What Is the Jenny Craig Diet?

Jenny Craig diet

Verywell / Debbie Burkhoff

At Verywell, we believe there is no one-size-fits-all approach to a healthy lifestyle. Successful eating plans need to be individualized and take the whole person into consideration. Prior to starting a new diet plan, consult with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian, especially if you have an underlying health condition.

Jenny Craig is a weight-loss program that attributes its effectiveness to the simple restriction of calories, fat, and portion size. Clients enrolled in the plan are provided packaged foods that cover all meals and most snacks; they supplement these with fresh food from the grocery store, such as fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products. Jenny Craig also provides motivational support through face-to-face or phone meetings with a consultant.

Jenny Craig was founded in Melbourne, Australia, in 1983 by Jenny and Sydney Craig. It expanded to the United States in 1985 and today has more than 600 weight-management centers worldwide.  It is one of the most popular commercial weight-loss programs available. The 2021 U.S. News and World Report Best Diets ranks Jenny Craig number 12 in Best Diets Overall and gives it an overall score of 3.5/5.

What Experts Say

"The Jenny Craig diet is a meal delivery program based on whole, real foods. The meal plans are balanced, but the program is pricey and for most people, it isn’t sustainable."

Kelly Plowe, MS, RD

What Can You Eat?

Jenny Craig is useful for people who don't have time to or prefer not to shop for or prepare food at home. On the program, you can choose from a wide variety of Jenny Craig breakfasts, lunches, dinners, desserts, and snacks. You'll also supplement these with additional fresh fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious food options.

What You Need to Know

On the Jenny Craig diet, you eat six times a day—three meals, two snacks, and a daily dessert. There is no need to count calories, weigh food, or measure portions while on the program. You'll select your entrées and snacks from a menu of more than 100 options and order them by phone or online for home delivery. Or, you can shop at a local Jenny Craig weight-loss center.

The consultants staffing these centers are not nutritionists. But they do help clients set achievable goals, develop a meal plan, address dietary challenges, and celebrate successes along the way.

People following the Jenny Craig diet consume 1200 to 2300 calories per day, depending on their weight, fitness habits, and motivation level. Jenny Craig users weigh in once a week, either at home or at the program center. The company says its clients lose an average of one to two pounds per week.

What to Eat
  • Prepackaged meals and snacks by Jenny Craig

  • Jenny Craig condiments, dressings, and soups

  • Fruits

  • Fresh and frozen vegetables

  • Low-fat dairy

What Not to Eat
  • Restaurant food

  • Store-bought food other than those listed

  • Sweets and desserts other than Jenny Craig brand

There is no special meal timing or fasting required for the plan or fasting required. Almost all of Jenny Craig entrées are frozen and need to be kept chilled and then reheated. This may be a problem for some people who are frequently on the road or do not have access to a microwave. 

Clients are encouraged to "volumize" frozen entrées by adding high-fiber, low-calorie foods like fruits and veggies to the meal so it is more filling. Known as volumetrics, this makes it easier to adhere to the diet without feeling deprived. Helpful tips for volumizing are provided on each entrée package.

For example, you can add a wedge salad with Jenny Craig salad dressing or a similar side dish to a Jenny Craig pot roast meal for increased satiety without a lot of additional calories. For breakfast, you might add some fruit or other fat-free toppings to your Jenny Craig waffles.

Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Easy to follow

  • Pre-portioned servings

  • Tastes good

  • Includes support

  • Complete, balanced nutrition

Cons
  • Entrées need to be frozen

  • Cost

  • Processed foods

  • Not safe for food allergies

  • No eating out

Every person who wants to lose weight has a different lifestyle to consider when they choose a diet. Jenny Craig provides a well-designed plan for weight loss, but it won't work for everyone.

Pros

Clients on the Jenny Craig program get a comprehensive weight-loss program when they meet with their counselor each week. Support includes food tips, recipes, exercise motivation, and your own personal cheerleader. All foods are pre-packaged, so the guesswork is taken out of portion control, and they are designed to be nutritionally balanced.

Motivational support is built into the Jenny Craig program. For many, the face-to-face option for support gives it a leg up against competitor Nutrisystem.

Many users report that Jenny Craig food tastes good. Of course, not every person will enjoy every food, but in general, the quality is satisfying.

Cons

For some, Jenny Craig is not the most convenient option. The meal entrées need to stay frozen and then reheated in the microwave. If you don't have access to these appliances during the day, the diet may be harder to follow.

The cost of the Jenny Craig program is frequently cited as a drawback. Depending on the plan you choose, your location, and the time of year, the cost may range from $15 to $23 a day, plus shipping. A month's worth of food can cost between $550 and $800. There are also program fees in addition to the cost of food.

Many of the prepackaged frozen foods are processed, and some may be high in sodium. Additionally, some meals contain unhealthy ingredients such as white bread, sugar, or bacon. There may not be allergy-safe options for some people and eating out is not part of the plan when eating pre-packaged meals only.

Is the Jenny Craig Diet a Healthy Choice for You?

Jenny Craig is a popular weight-loss plan with a track record of success. It is a convenient and easy-to-follow program of heat-and-eat meals that offer variety and balanced nutrition.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) shares guidance for improving and maintaining overall health and well-being. Its dietary recommendations include calorie guidance and tips for a healthy, balanced diet. Jenny Craig provides the government’s recommended amounts of fat, protein, and carbohydrates, and the diet supplies ample fiber and calcium. If you are interested in creating your own daily calorie goal, this calculator can help.

In addition to the meal plan, those following the plan get support from Jenny Craig consultants either by phone or in person. Many are former Jenny Craig clients who have undergone nutritional and fitness training.

Health Benefits

Jenny Craig is a popular plan, and that may be because its users find it works for them. Some research supports its efficacy, and weight loss often leads to other health improvements.

May Promote Healthy Weight Loss

According to research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2015, dieters who followed the Jenny Craig plan lost an average of 4.9% more weight over a three-month period than a control group who received nutritional counseling and education. In the study, Jenny Craig users also fared better than people following Weight Watchers and Nutrisystem plans.

May Help You Reach Nutritional Goals

For those who have struggled to reach or stay within the recommended daily amounts of fiber, protein, carbohydrates, and fats, the Jenny Craig diet may help them reach these goals. The diet provides enough of these nutrients while mostly staying within the recommended limits.

Health Risks

For people with some health conditions, the Jenny Craig plan may not be appropriate. It does not offer modifications or safe products for people with some allergies, for example.

Contains Gluten

Jenny Craig is not a good option for anyone with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Almost all meals on the plan contain gluten ingredients. The few meals that include no obvious gluten are not intended for those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity due to gluten cross-contamination in processing.

Contains Allergens

Jenny Craig may not be safe for people with food allergies to peanuts, soy, and dairy products. While some products may not contain allergens, the potential for cross-contamination is high.

High in Sodium

Since Jenny Craig's meals are processed, they can be high in sodium, making it difficult to stay under the USDA recommended daily amount of 2300 milligrams. Keeping your dietary sodium within the recommended range may help prevent high blood pressure, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease.

A Word From Verywell

If considering the Jenny Craig plan, do a head-to-head comparison with other weight loss programs, tally the costs, and take a good look at how each plan fits into your lifestyle. In the end, the right diet plan will be the one you are willing and able to stick to.

Remember, following a long-term or short-term diet may not be necessary for you and many diets out there simply don’t work, especially long-term. While we do not endorse fad diet trends or unsustainable weight loss methods, we present the facts so you can make an informed decision that works best for your nutritional needs, genetic blueprint, budget, and goals.

If your goal is weight loss, remember that losing weight isn’t necessarily the same as being your healthiest self, and there are many other ways to pursue health. Exercise, sleep, and other lifestyle factors also play a major role in your overall health. The best diet is always the one that is balanced and fits your lifestyle.

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Article Sources
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