Spring is in the air, and so are new diet plans. Everyone wants that certain body type or to get rid of a few extra pounds before it’s time to pull out their summer wardrobe, and there are hundreds of diets out there promising results. Most focus on weight loss, but weight loss alone isn’t always an indicator of health. And diets that call for extreme eating changes aren’t always healthy or palatable long-term. You may be able to eat only cabbage soup for a week, but not for the rest of your life! And often the fast weight loss these diets promise is gained back just as quickly, a phenomenon that’s well-documented and may be the result of diets that are too restrictive.
It might be time for something new on the diet scene. US News and World Report has released their diet rankings for 2017, and a diet you’ve never heard of has taken the 4th slot in the overall rankings, is 3rd in heart-healthy diets, and ranks 18th in weight loss. It’s called the TLC diet, and its initials stand for “Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes.” It doesn’t sound trendy, and that’s because it’s not. Though weight loss is often a by-product of the diet, it doesn’t promise a supermodel body or results within a certain time frame. It was developed to combat heart disease—the number one killer of Americans—by tackling high blood cholesterol with healthy lifestyle changes, but by adjusting your caloric goals you can target healthy weight loss too.
There’s a lot of flexibility within the diet that allows people to eat things they enjoy. Like most effective plans for weight loss, the TLC diet involves counting calories and staying close to the range recommended for your height, weight, and activity level. You might have to get out your calculator for the first few weeks, but the guidelines are simple and quickly become habit.
Cut saturated fat to less than 7% of your calorie intake. For a 1500-calorie diet, that’s less than 10 grams of saturated fat, which often means less full-fat dairy and fatty meats. Trans fat, found mostly as hydrogenated oils in products like margarine and packaged foods, should be avoided if at all possible and is one of very few ingredients the TLC diet tries to cut out entirely. There’s no limit on unsaturated fats, but keep in mind that foods high in fat tend to be high in calories, so keep that calorie limit in mind when choosing foods that are high in healthy fats.
Saturated fat actually has a bigger impact on blood cholesterol levels than dietary cholesterol, but cholesterol should still be kept under 200 mg a day. Full-fat dairy products, shrimp, egg yolks, and organ meats are all high in cholesterol. These foods aren’t forbidden though. A 3.5 oz. serving of shrimp contains 189 mg of cholesterol. Just ditch the cream sauce, and opt for olive oil and herbs instead to stay under your cholesterol limit.
The TLC diet also recommends getting a lot of soluble fiber, at least 5-10 grams a day but preferably 10-25 grams a day. While insoluble fiber passes through the digestive tract pretty much undigested (giving your colon a nice workout), soluble fiber dissolves into a substance that actually coats the walls of your intestines and keeps them from absorbing dietary fat and cholesterol. Cereal grains like oatmeal, whole fruits, and beans are all good sources of soluble fiber.
Because of research that shows heart benefits for omega-3 fatty acids, the diet also recommends two fish meals a week. It also recommends avoiding foods high in sodium and restricting alcohol intake to one drink a day for women and two a day for men.
The last key part of the TLC diet is an important one—get 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity most days of the week, preferably every day. Gardening, golfing (without a cart), playing tennis, biking, and brisk walking are all examples of moderate-intensity activities, and it’s important to pick something you enjoy. Join a group, class, or club to stay motivated!
Always check with your doctor before starting a new diet, and you can check out the complete guide to the TLC diet here.