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Diet low in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol

A diet low in saturated fat, cholesterol and trans fat is a balancing act. You need to eat a variety of foods to get the right nutrients. But you also need to manage the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol you eat.

The following information lists what to eat and what to avoid or limit in these food groups:

Meat, poultry, fish and vegetarian substitutes

Milk, yogurt and cheese
Soups and combination foods
Desserts and sweets

Fats and oils
Condiments and miscellaneous


Food groupRecommendedAvoid or use sparingly

6 servings or more per day

1 serving = 1 slice of bread
or 1/2 hamburger bun, 1/2 English muffin, or 1/2 bagel

Try to eat two servings of whole grains each day, such as foods with the first ingredient of whole wheat, whole-grain barley, whole oats, or cracked wheat, whole rye.
Breads: All kinds (wheat, rye, raisin, white, oatmeal, Italian, French, and English muffin bread)

Low-fat rolls: English muffins, frankfurter and hamburger buns

Water (no egg) bagels

Pita bread

Tortillas (not fried)

Pancakes, waffles, biscuits, and muffins made with recommended oils

Snack chips: Choose baked or varieties without hydrogenated fats (trans fats).
Products made with egg yolks, saturated fats, or whole milk products.

Butter rolls, egg breads, egg bagels, cheese breads, croissants, scones

Commercial doughnuts,
muffins, sweet rolls, biscuits,
waffles, pancakes, store-bought mixes (Many of these products contain trans fats.)
CrackersLow-fat crackers and snacks: Animal, graham, rye, saltine (with recommended oil and no lard), bread sticks, melba toast, rusks, flatbread, pretzels, popcorn (made with a recommended fat), zwieback, Wasa crackers

Read labels to avoid hydrogenated fats (trans fats).
High-fat crackers: Cheese crackers, butter crackers, and those made with coconut or palm oil, palm kernel oil or trans fats

Buttered popcorn

1 serving = 1 oz. dry cereal or 1/2 cup cooked cereal
Hot or cold cereals: All kinds except granola-type cereals made with coconut or coconut oilCereals containing coconut, hydrogenated vegetable fat or animal fat

1 serving = 1/2 cup cooked
rice, pasta, mashed potatoes,
barley, kasha (buckwheat), or one small baked potato
All kinds of potatoes, rice, and
pasta (such as macaroni, spaghetti, and noodles)


Kasha (buckwheat) and cereals made with kasha (except those with trans fat)
Pasta or rice prepared with whole eggs, cream sauce or high fat cheese

Egg pasta

Chow mein noodles

French fries

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Daily portionsRecommendedAvoid or use sparingly

3 servings or more per day

1 serving = 1 cup raw or 1/2 cup cooked
All vegetables and vegetable juicesVegetables in cream, butter or high-fat cheese sauces

Vegetables fried in shortening,
lard and/or butter

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Daily portionsRecommendedAvoid or use sparingly

2 servings or more per day

1 serving = 1/2 cup juice or canned fruit or 1 piece of fresh fruit
All fruits

All 100 percent fruit juices

Orange juice with plant stanols/sterols (a special orange juice with plant stanols/sterols to help lower cholesterol levels)
Fruit in cream or custard

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Meat, poultry, fish and vegetarian substitutes

Daily portionsRecommendedAvoid or use sparingly
Meat, poultry, fish

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry, fish or seafood a day.

Note: If you are on the TLC diet, limit cooked lean meat, poultry, fish or seafood to no more than 5 ounces a day.

Try to eat 2 servings of fish each week.
Fish: Choose fish high in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna.

Shellfish: Shrimp and crayfish have more cholesterol than most other types of fish and seafood. They are lower in saturated fat and total fat than most meats and poultry.

Beef: Lean cuts include top round, top loin, round tip, eye of round, sirloin, tenderloin, flank.

Pork: loin chops, roasts, butterfly chops, sirloin chops, tenderloin, Canadian bacon, ham

Lamb: chops, leg, roast

Poultry: chicken, turkey (with skin removed)

Wild game: wild duck, rabbit, pheasant, venison
Prime grade of meat, short ribs, spare ribs, rib eye roast or steak

Mutton and caviar

Commercially fried fish (trans fats)

Limit shellfish to no more than 1 serving each week.

Domestic duck, goose

Venison sausage

Organ meats: liver, gizzard, heart, chitterlings, brains, kidney, sweetbreads

Avoid battered and breaded products.

Avoid frankfurters (hot dogs), sausage, salt pork, bacon and high-fat luncheon meats (salami,bologna, summer sausage).

Limit shellfish to no more than 1 serving each week.
Vegetarian meal planning

2 to 3 servings per day

1 serving = 1⁄2 cup cooked beans (such as pinto, kidney, black beans, etc.), peas or lentils; 2 tablespoons nuts, seeds or peanut butter; 1⁄4 cup tofu or tempeh; 1 cup soy milk
Meatless meals made with beans, peas, lentils, tofu (soybean curd), vegetarian-type burgers, non-hydrogenated peanut butter

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Daily portionsRecommendedAvoid or use sparingly

Limit egg yolks to no more than 2 per week, including those used in cooking.
Egg whites or low cholesterol egg substitutes may be used as desired.Egg yolks are high in cholesterol. One average egg yolk has about 213 mg. of cholesterol.

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Milk, yogurt and cheese

Daily portionsRecommendedAvoid or use sparingly
Milk, yogurt, cheese

2 to 3 servings per day

1 serving = 1 cup milk, 8 oz. nonfat or low-fat yogurt, 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese, or 1 oz. low-fat
Skim or 1 percent milk: liquid, powdered, or evaporated

Buttermilk, drinks made with skim or low-fat milk or cocoa.

Chocolate milk or hot cocoa made with skim or low-fat milk

Nonfat or low-fat yogurt

Low fat cheeses: nonfat or low-fat cottage cheese; cheeses made with part skim milk, such as mozzarella, farmer's, string or ricotta

Cheeses should be labeled no more than 2 to 6 grams fat per ounce.
Whole milk and whole milk products

2 percent milk

Custard style yogurt

Cream, half & half

Whole milk type cheeses, including colby, cheddar, muenster, monterey jack, havarti, brie, camembert, American, Swiss and blue

Creamed cottage cheese, cream cheese

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Soups and combination foods

Daily portionsRecommendedAvoid or use sparingly
Soups and combination foodsLow-fat soups: broth, bouillon, dehydrated soups, homemade broth, soups with the fat removed

Homemade cream soups made with skim or low-fat milk.

Low-fat combination foods: spaghetti, lasagna, chili and Spanish rice are examples of foods that can be made with low-fat ingredients and low-fat cooking techniques.
Cream soups made with whole milk, cream or high fat cheese

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Desserts and sweets

Daily portionsRecommendedAvoid or use sparingly
Desserts and sweets

Eat in moderation.
Ice milk, sherbet, frozen yogurt, Popsicles®, fruit ices, gelatins, meringues, angel food cake.

Homemade desserts with recommended fats, oils and milk products (Use the weekly egg yolk allowance, or try egg whites.)

Vanilla wafers, ginger snaps,
fortune cookies, fig bars, anything fat-free (Look at the labels. Choose those made without hydrogenated oils.)

Jam, jelly, honey, marmalade, sugars and syrups

Pure sugar candies such as gum drops, hard candy, jelly beans, marshmallows and non-chocolate mints
Commercially prepared cakes, pies, cookies, doughnuts, croissants, pastries. Refer to label reading section. These products may be high in trans fats.

Ice cream or ice cream drinks

Candy with coconut, butter, hydrogenated fat

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Fats and oils

Daily portionsRecommendedAvoid or use sparingly
Fats and oils

Maximum 6 to 8 servings per day (varies with calories needed). This includes fats used in cooking, baking, salads and spreads on bread.

Serving size (5 g fat per serving) = 1 tsp. soft margarine, 1 tsp. oil, 1 Tbsp. diet margarine, 1 Tbsp. reduced calorie mayo, 2 tsp. peanut butter, 1 Tbsp. regular salad dressing, 2 Tbsp. light salad dressing, 2 Tbsp. nondairy, low fat creamer, 1/8 medium avocado, 5 large olives, 1 Tbsp. sunflower seeds or nuts, 1-2 Tbsp. low fat cream cheese or low-fat sour cream (Fat contents vary, limit to less than 5 grams fat per serving.)
Vegetable oils: canola, olive, peanut, safflower, sunflower, corn, soybean, cottonseed, sesame, almond, walnut, flaxseeds and flaxseed oil

Margarines: spray, tub, or squeeze, with one of the above oils listed as a liquid as the first ingredient (Select margarines with no trans fats.)

Salad dressing or mayonnaise: homemade or commercial, made with a recommended oil

Low or nonfat salad dressing or mayonnaise

Benecol® and Take Control® (plant stanols/sterols) are cholesterol- lowering food supplements that can be used in place of margarine to lower your LDL.
Solid fats and shortenings: butter, lard, salt pork, bacon drippings

Gravy containing meat fat, shortening or suet

Margarines in which the first ingredient is not a liquid oil

Chocolate, cocoa butter, coconut

Coconut, palm or palm kernel oils - often used in bakery products

Nondairy creamers, whipped toppings, candy, and commercially fried foods (Read the labels carefully.)

Half & half, heavy or whipping cream, or Coffee-mate®

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Daily portionsRecommendedAvoid or use sparingly
BeveragesCoffee (regular or decaffeinated), tea

Regular or diet carbonated beverages

Mineral water

Check with your doctor about alcohol use. Moderation is recommended.
Any beverage that contains avoided fats or egg yolks (such as eggnog, Tom and Jerry mix, coffee beverages with high fat milk, etc.)

Limit rich specialty coffees.

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Condiments and miscellaneous

Daily portionsRecommendedAvoid or use sparingly
Condiments and miscellaneousAll seasonings and condiments

Cocoa powder

Use herbs and spices to season.

"Cream" sauces made with recommended ingredients
Carob powder made with hydrogenated fats

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Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Helping Your Heart, fourth edition, cvs-ahc-90648

First published: 10/04/2002
Last updated: 06/01/2007

Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts