Stacey Frattinger, RD, CHFS, Certified Integrative Health Coach, currently resides in Sparks, NV. She owns a virtual health coaching and nutrition counseling practice, mainly focusing on one-on-one, individualized whole body wellness practices.
The TLC diet is often used in conjunction with a very specific set of lab testing to first analyze your cholesterol particle size and risk category. The lifestyle plan then provides a step-by-step plan to help you lower your LDL cholesterol and heart disease risk. You’ll start the program by following a heart healthy diet and gradually build up your level of physical activity. The key guidelines of the diet include: keeping your saturated fat intake below 7 percent of your total calorie intake; keeping cholesterol intake below 200 milligrams daily; limiting sodium to 2,300 mg per day; limiting fats to 25-35 percent of your daily total calories; getting at least 30 minutes of exercise each day.
The TLC diet, which stands for “Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes”, is a dietary plan endorsed by the National Cholesterol Education Program, part of the National Institutes of Health, to help individuals control high cholesterol. The National Cholesterol Education Program was created in 1985, by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in an effort to help reduce cardiovascular disease rates in the United States specifically by addressing the increasing prevalence of high cholesterol. The TLC diet can used alone or in conjunction with medication management to help improve one’s health status and lab values by following the TLC guide. This plan is endorsed and backed by the support of the American Heart Association (AHA) and American College of Cardiology (ACC).
Reading through the official TLC guide, which is approximately 80 pages long, will help to set you up for success. If you are willing to keep documentation of your food choices, and perhaps use an online food logging system, this plan will be much easier to stick to because you will be able to better track your calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, and fiber intake.
You will probably not notice a significant increase in grocery spending as you can design your own shopping list and meals according to the guidelines. It is not necessary to take supplements as part of this plan; however, there are some effective over-the-counter plant sterol and stanol supplements (i.e. CholestOff) and fiber supplements (i.e. PGX fiber) which some physicians recommend taking along with the plan to avoid or delay adding medication into the patient’s treatment. It is also often helpful to add in a good quality Omega-3 fish oil with the TLC diet as well.
It is important to know the guide itself is 80 pages long, so plan to spend some time reading this first. The rest is up to you in terms of what is ideal for meal preparation and grocery shopping. It is possible to eat out if you consciously make “heart healthy” choices by reading a nutrition facts guided posted or by making special requests to your server to either put high-fat sauces and condiments on the side or avoid using in preparation of your meal.
No reported concerns have been reported in terms of serious side effects from following this diet, and there are no indications of risks for following this plan amongst all of the age groups.
Because this is not intended to be a fad diet, and is evidence-based, the plan itself is not contentious or highly debated. This plan is really intended to impact an individual’s overall health, and one can’t argue with the facts and research presented in the guide.
Benefits: The guide is a helpful source of education for those who don’t quite understand what trans-fats are, and why they should be avoided. This is one of the few plans that also provides great information on the benefit of a high plant sterol and plant stanol diet, encouraging 2 grams per day. It is also a high-fiber diet, recommending the consumption of 10-25 grams of fiber daily to delay starting a medication to treat cholesterol or to enhance the cholesterol-lowering medication an individual is already on.
Downsides: This diet is very percentage heavy. The recommended grams of total fat and saturated fat actual amounts, will vary for each person depending the calorie needs for weight loss or maintenance. It would be fairly difficult for the average person to calculate those specific percentages without the assistance of a registered dietitian. Even with following the plan as outlined, you still may need to go on medication to lower your cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure.
The Bottom Line: The plan can be tailored to help improve cholesterol, as well as aid in weight loss, depending on your needs. Recipes and shopping lists are primarily up to you. This plan might be a good fit for someone who is dedicated to reading nutrition labels and enjoys experimenting with new ingredients in recipes that would normally be fat and cholesterol-laden.