The new year is in full swing, and maybe you’re not making as much progress on your weight loss goals as you had hoped. If you’re finding it tough to eat the right foods in the right portions, there are plenty of plans out there to choose from to help guide you. But if you don’t fare so well with overly restrictive regimens, the TLC diet might be worth a try.
TLC stands for Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes, and the plan was developed by the National Institutes of Health as a way to decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke. The diet aims to lower levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol in the blood to keep the arteries clear for a healthy-functioning heart. The TLC diet isn’t a fad diet, either. It’s safe to follow long-term, regarded more as a complete lifestyle change.
The premise of the diet is pretty simple, involving three parts: diet, physical activity, and weight management. For the diet portion, dieters are encouraged to decrease saturated fats, trans fats, and dietary cholesterol while adding in more plant sterols (or cholesterol-like substances that occur naturally in plants) and soluble fiber. Here are a few more guidelines for following the diet:
- Less than 7 percent of your daily calories from saturated fat.
- Less than 200 mg a day of cholesterol.
- 25–35 percent of daily calories from total fat (includes saturated fat calories).
- Lower LDL by eating 2 grams per day of plant stanols or sterols; and 10–25 grams per day of soluble fiber.
- Only enough calories to reach or maintain a healthy weight based on your BMI.
The TLC eating plan will have you loading up on vegetables and fruits as well as whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. It also suggests eating heart-healthy foods like fish high in Omega-3 fats (like salmon and tuna) as well as moderate amounts of lean poultry and meat without the skin.
On top of just changing your food intake, the TLC diet also recommends that you get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, like a brisk walk, on most (but preferably all) days of the week.
The best part about the TLC diet is that not only will it affect your cholesterol and weight, but it could also lower your blood-sugar levels and boost your immunity, helping to ward off other harmful health conditions.
One small study found that following the TLC diet resulted in improved immune function, while another found that the diet reduced oxidative stress in the body (which is known to cause disease). And because of the increase in fiber, the TLC diet could also lower blood sugar, as studies have shown that increasing your intake of soluble fiber helps to slow down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream.
The last part of the diet, maintaining a healthy weight, is about assessing your BMI and calculating how much weight you need to lose to keep your cholesterol levels in check. Ready to start? For a helpful guide on BMI as well as more instructions on how to follow the TLC diet, you can find everything you need to know (including food lists, some sample meal plans, and recipes) by clicking here.
We’re wishing you a heart-healthy 2020 to come!
This story originally appeared on our sister site, First for Women.