Ultimate Cholesterol Lowering Plan

Step 2: Building strong foundations

In step 1 of the UCLP© we asked you to think about your reasons for making changes and to keep a diet diary to help you to reflect on what you eat.

This step is about making better choices. It means making small changes to your meals and snacks and putting in place the building blocks of a heart healthy diet. We call this stage – building strong foundations.

Reviewing your food diary

Here are some helpful tips for reviewing your diet diary. Have a look at the foods you’re eating day to day and use these tips to see where you can make changes. 

  • Eating three meals a day and the occasional snack is a great way to ensure that you meet your nutritional needs everyday
  • Most meals should include at least one portion of fruit or vegetables, a starchy food (potato, bread, rice, pasta etc.) and a protein source (meat, fish, eggs, cheese, nuts, milk, yogurt, pulses)
  • Healthy snacks such as fresh or dried fruit, nuts and seeds can make a welcome contribution to cholesterol lowering
  • Limit sugary drinks and keep alcohol within healthy limits
  • Your portion sizes – note the size of the segments in the healthy food plate – is this reflected on your plate and in your daily diet?

Swapping bad fats for heart healthy fats

Eating too many foods rich in saturated fat and not enough foods rich in heart healthy unsaturated fats can increase blood cholesterol levels. It’s important to keep your overall fat intake down, but also to replace saturated fat with healthier unsaturated fats where possible.

Saturated fats

Saturated fat is mainly found in fatty and processed meats, full fat dairy products, butter, ghee, lard, pastries, pasties, pies and in many cakes, puddings and biscuits. Palm oil and coconut oil also contain saturated fat.

Using your completed diet diary, are there any high saturated fat foods you can spot?

This simple guide to food labels should help you to decide which foods are low, moderate or high in saturated fats. Some foods will have this information on the front of pack, some on the back, and some will be colour coded.





Saturates per 100g of food

1.5g or less


More than 5g





Saturates per 100ml of drink

0.75g or less


More than 2.5g

As a guide the average woman should have less than 20g and the average man less than 30g of saturated fat every day.


Unsaturated fats

Unsaturated fats are found in vegetable oils such as rapeseed, olive, sunflower, soya and corn oil and in any spreads made from these.

Nuts, seeds, avocados and oil based salad dressings are also good sources. 

Simple swaps

These simple swaps will help you cut out a surprising amount of saturated fat.


Eat less...

Swap it for...

Butter, ghee, lard, suet, hard margarines, coconut and palm oil

Vegetable spreads and oils such as olive, rapeseed, sunflower, soya

Fatty meat and processed meat products: sausages, salamis, canned meat 

Remove all visible fat from meat and skin from poultry Have red meat less often (no more than 500g raw weight per week) Have more poultry and fish Have meat free days –using beans, pulses or soya mince/chunks instead

Full cream milk and yogurts and full cream, canned coconut milks 

Semi-skimmed, 1% fat or skimmed dairy milk or try a plant-based drink: almond, coconut, hazelnut or rice drink or soya alternative to milk and yogurt

Dairy cream (all types), most dairy cheeses and coconut cream  

Alpro Soya Single alternative to cream. Lower fat cheeses e.g. cottage cheese

Cakes, desserts and chocolate – especially cream and butter based. Coconut (fresh, dried, desiccated) 

Plain buns e.g. currant / hot cross buns, scones, plain biscuits, fruit, low-fat yogurts, soya alternatives to yogurt, soya desserts

Pastry – pies

Potato topped savoury dishes, crumbles made with unsaturated fat vegetable spreads

Roasting or frying with butter, lard other animal fats or coconut oil

Use vegetable oil instead or try other cooking methods without fat e.g. boiling, grilling, steaming


Other foods providing unsaturated fat include oil-based salad dressings, avocados, nuts and seeds

Fruit and vegetables

You are not alone if you struggle to eat enough fruit and vegetables, but there are lots of tricks for getting them into your day. 

Fruits and vegetables have lots of health benefits which is why they’re so central to the UCLP©. Eating more fruit and vegetables often means you naturally cut out some of the less healthy fatty and sugary foods.

Plus they contain soluble fibres which play a role in maintaining a healthy cholesterol level, as well as filling you up.

What is my target?

Your target is to reach 5-a-day, every day, but if you are already there, evidence suggests you will get some benefit from eating even more. All forms of fruits and vegetables count including fresh, frozen, canned and dried.

All types of juices and smoothies can only be counted once because of the sugar. No more than 150ml per day.

Have a look at your diet diary. Do you think you could increase your fruit and vegetable intake?

At breakfast
  • Add a tablespoon of dried fruit, a handful of berries or sliced banana to breakfast cereals or porridge.
  • Have a small (150ml) glass of pure fruit juice or a fruit smoothie.
At lunch
  • Add extra salad or grated carrot to sandwiches or wraps.
  • Add some raw vegetable sticks to your lunch pack.
  • Add fruit to yoghurt.
At dinner
  • Always serve your meal with salad or cooked vegetables.
  • Add vegetables and pulses to stews and casseroles.
  • Make vegetable soups from scratch using lots of vegetables and beans.
  • Choose a fruit-based dessert such as a baked apple, fruit salad or fruit with custard (soya or low fat dairy).
  • A handful of fresh or a spoonful of dried fruit.
  • Crudités with healthy dips such as hummous, guacamole, salsa or low fat yogurt/soya alternative to yogurt-based dips.

Healthy carbs

Wholegrain foods are made up of all parts of the grain, including the husk (the outer part of the grain) and the germ (the part that can grow into a new plant).

The husk provides important fibres which are key to maintaining a regular and healthy bowel function. Just as important is the germ which is rich in heart healthy fats and vitamins. Many processed cereal foods such as cakes, biscuits, white bread, pastry, white pasta are made from white flour which has had these nutritious parts of the grain removed.

What is a wholegrain food?

The definition of “wholegrain food” varies from country to country but most agree that a food qualifies if more than half of the ingredients in it are “wholegrain”.

There is no formal recommendation for how much to eat, but most scientists agree that we should eat at least three servings every day. 

Using your diet diary, can you see how you might be able to include more wholegrain foods? It could be a simple swap for what you are already eating.

What does a serving of wholegrains look like?




Bread – granary or wholemeal

1 slice or 1 roll


Chapatti – wholemeal 

1 small


Oats or oatmeal 

2 heaped tablespoons


Pitta bread – wholemeal  

1 mini or ½ a small


Rye bread 

1 large slice


Rye crispbread






Muesli – unsweetened 

2 heaped tablespoons



½ small bowl


Wholemeal scone 

1 small


Wholemeal hot cross bun

1 small



2-3 handfuls (1½ cups)


Wholemeal wheat/rye flour 

1 heaped tablespoon



Weight before cooking

Weight after cooking

Pasta – wholemeal 



Rice – brown


(2 tablespoons)

Pearl barley 


(2 tablespoons)




Buckwheat/bulgar wheat