The National Institutes of Health noticed an increase in diseases that that were related to high cholesterol, most notably in heart attacks and strokes. With that in mind, they set out to create the National Cholesterol Education Program in 1985 to help combat the increasing cholesterol problem in the United States. After starting up the program, they came up with a diet that had been focused on heart health, but has since been used as a weight loss program.
The diet is known as the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes program, but is more commonly known as the TLC Diet. New changes in the program over the years have shifted much of the mainstream focus to weight loss, but the plan’s makers are still very much focused on the cholesterol aspect of the diet. If you’re looking for a government created plan that will help your overall health and allow you to lose weight, then the TLC Diet could definitely be the right one for you. Let’s take a look at the aspects of the TLC Diet.
Components of the TLC Diet
There are five main focuses of the TLC Diet that each participant should be trying hard to achieve, and they are:
- No more than 200 mg of cholesterol per day
- 25 to 35 percent of calories from total fat
- 30 minutes of physical activity every day
- No more than seven percent of daily calories from saturated fat
- Calorie reduction to lose weight if not already at healthy weight
People that participate in the TLC Diet should see a drop in their Low-density lipoprotein, which you probably know more commonly as LDL cholesterol. Six weeks into the program should see both a decrease in this type of cholesterol, as well as body weight. This plan has been recommended by doctors across the United States, and should still be followed by those that are on a cholesterol lowering medication. Also, if you are a smoker, there is a focus on getting you to quit cigarettes, as well.
The TLC Diet Menu
Before you can even think about what specific foods you should be eating in a given day, there are some nutrition guidelines you need to follow on the TLC Diet. Here is what makes up your daily intake of calories:
- 50 to 60 Percent from Carbohydrates
- 25 to 35 Percent From Total Fat
- <20 Percent From Monounsaturated Fat
- 15 Percent From Protein
- <10 Percent From Polyunsaturated Fat
- <7 Percent Saturated Fat
- 20 to 30 Grams of Dietary Fiber
- <200 mg of Cholesterol
With that in mind, you are probably wondering what types of food are going to be suggested that fall into the guidelines. Here is what the average day is going to look like while on the TLC Diet:
- 1 Whole Egg
- 1 Cup of Nonfat Yogurt
- 1 Apple
- 1 Cup of Fat-Free Milk
- 1 Slice of Bread
- 1 Cup of Cooked Pasta
- 2 Cups of Leafy Greens
- 2 Cups of Rice
- 4 Ounces of Lean Poultry
- 2 Cups of Raw Vegetables
- 1 Cup of Berries
- 1 Cup of Baby Carrots
One thing that you won’t be seeing on the typical daily menu is sweets, but you are allowed to have them within your calorie limit. However, it’s better that you stay under your calorie limit slightly on a daily basis instead of trying to get up to your limit on sugary foods alone. If you need an extra 100 calories to avoid going too far under your daily limit, vegetables would be a great way to do it. Not only is it better for you, but you can eat quite a bit before hitting the 100 calorie mark.
Risk Factors and Getting Started
Since the focal point of the TLC Diet is getting your cholesterol lowered, there are risk factors that you need to know that will affect your cholesterol. Your family history of cholesterol and your age can’t be managed, but you can focus on changing the other factors that will be helped with the TLC Diet. Diabetes management, physical activity, weight, blood pressure and smoking are all things that you can change for the positive on the TLC Diet. After going through the program for a few months, you should see your LDL Cholesterol drop significantly. Anything below 100 mg/dL is ideal, although below 130 should be the aim.
When you get started on the TLC Diet with your doctor, they will lay out the plan where the first focal point will be on reducing calories, reducing the bad fats and cholesterol and promoting exercise. This is the phase where you set out for lifestyle changes. After six weeks, you will start to add more fiber and stanols to your diet while being measured for LDL and continuing to reduce the fats and cholesterol. After another six weeks, you start a four to six month routine of having your cholesterol checked and managing your weight.
Your doctor will be there to answer any questions you have along the way, so make sure to not leave the office without having all of those concerns addressed. You should also be honest with your doctor about your health history, so you know what the perfect path to success will be. Adjustments can also be made to the program if you are struggling to see the results you want, and there’s nothing like a trained professional that can get you toward the right goal.
Losing Weight with TLC
While all of this talk about your heart health is great, you of course are looking to drop some pounds on the TLC Diet. Those that want to manage their weight should be eating around 2,500 calories per day on this plan (for men) and 1,800 for women. The calories can be adjusted, which is typically around 1,600 for men and 1,200 for women. Since this is a program designed by trained physicians, they would never suggest that you eat fewer calories than the amount provided.
That might seem like a lot of calories while on a weight loss program compared to some of the other diets that we have broken down, but that’s a healthy number to shoot for. Other popular diets have asked you to eat anywhere between 600 to 1,200 calories per day, which can lead to quick weight loss, but is not a sustainable goal. The TLC Diet wants you to be dropping one to two pounds per week during your weight loss program, and you can return to around 2,000 calories per day to maintain your weight.
On average, those that followed the TLC Diet lost 10 pounds less than those that were on the popular Atkins Diet over the span of six months, but dropping 20 pounds and lowering your LDL will have tremendous long term benefits. Another great benefit of the TLC Diet is that you can still eat out at restaurants provided that you are sticking to your daily nutrient suggestions. As for alcohol, you should only be drinking a maximum of one drink per day. In fact, one glass of wine a day will end up being good for your heart.
One thing that people have said is a negative for the TLC Diet is the lack of resources compared to some of the other popular diets around. There is no massive online community like many of the BeachBody or similar diets, but that shouldn’t be a concern. Your resource will be your doctor, and that’s probably one of the best resources that you could ask for. The United States Department of Health and Human Services has also made an in-depth guide for following the TLC Diet, so that will be a helpful boost, as well.
Summing it Up
Getting bathing suit ready in a few days is not the goal of the TLC Diet, but instead looking to increase your lifespan and improve your overall health, especially in the cardiology department. While it can sound hard to stick to, a little boring (and you may not like going to the doctor’s office), it’s one of the best diets out there. Experts have claimed that it’s right up there in terms of best overall diets.
Short term weight loss is not the goal, as you are more focused on the slow and steady marathon that is weight loss instead of a sprint. That’s why the TLC Diet has been ranked among the healthiest, though it doesn’t get high marks in quick weight loss. It is also perhaps the safest of the diets that we have reviewed as you will be monitored by your physician and there are no notable side effects like crashing or a quick drop in blood sugar like diets that involve fasting.
Overall, it’s hard not to suggest the TLC Diet if you are looking for a lifestyle change. It’s not the sexiest weight loss program out there, but it certainly has proven to be one of the most effective.