High Cholesterol: Food Choices

March 21, 2017

High Cholesterol: Food Choices

Food choices

According to the Centers for Disease Control, lifestyle changes that prevent or lower high blood cholesterol include eating a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, increasing physical activity, and reducing excess weight.  Studies show that a diet low in saturated fat, dietary cholesterol, and total fat —with physical activity and weight control— can lower blood cholesterol levels. 

Fruits and Vegetables

Adults need at least two cups of fruit and 2½ cups of vegetables per day. Vegetables and fruit can be fresh, frozen, or canned without added fat or sugar. Try to eat a dark green leafy or deep yellow vegetable each day.

One serving equals:

  • 1/2 cup cooked vegetables

  • 1 cup raw vegetables

  • 1/2 cup canned or frozen fruit

  • 1/2 cup fresh berries or cut-up pieces of larger fruit, such as melons

  • 1 small piece (the size of a tennis ball) of fruit

Starches, Grains, Starchy Vegetables, and Legumes

Adults should eat between approximately 6 to 9 ounce-equivalents of grains and starches per day of which approximately half should be whole grain. 

One serving (equal to approximately one ounce):

  • 1 small tortilla

  • 1 slice of bread, 1 dinner roll, or 4 to 5 crackers

  • 1/2 cup cooked rice, pasta, corn, potatoes, beans, peas, or lentils

  • 1 ounce of dry cereal or 1/2 cup cooked cereal

  • 1/2 English muffin or small bagel

  • 1/2 pita bread

Choose low-fat starches (containing no more than 2 grams of fat per serving):

  • Low-fat baked goods, such as angel-food cake, ginger snaps, low-fat muffins, yeast breads, or bread sticks

  • Low-fat snacks, such as pretzels, low-fat crackers, or baked chips

Limit high-fat baked goods and snacks:

  • Starches with added fat, such as granola, potato chips, tortilla chips, french fries, and onion rings

  • High-fat baked goods, such as pies, cakes, doughnuts, pastries, croissants, muffins, quick breads, and high-fat cookies and crackers

Dairy Products

Consume at least three one-cup servings of nonfat or low-fat milk or equivalent product per day.

One serving equals:

  • 8 ounces of nonfat milk

  • 8 ounces of nonfat yogurt

Choose nonfat (skim) or low-fat (1 percent) dairy products:

  • Skim or 1% milk

  • Nonfat yogurt

Use nonfat or low-fat cheese as a substitute for meat:

  • 1 ounce of cheese or 1/4 cup of cottage cheese can be substituted for 1 ounce of meat

  • Low-fat cheese (any cheese with less than 5 grams of fat per ounce), such as low-fat cottage cheese, part-skim mozzarella, farmer's or string cheese

  • Nonfat cheese (any cheese or cottage cheese with less than 1 gram of fat per ounce)

Limit high-fat dairy products:

  • Regular and 2 percent milk and milk products, such as regular evaporated milk or yogurt

  • Whole milk, processed cheese and natural cheese, such as cheddar, Swiss, Brick, Brie, Monterey Jack, Colby, American, or cream cheese

  • Rich dairy desserts and condiments, such as ice cream, whipped toppings, sour cream, or half-and-half


Limit intake of cooked lean beef, pork, chicken, turkey, or fish to approximately 6 ounces each day depending on your age, gender and activity level (3 ounces of cooked meat are equivalent to 4 ounces of raw meat).


A 2-ounce serving equals:

  • 1 small chicken leg or thigh

  • 1/2 cup ground or chopped meat or tuna

  • 2 slices of sandwich-sized meat

A 3-ounce serving equals:

  • 1 medium pork chop

  • 1 quarter-pound hamburger

  • 1 split chicken breast

  • 1 unbreaded fish filet

  • Cooked meat the size of a deck of cards

Choose lean meats (containing no more than 3 grams of fat per ounce):

  • Chicken, turkey, fish, and shellfish (without skin or added oil)

  • Lean, trimmed cuts of beef, pork, or lamb, such as

  • Beef or veal: tenderloin, sirloin tip, round steak, ground round, rump roast, flank steak

  • Pork: loin chop, tenderloin, center-cut ham, Canadian bacon

  • Lamb: loin or leg roasts, chops

Limit high-fat, high-cholesterol meats:

  • High-fat, processed meats, such as bacon, bologna, salami, sausage, or hot dogs

  • High-fat cuts of beef, pork, and lamb, such as prime-grade steaks, roasts, ribs, or veal cutlets

  • High-cholesterol meats, such as liver, sweetbreads, kidneys, or brains


Limit egg yolks (including those used in baked goods and cooking) to no more than three per week. One egg yolk has 5 grams of fat.

Fats and Oils

Limit all added fats, especially sources of saturated fat. Fats should constitute no more than 30% of your total daily caloric intake.  Saturated fats should make up less than 10% of your total daily calories (less than 1/3 of your total fat calories).  A typical serving contains 4 to 5 grams of fat or 36 to 45 calories. . Added fat includes fat used in cooking and baking, and fat contained in convenience foods. Limit fat intake carefully to avoid extra calories.

One serving of fat equals:

  • 1 teaspoon butter, margarine, or oil

  • 2 teaspoons salad dressing or 2 tablespoons light salad dressing

  • 2 teaspoons peanut butter, nuts, or seeds

  • 5 large olives (black or green)

  • 1/8 medium avocado

Choose unsaturated fats:

  • Unsaturated oils, such as corn, olive, canola, safflower, sesame, soybean, or sunflower

  • Margarine made with the unsaturated or partially hydrogenated oils listed above; the softer the margarine, the less hydrogenated it is

  • Nuts, seeds, olives, avocados, or peanut butter

  • Salad dressing or mayonnaise made with unsaturated vegetable oil. Use reduced-fat versions of these products.

Limit saturated fats:

  • Saturated fats and oils, such as butter, lard, bacon fat, coconut oil, or palm oil

  • Hydrogenated oil found in shortening, some margarines, some salad dressings, and peanut butter

  • Some individuals with elevated serum cholesterol may need to lower saturated fat to below 7% of total calories and lower dietary cholesterol to below 200 mg a day.

Note: These recommendations are not intended for children under age 2. Recommended limits are based on typical calorie needs for adults. Individuals with higher calorie needs can have more unsaturated oils and fats and should increase their intake of fruits, vegetables, and starches.



March 21, 2017


Well Advised, December 2002 Edition

Reviewed By:  

Coleman, Ellen RD, MA, MPH,Laura FiveashLaura Fiveash DrPH MPH RD