When you first decide to commit to a low-fat meal plan, your trips to the grocery store may seem like a harrowing task. Looking for foods with the right combination of ingredients that make it low in fat, high in fiber and without trans-fats may cause confusion – especially if you are relying on reading food labels to gather your information.
Fortunately, there are plenty of delicious foods that you can eat while following a cholesterol-lowering diet. Try some of these healthy tips that will help take the guesswork out of selecting cholesterol-friendly foods next time you head to the grocery store:
Have a plan.As with any type of diet, it is important to have a meal plan when you are following a cholesterol-lowering diet. This includes ingredients for foods that you will prepare for the week, as well as any staple, everyday foods that you would need in your kitchen, such as bread, certain vegetables, spices and cooking oils. A meal plan can be a little tedious to construct at first, but it can be a very helpful tool – especially during those times when your appetite may take over, leaving you vulnerable to consuming fattening foods.
Stick to your list.Always make a list before you go food shopping and stick to it. It is very easy to stray from a shopping list you have mentally prepared. There are many distractions that could derail you from selecting heart-healthy foods, especially if you are hungry or a particular food is on sale. If you are familiar with the foods you are purchasing, bring just enough money to pay for those foods. This will ensure you stick to the list, without introducing potentially fattening items into your shopping cart. Additionally, it will prevent you from spending money on things you may not need or use.
Buy low-fat.When looking for your favorite foods, select products that are labeled "low-fat" or "fat-free," if they are available. You can typically find this option in dairy products, dressings, certain luncheon meats and some snack foods. Don’t forget to check your labels for refined sugars, as some low-fat products may contain a higher sugar content to make up for lost fat in their foods. This could add additional calories to your diet.
Don’t forget your fruits and veggies.Don’t skip out on the produce department when you’re walking through the aisles. Vegetables and fruits offer a lot of flavor to our meals, and can be consumed as a quick, healthy snack. Any vegetable or fruit can add vitamins and fiber to your cholesterol-lowering diet. Additionally, these foods – as well as nuts and whole grains - contain healthy chemicals called phytosterols, which have been shown in some studies to help lower LDL or "bad" cholesterol.
Check your food labels.Food labels can be very helpful when shopping for low-fat foods. If you’re in doubt as to whether or not a particular food would adversely affect your cholesterol, consult the label on the back of the food package. Be sure to avoid foods that are labeled as having high amounts of cholesterol, saturated fats, trans fats, or foods that are labeled as containing "partially hydrogenated" oils. Foods containing these ingredients have the potential to raise your cholesterol levels, especially if they are consumed in high amounts. Additionally, you should select foods that are high in soluble fiber, since these foods are more cholesterol-friendly and can keep you feeling fuller after meals.
Rolfes SR, Whitney E. Understanding Nutrition, 3rd ed 2005.