Diet 101: Jenny Craig

The Jenny Craig diet worked for Valerie Bertinelli and Jason Alexander, but is this diet plan right for you? Here are some need-to-know details of this popular plan.

This diet worked for Valerie Bertinelli and Jason Alexander, but is Jenny Craig right for you? Here are some need-to-know details of this popular program.


Founded in Australia in 1983, the Jenny Craig diet plan has grown to a worldwide franchise with more than 650 centers in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Puerto Rico.

When you start the Jenny Craig program, you work with their trained consultants -- either in person or over the phone -- to create customized eating plans. Next, you stock up on Jenny Craig's pre-packaged meals and snacks, which make up the bulk of your diet. You can supplement these meals with fresh fruits, veggies and low-fat dairy. Followers have weekly meetings with their consultants to help keep them motivated and on track. The weight-loss recommendation is about one to two pounds per week, which matches the rate the National Institute of Health considers safe.

Jenny Craig's daily eating plan consists of three balanced meals and three snacks. Because the meals come pre-portioned and packaged, there’s not much cooking involved. With more than 80 meals and snacks to choose from, there is some variety. Sample packaged meals include Turkey Burger, Meatloaf with BBQ Sauce, Chicken Fettuccini and Southwestern Style Chicken Burrito. For snacks, Jenny’s Anytime Bar, fresh fruits and veggies or even Jenny’s Molten Chocolate Cake are available. There are also meatless selections for vegetarians.

The Costs

There are membership costs, of course, and they vary depending on promotions. Right now, Jenny Craig is offering a $20 initiation fee plus the cost of food. Membership includes personalized consultations, meal plans, 24-7 online customer support and access to online web videos featuring the Jenny Craig experts. The bulk of your costs are in ordering the Jenny Craig meals (which they ship directly to you), and unfortunately, you only get to see those prices after you join. Some online sleuthing of consumer reviews shows that meals and snacks range from $2 to $6.50 a pop -- that means you might spend up to $25 a day, depending on what you're picking!

The Good

- The plan include balanced meals and snacks.

- Lots of hand holding and personalized support.

- Safe rate of weight loss recommended.

- They encourage moderate physical activity and exercise.

- Online support is available around the clock.

The Not-So Good

- Pre-packaged foods contain lots of preservatives.

- You'll have a tough time dining out.

- The plan doesn’t teach you how to eat real food and prepare your own meals.

- The packaged meals might be too expensive for some.

- Some folks have a tough time transitioning from packaged foods to homemade foods and tend to gain the weight back.

Bottom Line:

Eating pre-packaged food can really help keep portions under control, but all those preservatives aren’t so healthy. I’d rather learn to cook healthfully and enjoy wholesome food in the right portions. For the ease of pre-packaged, you can make foods in batches and freeze those healthy homemade dishes.

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