Jenny Craig Diet
by Maria Adams, MS, MPH, RD
The Jenny Craig program was designed with help from a medical advisory panel and a team of registered dietitians. The goals of this program are to help clients develop a healthy relationship with food, live active lifestyles, and find balance in their lives. On this diet, you start by eating mostly Jenny Craig cuisine, supplemented with some healthful foods of your own. The end goal is to have you plan and prepare your own meals.
How Is This Diet Supposed to Work? TOP
The Jenny Craig diet helps you lose weight by limiting your calorie intake, as well as increasing physical activity and maintaining motivation. When you are eating mainly prepackaged Jenny Craig foods, you don’t have to worry about portion sizes and your calorie intake is controlled. But once you start switching to regular food, you will need to know how to control your calorie intake on your own.
What’s Involved? TOP
The Jenny Craig program begins with a 28-day diet plan that consists of eating mainly prepackaged Jenny Craig meals that are supplemented with your fresh groceries consisting of: fruit, vegetables, whole grains, heart-healthy fats, and nonfat dairy products. Daily meal plans, starting at around 1,200 calories, include 3 meals plus 1 snack and an evening dessert. After a certain point on this program, you begin to prepare some of your own meals, using recipes provided by Jenny Craig.
The program also includes a weekly in-person or over-the-phone counseling session. This is to provide you with support to stay on the plan and educate you about healthy weight habits, such as practicing portion control and getting regular exercise, as well as to help you maintain your mindset on losing weight.
There are different versions of this program. The 2 main ones: the center-based and the home-based. The center-based program includes weekly visits with a trained Jenny Craig consultant at one of their 650 locations in the US, Canada, and Puerto Rico. These visits include private weigh-ins, as well as the chance to select and purchase your Jenny Craig food. The home-based version entails weekly phone sessions with a Jenny Craig consultant, as well as food delivery. Either program claims that your 1-1 expert coach will address your key issues and personalize the program for you. There are also variations on the program for different groups of people: men, silver (seniors), type 2 diabetes, and teens.
After you choose between center-based or home-based, you can choose the program that is right for you:
All plans include:
The premium plans offer additional features, like cash incentives for reaching milestones, discounts, fitness tracking tools, and more.
The cost of the Jenny Craig program varies depending on the program that you choose and the foods that you buy.
What Does the Research Say? TOP
While there are no studies looking specifically at the Jenny Craig program, the diet itself is based on sound nutrition. Meal plans are designed by registered dietitians and adhere to the US Department of Agriculture's nutrition guidelines.
Are There Any Concerns With This Diet? TOP
The cost of food on this program is expensive if you also have a family to feed. But if you are just buying for yourself, then it may make sense when you factor in how much you would normally spend on groceries or eating out.
Another concern is that Jenny Craig’s weight loss consultants don’t have formal training in nutrition or behavior modification. Therefore, although they claim to be experts, they may not have a lot of knowledge in these areas.
The main concern with this program is that the diet, which consists mostly of prepackaged meals, quickly gets boring and can be hard to stick with. And while one of the goals of the program is to get clients to prepare their own healthful food, part of the appeal of the program in the first place is that you don’t have to do this. Thus, many people see Jenny Craig as an easy way to lose weight and approach it with laziness, but do not really think about the long-term maintenance of this weight loss. To their credit, the program has added motivational tips and personalized counseling for this very reason.
Bottom Line TOP
Overall, Jenny Craig is a healthful weight loss program that may be right for you if you don’t mind living on prepackaged food for a while. This program is especially good if you tend to do better with the motivation and guidance of a counselor, versus being self-motivated enough to follow a plan on your own. The success of this diet in the long run depends on how well you transition to planning and preparing your own healthful food, and how well you maintain your newly developed habits such as engaging in regular exercise.
Eat Right—Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
How it works. Jenny Craig website. Available at:
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Accessed February 6, 2017.
Van Horn L. A diet by any other name is still about energy. JAMA. 2014;312(9):900-901.
Last reviewed March 2017 by Dianne Scheinberg Rishikof MS, RD, LDN
Last Updated: 5/8/2014
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