Controlling Cholesterol: Improving Meal Choices

A diet that's low in cholesterol, saturated fats, and trans fat can help improve blood cholesterol levels. To lessen the fats in your diet, you don't have to give up your favorite meals. You just have to make better choices.

Even small changes can make a big difference. A 2009 study in the journal Atherosclerosis placed 30 women with high LDL ("bad") cholesterol on a controlled diet for just over 2 months. During half of the study, the women had the partially hydrogenated soybean oil in their foods replaced with the lower fat liquid corn oil. Partially hydrogenated oil is another name for trans fat. It is in many fried foods, baked goods, and stick margarines. This one switch lowered LDL cholesterol.

Which meals are better?

Making changes in your diet can make a difference. Try the following: 

  • Instead of: Fried eggs, Try: An egg-white omelet. All the cholesterol in eggs is found in the yolks. In recipes, replace each whole egg with 2 egg whites. When baking, add a little vegetable oil for a moister consistency. 

  • Instead of: Meat lasagna, Try: Vegetable lasagna. Most saturated fat comes from animal sources, including meat and dairy products. So use reduced-fat cheese as well.

  • Instead of: A pan-fried burger, Try: A grilled burger. Start with lean ground beef. Cook on a rack to let the fat drip away. Or get rid of saturated fat completely by grilling a portobello mushroom instead of a meat burger.

  • Instead of: Deep-fried chicken, Try: Baked chicken

Even healthy oils contain about 120 calories per tablespoon. Since being overweight can increase your cholesterol, it's important to watch those calories. To further reduce fat, choose light meat and remove the skin.