How to Start a Diet to Lower Your Cholesterol and Triglycerides

Would you like to begin a diet to reduce your lipid levels, but are overwhelmed with how to start? The thought of changing lifelong eating habits can be daunting at first, but following these easy steps will make it much easier for you. You will soon see that adopting a diet to reduce high cholesterol and triglycerides can be easy and enjoyable.

A woman sitting alone on an outdoor couch

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Prepare Your Kitchen

The first step you can take towards incorporating a lipid-lowering diet into your healthy lifestyle is to stock your kitchen with heart-healthy foods. Start by throwing out or donating foods that are high in saturated fat and refined sugars. These foods are high in calories and can adversely affect your lipid levels.

Foods to exclude from your kitchen include:

  • High-sugar soft drinks
  • Potato chips
  • Cookies
  • Candy
  • Fried foods
  • Pastries

Remember, if these foods aren’t available, you can’t eat them! Consider limiting these foods to special occasions only, if you eat them at all. If you must keep these foods in the house for other family members, place them behind healthy foods in your cabinet or refrigerator. That way, if you become tempted to reach for unhealthy foods, you will see healthy foods first.

Despite some of the foods you are eliminating from your diet, there are plenty of cholesterol-friendly foods you can include, such as:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Fish
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Whole grain products

Get to Know Your Grocery Store

With the wide selection of foods, grocery shopping can sometimes get quite overwhelming when starting a lipid-lowering diet and this can place you at risk of resorting back to your tried-and-true, unhealthy foods.

To get around this, you should always create a list of healthy foods you would like to eat before going to the grocery store and stick to it. If you do not like to make lists, you can select cholesterol-friendly foods by “shopping the perimeter.” Fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products are found in the outside aisles of the grocery store, while packaged and processed foods are stored in the interior aisles.

Purchase two fresh fruits or vegetables that you have not tried before or have not had in a while. Fresh fruits and vegetables, such as apples, berries, bananas, carrots, and broccoli, are an important source of soluble fiber, which can lower your LDL cholesterol levels.

For packaged foods, start looking at snacks and meals with health claims of “high-fiber” or “whole-grain” and begin to look at the nutrition facts label listed on the product. Don’t feel that you have to completely understand the information listed on the nutrition label right away; just get in the habit of looking at it for now.

Research Restaurants

Eating out is sometimes another source of added fat and calories to your lipid-lowering diet. To make your dining experience a more cholesterol-friendly one, you may need to do a little research before you go out to eat. Go online and look at the menus of restaurants you visit often, as well as new restaurants that you have not tried before. Look for heart-healthy or vegetarian icons next to foods, and consider trying some of these dishes the next time you dine out. Some restaurants will also list calorie, saturated fat, and carbohydrate content of the food—which is also helpful when planning your meals. Getting in the habit of checking out a restaurant’s menu before you dine will help you to cut calories from your meal when you eat out and avoid potentially unhealthy foods.

Try Healthier Cooking Techniques

If you opt to make your own meals instead of eating out, there are some ways you can make your foods more heart-healthy. By using the following cooking techniques, you can cut out fat and calories from your dish:

  • Baking
  • Broiling
  • Roasting
  • Steaming
  • Grilling
  • Boiling

You should avoid frying your foods since this can introduce extra saturated fat and unhealthy trans fats to your meal.

A Word From Verywell

Use the new information you have learned to decide which changes you will make. It may be helpful to write out both short- and long-term goals for improving your diet and place them on your refrigerator door. Be realistic about the changes you will be willing and able to make. Consider your motivation level, daily schedule, and lifestyle when listing your goals.

By Ellen Slotkin, RD, LDN
Ellen Slotkin is a registered dietitian specializing in heart-healthy nutrition, weight management, and pregnancy nutrition.