- Your body produces different types of fat, called cholesterol, which helps with cell building, bile production, and hormone production.
- High cholesterol levels—particularly low-density lipoprotein and triglycerides—can increase your heart disease and stroke risk and should be addressed.
- You can lower your cholesterol by making lifestyle and dietary changes, such as adding more soluble fiber to your diet and following a plant-based approach to eating.
If you’ve been diagnosed with high cholesterol, which is a total blood cholesterol level ≥ 240mg/dL, you can make dietary changes to help improve your numbers. Although everyone’s results will vary, research suggests shifting to a plant-based diet could help lower cholesterol levels.
This easy 7-day meal plan to lower cholesterol provides you with delicious options that align with a heart-healthy diet. There are a variety of plant-based meals within the sample meal plan - keep reading to get started!
High Cholesterol Basics: Getting Started
Completing a blood test is the simplest way to assess your blood cholesterol levels. This test is called a lipid panel and will measure several different types of cholesterol in your blood. Four common measurements that are used to assess your heart health are listed below:
Total Cholesterol Levels
- The measure of the total amount of cholesterol in your blood.
- This value can be further analyzed to capture a more accurate understanding of your heart health.
Low-Density Lipoproteins (LDL)
- A type of cholesterol contributing to artery blockages.
- The CDC states that high LDL levels can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
- This type of cholesterol is sometimes called “bad cholesterol.”
High-Density Lipoproteins (HDL)
- It absorbs cholesterol and carries it back to the liver, which will be removed from the body.
- The CDC states that high HDL levels are a positive attribute and can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.
- This type of cholesterol is sometimes called “good cholesterol.”
- The most common fat in your body that circulates in your bloodstream.
- Unused energy is converted into TG and stored for later. TGs can be significantly affected by diet and lifestyle.
- Too many circulating TGs can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.
What to Eat with High Cholesterol
The Mediterranean diet has been closely studied for its beneficial role in heart health and cholesterol management.
This diet pattern may help lower cholesterol because it is high in fiber (including soluble fiber, which is proven to lower LDL levels), whole foods, vitamins, and antioxidants, and overall low in saturated fats. It is a plant-centered approach to eating that promotes the inclusion of:
- Brightly colored vegetables.
- Legumes and pulses.
- A variety of fresh fruits.
- Mixed nuts and seeds.
- Whole grains
- Olive oil for cooking.
- Some poultry.
- Few servings of red meat, which tend to be higher in saturated fats (a type of fat that can increase LDL cholesterol in some people.)
- Low intake of refined sweets and desserts.
There are several health benefits to following this plant-forward approach to eating, and you can modify it to suit your preferences.
However, the recent USDA nutrition guidelines stress the importance of following a diet that aligns with your health goals and includes cultural traditions. The Mediterranean diet has a Eurocentric focus, which may not appeal to all cultures.
Working with a registered dietitian can help you build a heart-healthy nutrition plan that reflects your preferences and cultural traditions. If you’re ready to take the next step, consider booking a virtual appointment with a Nourish dietitian.
Meal Plan to Lower Cholesterol
Below is an example of a 7-day meal plan to lower cholesterol levels. The meals listed below should be adjusted to satisfy your appetite.
- Breakfast - Stovetop oatmeal prepared with 1-2% milk (or a plant-based alternative), mixed berries, unsweetened coconut shavings, and a drizzle of maple syrup.
- Lunch - Quinoa bowl with sweet potato, zucchini, broccoli, and grilled chicken. Dress with a tahini-based sauce that has fresh garlic and lemon juice.
- Dinner - Roasted lean pork loin served with a green salad and shredded beats. Serve over buckwheat.
- Snacks - Rye toast with peanut butter, hemp hearts, and dark chocolate chips; celery stalks with hummus.
- Breakfast - Whole wheat pancakes mixed with ground flax seeds, topped with fresh banana slices, ground cinnamon, and chopped walnuts. Use a vegetable-based cooking spray to grease your pan.
- Lunch - Canned salmon mixed with olive oil-based mayonnaise, fresh dill, and red onion. Serve over a whole grain bun and garnish with fresh tomato.
- Dinner - Stir-fried vegetables, including bell peppers, cabbage, onion, garlic, and zucchini. Add edamame beans for protein and dress with sesame oil, a splash of orange juice and soy sauce, and chili flakes if desired. Serve over brown rice.
- Snacks - Apple slices with nut butter; carrot sticks with hummus.
- Breakfast - Egg omelet prepared with olive oil, baby spinach, fresh tomato, and a sprinkle of feta cheese. Serve with a toasted whole-grain English muffin.
- Lunch - Bean medley soup made with canned tomatoes, carrots, onion, garlic, celery, and your favorite stock. Add fresh parsley before eating and serve with whole grain crackers.
- Dinner - BBQ vegetables (eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers) served with ground turkey meatballs and wheatberry. Garnish with fresh parsley and a splash of olive oil mixed with lemon juice.
- Snacks - Air-popped popcorn dressed with olive oil, chili seasoning, and garlic powder; snap peas with hummus.
- Breakfast - Overnight chia seeds with 1-2% milk (or a plant-based alternative), topped with raspberries, lime zest, almonds, and a dollop of Greek yogurt.
- Lunch - Lettuce wraps with grilled shrimp, cooked sweet potato, fresh mango, diced avocado, and lime. Decorate with fresh mint before eating.
- Dinner - Baked chicken drumsticks with a side of roasted squash. Make a fresh salad with shredded kale, blueberries, cucumber, and red onion. Dress with olive oil, white wine vinegar, and a drop of Dijon mustard.
- Snacks - Whole grain baked crackers with cheese; cottage cheese mixed with mashed pumpkin and ground nutmeg.
- Breakfast - Breakfast wrap made with a whole grain tortilla, cooked black beans with onion, shredded kale, fresh tomato, and avocado. Garnish with fresh cilantro and lime juice if desired.
- Lunch - Leafy green salad with lentils and chickpeas. Add sundried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, corn, and red onion. Dress with a simple olive oil and red vinaigrette sauce.
- Dinner - Baked trout dressed with fresh lemon and garlic powder, served over brown rice. Add a side of roasted brussel sprouts and carrots - seasoned with your favorite spice blend.
- Snacks - Cottage cheese with fresh pineapple; cucumber slices with hummus.
- Breakfast - Rye toast with hard-boiled eggs, sliced tomato, and fresh avocado.
- Lunch - Roasted sweet potato stuffed with white kidney beans, baby arugula, a poached egg, and drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil.
- Dinner - Whole wheat pasta with onions, tomatoes, garlic, and a red sauce with extra-lean ground beef. Serve with your favorite leafy green side salad.
- Snacks - Trail mix with fresh fruit; fresh red pepper with hummus.
- Breakfast - Quick and easy smoothie with extra soft tofu, instant oat flakes, mango, and blueberries.
- Lunch - Roasted vegetable sandwich with hummus, eggplant, bell peppers, and zucchini. Serve on whole grain bread and add a few slices of feta cheese.
- Dinner - Stovetop tilapia with capers, onions, garlic, and tomatoes. Serve over quinoa, and add a side of baked broccoli and carrots drizzled with olive oil and fresh parsley.
- Snacks - Whole grain crackers with avocado dip; hard-boiled egg on whole-grain toast with fresh tomato and mozzarella cheese. Dress with olive oil and balsamic vinegar reduction.
If you want more information on managing your cholesterol levels, consider booking a virtual appointment with a Nourish dietitian. Most insurance providers are connected with Nourish and can cover the cost of your appointment.
Tips for Meal Preparation
Dedicating time to meal preparation can help you build a meal plan that is easy to follow. To start, choose a day of the week to commit a few hours to meal planning and preparation consistently.
You can wash and cut all your vegetables and fruits, or cook and store meals in the fridge. Taking these extra steps can save you valuable time during the week and relieve your nightly cooking oblgations.
Freezing and batch-cooking meals can be another useful behavior to develop. Double the batch and freeze half in airtight containers whenever you make a recipe. This way, you have access to homemade food that is nutritious and ready to eat after reheating.
This easy 7-day meal plan to lower cholesterol is a great first step in improving your heart health. The meals are rich in fiber, healthy fats, vegetables, and plenty of plant-based foods that support healthy cholesterol levels.
Meeting with a registered dietitian for individualized care may also help you lower your cholesterol levels. If you’re ready to take the next step in your healthcare journey, consider booking a remote appointment with a Nourish dietitian.
Frequently Asked Questions
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