If you’re anything like me, you’ll have had times in the past when you’ve started a new food or exercise plan with lots of enthusiasm and good intentions, then after a few weeks the old habits started creeping back in, until eventually you ended up back where you started.
But this time was different, as I was determined to find a long-term eating plan to lower my cholesterol permanently and avoid needing medication. I wanted to find a ‘diet’ that I could stick to; one that didn’t feel like a diet at all.
These are the 3 rules I followed to help me to stay on track:-
1. Start with small changes
I’ve found in the past that if I try to change too much in one go, then I’m more likely to give up after a few weeks. So when I started my cholesterol lowering diet in 2016, instead of completely overhauling my existing diet, I made 2 or 3 small changes a week.
- Swapping my normal bread for a high fibre version (see this post).
- Replacing my usual toast topping with nut butter or avocado.
- Swapping my normal breakfast cereal with a high fibre version (see this post).
- Adding nuts/seeds to my meals.
- Eating an apple with my usual snack.
- Adding a few tablespoons of beans (e.g. butter beans or pinto beans) to my meals.
- Eating a cholesterol-lowering yoghurt drink every day, like Benecol.
2. Find recipes you love
Instead of trying brand new recipes, I started out by making small adjustments my usual meals. For example, I replaced a third of the meat in most of my meals with cholesterol-lowering beans. Then, once I’d settled into the new diet, I started looking for new cholesterol-lowering recipes to try. Some weren’t great, but I found others that I really loved, and eating them didn’t feel like being on a diet at all.
I’d recommend not veering too far away from the normal types of food you eat. For example, if you love curries, then look for cholesterol-lowering version, like these:-
For more cholesterol-friendly recipe ideas, click here.
3. Allow yourself ‘cheat’ meals
I would find it impossible to stick to a low cholesterol diet 100% of the time because sometimes I really crave high fat foods, like cheeseburgers and creamy curries. So I try to stick to low cholesterol eating 80% of the time, and eat the high fat meals I crave once or twice a week without feeling like I’ve fallen off the wagon.
What I’ve found over the years, is that when I eat a high fat meal, I actually crave lower cholesterol foods for the rest of the day, and the following day. So allowing myself to eat the foods I crave in moderation has helped me to stay on track in the long term.
Also, when I’m on holiday, or staying with friends, I don’t worry too much about trying to stick to low cholesterol eating for 80% of the time. I usually find by the last day, I’m actually looking forward to getting back into healthy eating again, so I get a renewed enthusiasm for the ‘diet’.