Limiting saturated fat in the diet helps with low-fat meal plans that can lower your cholesterol levels. Saturated fats raise unhealthy low-density lipoprotein or LDL cholesterol, which can clog the arteries and decrease blood flow to the heart, risking heart disease. Plenty of nutritious and enjoyable foods can replace or limit saturated fats in your meals.
Meat, Poultry, Fish
Focus on lean meats with all visible fat trimmed off. Buy skinless chicken or turkey or remove the skin before eating. Meat and poultry contain saturated fat, but you lower your fat intake with less fatty varieties and still get your protein. Fish usually has lower saturated fat content than meat or poultry. Tuna, mackerel, salmon, herring and halibut have omega-3 fatty acids improve cholesterol. Eat fish at least twice a week. Bake, broil or grill meat, poultry and fish instead of frying.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are low in fat and have no cholesterol. The National Cholesterol Education Program recommends eating at least three to five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Use plenty of fruits and vegetables as sides, in salads or as main dishes to have meatless meals once in a while. Keep fruits, carrot sticks and celery available for snacks. Eat fresh, frozen or canned fruits, but avoid products with added sugar. Emphasize raw or steamed vegetables in your meals. Avoid fried or creamy style vegetables.
Whole grains provide more fiber and nutrients than refined grains, which go through a milling process. Manufacturers add nutrients back into refined products, but whole grains still have more vitamins and minerals. Whole grains aid in digestion while providing you with a feeling of fullness to avoid temptations for foods high in fat. Add whole-grain bread and pasta to your meals to lower fat intake and control cholesterol. Make whole-grain cereals and oatmeal a part of your breakfasts. Other whole grains include brown rice, barley, buckwheat, wild rice and air-popped popcorn.
Avoid using butter and other fatty additives by replacing them with unsaturated fats when preparing foods. Unsaturated fats improve cholesterol levels. Use olive, canola or peanut oils for cooking. Like meats, dairy products have protein and saturated fat. Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy items over whole-milk products. Substitute egg whites for egg yolks. Enjoy low-fat or fat-free snack products when you have an urge for sweets. Nonfat candies, such as jellybeans or red licorice, make better choices than fatty chocolate. Eliminate trans fats, used in processed foods and fried foods in restaurants. The fats, made from hydrogenated oils, make foods last longer, but raise LDL cholesterol. Trans fats also lower protective high-density lipoprotein or HDL cholesterol, which helps clear the arteries of excess cholesterol.