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, bread, cereals and pasta, and lean meats. The guidelines are broad enough that you’ll have a lot of latitude with what you eat.
- Not a fad diet – it’s government-endorsed
- You’re on your own
- Must decode nutrition labels
Popularity of the TLC Diet
TLC Diet is Ranked
- No.2 diet in Best Heart-Healthy Diets (Tie)
- No.3 diet in Best Diets for Healthy Eating
- No.5 diet in Best Overall Diets (Tie)
- No.6 diet in Best Diets for Diabetics (Tie)
- No.8 diet in Easiest Diets to Follow (Tie)
- No.8 diet in Best Weight-Loss Diets (Tie)
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.)
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.
How much does TLC Diet cost?
Other than your grocery bill, which should be no higher than usual, there are no expenses.
Will TLC Diet help you lose weight?
It’s unclear whether this diet will help you lose weight since it was designed to improve cholesterol levels, not for weight loss. But research suggests that in general, low-fat diets tend to promote weight loss. And according to NIH, if you lose 10 pounds, you’ll decrease your LDL by 5 to 8% – a double-bonus for your efforts.
- In one study, 120 overweight people followed either the Atkins diet or the TLC diet for six months. At the end of that period, Atkins dieters had lost an average of 31 pounds, compared with 20 for TLC dieters, according to findings published in 2004 in the Annals of Internal Medicine. (If you’re overweight, losing just 5 to 10% of your current weight can help stave off some diseases.)
How easy is TLC Diet to follow?
The TLC Diet is ranked No. 8 in the Easiest Diets to Follow
Whether this diet is easy to follow depends on your knack for tracking what you eat. It’s up to you, for example, to ensure that no more than 7% of your daily calories come from saturated fat and that you don’t exceed 200 milligrams of daily cholesterol from food.
- This diet isn’t the greatest when it comes to convenience. The TLC diet takes work and a certain aptitude for reading nutrition labels. And aside from an 80-page manual available online – called “Your Guide To Lowering Your Cholesterol With TLC“– there are few resources to help you along.
- Does the TLC diet provide many recipes? The manual contains a few suggested meal plans, but no recipes. However, there are several books available about the TLC diet, which do include recipes – for example, “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the TLC Diet: Lower Your Cholesterol with This Heart-Healthy Eating Plan.” You can look at some other popular books on the TLC Diet.
- Eating out on this diet is doable, but it takes some effort. You’ll have to decipher which menu choices are the lowest in saturated fat and cholesterol. The smartest choices in restaurants are steamed, broiled, baked, roasted, or poached entrees. Don’t be afraid to make special requests; for example, swap fries for a salad, and get the dressing on the side.
- The TLC diet offers some extras. For example, included in the NCEP’s “Your Guide To Lowering Your Cholesterol With TLC” are dining-out tips, sample menus, and primers on why cholesterol matters, and exercise tips.
- Feeling full on the TLC diet won’t be a problem. Nutrition experts emphasize the importance of satiety, the satisfied feeling that you’ve had enough. Hunger shouldn’t be a problem on the TLC diet. You’ll be eating lots of fiber-packed fruits and veggies, which quell the hunger.
- Does this diet taste good? How much will you miss the butter, fast food, and creamy sauce? If you like your food greasy or have a sweet tooth, the TLC diet may not make you salivate. But a little lemon and spices can make a seemingly bland chicken breast delicious. For dessert, non-fat frozen yogurt, low-fat sorbet, and frozen pops are all in-bounds.
How much should you exercise on TLC Diet?
The program calls for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise – like brisk walking – most or all days of the week. Being physically active lowers your risk of heart disease and diabetes, helps keep weight off and increases your energy level.