates that healthy dietary patterns can lower the heart disease risk more effectively than a specific target for dietary cholesterol. A recommendation that provides a specific dietary cholesterol target under the context of food-based guidance is challenging for medical and buyers to implement, the researchers finished.


Needs Diligent Tracking

The TLC diet has macronutrients and specific calorie needs for its followers. People on this diet must track their food consumption to ensure that they meet these needs.


Not Adjusting to Dietary Restrictions

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For those with food allergies, managing the TLC diet needs some creativity. The manual does not provide advice for people who skip some foods that are suggested on this diet. With some modifications, however, the TLC diet can still suit the requirements of this individual. Vegetarians or vegans, for example, can adopt a meatless TLC diet by changing out lean meats for legumes or soy protein. When choosing alternatives like dairy-free yogurt and gluten-free bread, you will need to make sure they fit into macronutrient and calorie goals and stick to the TLC diet guidelines.


Is the TLC Diet a Healthy Option for You?

The TLC diet is not the only diet that claims to lower cholesterol levels and heart disease. Several diets that improve heart health tend to focus on whole foods that are naturally dropped in fat. They also tend to be restrictive. Similar heart-healthy diets have:


Whole foods diet

Like the TLC diet, the whole foods diet improves unprocessed foods that are naturally reduced in calories, salt, saturated fat, and sugar. It is typically regarded as a nutritious and safe diet.


Engine 2 diet

This restrictive diet removes vegetable oils and animal products. It is known to get heart health benefits and also help in weight loss.


Mediterranean diet

Widely known for its heavy use of olive oil, the Mediterranean diet is also linked with a lowered risk of heart disease. It also has processed foods yet high in fiber. However, this diet may be more in fat than the TLC diet.

In terms of how the TLC diet compares to those suggested by health experts, there is certainly more to overlap. The US-Department-of-Agriculture’s-2020–2025 Dietary-Guidelines-for-Americans suggest a variety of nutrient-rich foods like vegetables, fruits, lean protein sources, whole grains, healthy fats, and low-fat dairy products for a well-balanced diet.

While the USDA’s guidelines are for common people, the TLC diet is created particularly with heart health in mind.

The TLC diet is low in saturated fat and dietary cholesterol compared to the USDA’s suggestion. For adults, the USDA suggests no more than 10% of complete daily calories from saturated fat. The TLC diet is very strict, with a recommendation of lesser than 7% of calories from saturated fat.


Who May Get Benefit from the TLC Diet?

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If you are worried about your cholesterol levels and are interested in utilizing a lifestyle and diet approach to get them back under control, this diet may be a fit for you. Heart disease is still the number one disease in the US.

Cholesterol is one of the foremost risk factors for a heart problem. With physical and dietary interventions, you can work hard to lower it. That said, there are examples when diet changes alone will not be enough, and you may need to get in medication. It can be helpful to add both medications and lifestyle to get down your cholesterol.


Heart Health and Other Benefits

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The TLC diet is created to help reduce cholesterol levels and drop heart disease risk. According to one research of 32 days in 36 people with high cholesterol, the TLC diet was able to lower bad or LDL cholesterol levels by an average of 11%. (4Trusted Source).

Another research discovered that following the TLC diet for 6 weeks led to good reductions in total cholesterol and triglyceride levels, especially in the male.

One of the ways it works is by boosting an increase in soluble fiber consumption, which has lined to drop cholesterol levels and lower heart disease risk. The TLC diet also suggests eating plant stanols and sterols. These are natural syntheses found in vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, seeds, and nuts that have been shown to reduce blood levels of bad cholesterol.

Adding exercise into your routine and moderating consumption of saturated fat can also help to level the LDL cholesterol. Additionally, this diet is linked with more health benefits, including:


Improving Immune Function

One small research on 18 people showed that following a TLC diet improved immune function in older adults with more cholesterol.


Boosting Weight Loss

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Getting normal exercise, keeping calorie consumption in check, and boosting soluble fiber consumption can all be effective strategies to boost sustainable weight loss.


Stabilizing Blood Sugar

The TLC diet has increased soluble fiber, which can slow down the sugar absorption in the blood to manage the blood sugar levels.


Lowering Oxidative Stress

Research on 31 adults with diabetes showed that following a TLC diet high in legumes lower oxidative stress, which is thought to be linked to the growth of the chronic disease.


Reducing Blood Pressure

Research shows that boosting your soluble fiber consumption can reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels.


Health Risks

While there are no health risks linked with the TLC diet, the suggestions for calorie consumption for weight loss are less, especially for females at just 1000 – 1200 calories each day. A diet that is very low in calories is not sustainable, nor is it good for athletes or people who are breastfeeding or pregnant. Following a low-calorie diet for a reached period may also boost feelings of calorie diet for time may also boost feelings of fatigue and hunger and slow the metabolism of the body.


A Word from Very well

The TLC diet is not new, yet several people become new followers of this plan each year. Despite some of the critiques, the diet is still suggested by several health experts as a way to make a heart-healthy lifestyle modification.

If you are at risk of heart disease and high cholesterol, ask your physician about the TLC diet. Though it is low in cholesterol and fat, it is also high in water consumption, complex carbohydrates, nutrients, and dietary fiber to improve healthy habits like normal exercise. Overall, the TLC diet is not only a diet, it is a lifestyle with the goal of enhanced wellbeing and health.


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