The Jenny Craig Diet
This weight-loss program offers support to get you to your goal. Learn about the heavily advertised plan known for celebrity dieters.
By Krisha McCoy
Medically Reviewed by Pat F. Bass, III, MD, MPH
If you watch television, there is a good chance you have heard of the Jenny Craig diet. A number of celebrities have publicly gone on the Jenny Craig weight-loss program, and they can often been seen on commercials and talk shows.
Losing Weight With the Jenny Craig Diet
The cornerstone of the Jenny Craig diet is support. To get started on the weight-loss program, you will meet with your personal consultant at your local Jenny Craig center, or over the phone if you are doing the program from home. Your consultant will assess your eating habits, activity level, and motivation level, and customize the Jenny Craig weight-loss program so it will work best for you.
When you are on the Jenny Craig diet, you will eat three prepackaged Jenny Craig meals and one snack each day, supplemented with your own fresh fruits and vegetables. A typical day might consist of cereal for breakfast, a snack bar with non-fat yogurt mid-morning, a turkey burger with a salad and fruit for lunch, vegetable sticks for an afternoon snack, chicken and pasta with vegetables for dinner, and a piece of chocolate cake for dessert.
Along with eating the Jenny Craig foods to keep your calorie intake under control, exercise is strongly suggested, as is attending weekly meetings with your consultant to keep you on track.
The Jenny Craig Diet: Pros and Cons
Every individual responds to weight-loss programs differently, and what works for some people may not work for others. The trick is to find a sound, healthy program that you like and are able to stick to.
Here are some of the pros of the Jenny Craig weight-loss program:
- There’s no calorie counting. With the Jenny Craig diet, your meal plan is completely taken care of and you don't even have to cook, which can be a major benefit for people who don't like to get bogged down with counting calories. "There is actually no thinking about meal preparation at all," says Audrey Young, MS, RD, LDN, a registered dietitian in Newton, Mass.
- You get one-on-one support. "The other great thing about [the Jenny Craig diet] is that they have a ton of support," says Young. "People are more successful when they take advantage of any support that is available."
- It’s based on sound science. Young says that the Jenny Craig weight-loss program is based on the Food Guide Pyramid, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's guidelines for daily eating.
There are a few drawbacks:
- There’s a lack of nutritional education. It is true that many people can experience short-term weight loss while on programs like the Jenny Craig diet, but keeping the weight off becomes a major challenge. The Jenny Craig diet "doesn't really teach you anything," says Young. Since you eat prepackaged meals while on the Jenny Craig diet, you are not learning healthful eating habits that can help you keep off the weight over the long term. "They sell you the food and then you have nowhere to go after that," agrees Katherine Tallmadge, MA, RD, national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and author of Diet Simple: 192 Mental Tricks, Substitutions, Habits and Inspirations.
- The support staff is not nutrition-credentialed. While the support component of the Jenny Craig diet is one of its attributes, the support representatives are not necessarily trained health or nutrition professionals. "They are not counselors and they are not dietitians," says Tallmadge.
- It’s expensive. "It can cost up to $100 a week for the prepackaged boxes, and you [have to] supplement that with your own fruits and vegetables," Young says. It is much cheaper to buy prepackaged, low-calorie meals and snacks from the supermarket, and supplement them with lots of fruits and vegetables.
While the Jenny Craig diet may help you lose weight, you may be better off adopting a diet plan that can teach you healthy habits to keep your weight down for years to come. Of course, if having support makes a critical difference to you, it may be worth considering.