What Is the Jenny Craig Diet?

The Jenny Craig diet launched in the 1980s and has gone through some big changes since then. Here's what you need to know about this diet plan now.

March 15, 2022

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Photo by: Jenny Craig

Jenny Craig

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. Jenny Craig recently released a new Max Up program which promises to help you lose 18 pounds and five inches off your waist in the first four weeks.

What Is the Jenny Craig Diet's Max Up Program?

The advantage of Jenny Craig’s new Max Up program is that “it combines our science-backed, intermittent fasting methodology, coaching and chef-crafted food, with other lifestyle components that are proven to help people lose weight, like fun physical activities and hydration reminders,” explains Angela Fitch, MD, FACP, FOMA, chair of Jenny Craig’s science advisory board, co-director of Massachusetts General Hospital Weight Center and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. Fitch explains that Max Up isn’t just about losing weight; it’s a holistic program that also helps participants create lifestyle changes they can take with them for life.

According to the Jenny Craig website, you can purchase pre-made meals which helps minimize food shopping, chopping, and decisions at the end of a long day. The meals are created by a team of chefs, culinary experts and nutritionists and are designed to look and taste good. Popular meals include Beef Stir Fry Bowl, Classic Cheeseburger, Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo, and Carrot Cake.

In addition, the program includes personal coaching either remote or in-person. Jenny Craig matches up Max Up participants with a personalized coach to support their journey and ensure they’re hitting weight loss and wellness goals. At the beginning of the program, the coaches have each participant complete a Quality of Life assessment (another new component of Max Up) to set their goals and intentions for the program. The coaches meet with each member weekly to keep participants motivated to reach their weight loss or fitness goals. The coaches are trained by the Jenny Craig team internally to ensure they understand the ins and outs of the program and can be the best guides for their participants.

Why Does Jenny Craig Use Intermittent Fasting?

Jenny Craig uses intermittent fasting, specifically time restricted eating, as part of the Max Up program. According to Fitch, “We decided to use intermittent fasting as part of the Max Up program because it is another tool to help people structure their nutrition and it may have other health benefits as well, related to insulin levels and how that may play a role in our metabolism.”

The Jenny Craig team conducted a study in 2020 to examine the effects of time-restricted eating and found that there was significant and meaningful weight loss among the participants. “We encourage at least 12 hours of fasting and this helps people to reduce snacking at night,” Fitch explains. The program also encourages users to eat a Recharge Bar (a Jenny Craig product) at the 12 hour mark, which they claim helps maintain the benefits of fasting for another 2 hours, making it a 14-hour fast. The bars come in two flavors — Nut & Honey or Fudge Nut — and can be purchased on Amazon.

How Much Does the Jenny Craig Diet Cost?

There are membership costs, of course, and they vary depending on promotions. Right now, Jenny Craig has three programs available for purchase on their website. The Simple Meal Plan is $12.99 per day where you get a full week of breakfasts and lunches delivered. The Essential Meal Plan is $20.78 per day where you get a full week of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners delivered. The Max Up Weight Loss Plan is being offered for $22.52 per day with a full week of breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks, plus new activity plans, recharge bars, and one-on-one coaching.

Bottom Line

Eating pre-packaged food can really help keep portions under control, but the plans can get rather pricey. In addition, research on intermittent fasting is controversial and may not be for everyone. Keeping the weight off long-term is the ultimate goal but little is discussed about transitioning to homemade foods after you choose to get off the plan.

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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