How Jenny Craig Compares to Other Weight Loss Plans

Review of Food Quality, Cost, and Program Effectiveness

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Jenny Craig is a weight loss program founded in 1983 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.

The dietary intake ranges from 1,200 to 2,300 calories per day depending on the client's weight, fitness habits, and motivation level. Persons on the plan can expect to lose an average of one to two pounds per week if they adhere to the strict rules of the program.

How the Jenny Craig Diet Works

On the Jenny Craig diet, you eat three packaged meals and two packaged snacks per day, supplemented with an additional snack of your choosing. Dieters can select their meals from a menu of over 100 entrees and snacks either by phone or from a local Jenny Craig weight loss center.

In addition to the meal plan, dieters 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 in line with the program's core principles. The consultants are not nutritionists but are there to help clients set achievable goals, develop a meal plan, address dietary challenges, and celebrate successes along the way.

Nutrition, Taste, and Portion Sizes

Complete nutritional information for each Jenny Craig meal is provided on the company's website. The foods are typically low in calories and fat with targeted amounts of protein, carbohydrates, and dietary fiber.

Many lunch and dinner entrees are between 200 and 300 calories and offer around four grams of fiber. Breakfast entrees are often 200 calories or less, while snacks are around 100 to 125 calories. Expect portion sizes to be relatively small.

From a purely subjective point of food, the taste and quality of Jenny Craig food are actually quite good. Favorites include the Loaded Baked Potato and the Baja-Style Chicken Quesadilla.

Overcoming Hunger

If you are a dieter who struggles with hunger pangs, you will enjoy the fact that you can "volumize" your Jenny Craig meal plan. Volumetrics is a program which encourages clients to eat high-fiber, high-protein, low-calorie-dense foods. These can be added to your meal plan, ideally with input from your Jenny Craig consultant.

For example, a Jenny Craig Pot Roast on its own may not be satisfying enough for some clients. To remedy this, you can add a wedge salad with Jenny Craig salad dressing or a similar side dish.

If you need more than two Jenny Craig Classic Waffles for breakfast, you can add some fruit or other fat-free toppings. The point of Volumetrics is to ensure that clients adhere to the diet without feeling deprived.

Helpful tips for volumizing are provided on each entree package.

Cost of the Jenny Craig Plan

The cost of Jenny Craig plan varies based on the items you select. Before formulating a plan, it is a good idea to scan the website and add up the total costs of your food and membership.

To begin, there are two levels of membership:

  • Rapid Results is a 12-week weight loss plan that costs $16 in addition to the cost of your food. It includes weekly support from a Jenny Craig consultant.
  • 12-month premium memberships come with unlimited support from a Jenny Craig consultant. There is a $99 enrollment fee as well as a monthly membership fee of $19 per month.

The cost of a Jenny Craig meal plan ranges from $15 to $23 per day for an average daily cost of 19.85. If you order meals over the phone, you will need to add shipping costs starting at $29 for packages delivered within the United States or Canada.

To calculate costs, you will need to tally your total weekly expenses and multiply that figure by the number of weeks you'll need to be on the plan to reach your target weight.

For example, let's say you have 30 pounds to lose and choose the premium membership. Based on the Jenny Craig diet, you would expect to lose an average of 1.5 pounds per week and would, therefore, need to be on the plan for between three and four months.

Based on these parameters, you can estimate your weekly costs as follows:

  • Weekly Jenny Craig meal plan cost of $19.85 per day x seven days = $138.95
  • Weekly shipping costs = $29.95
  • Weekly "volumizing" food costs = $50 (estimated)

Based on these weekly costs, you would expect to spend between $2,684 if you were on the plan for 12 weeks (three months) to $3,578 if you were on the plan for 16 weeks (four months).

Now, add to your enrollment fee ($99) and 12 monthly membership fees ($19 x 12 months = $288), and you will reach a grand total of between $2,972 and $3,866 all in.

Program Effectiveness

The benefit of the Jenny Craig weight loss plan is that portion sizes and nutritional intake is strictly controlled. While you can expect to lose between one and two pounds per week, some people will lose more and others will lose less. As with any diet plan, weight loss varies by the individual.

Based on clinical research, program results are generally positive but modest. A 2015 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine suggested that dieters who followed the Jenny Craig plan fared slightly better than other commercial programs, but not by much. It underscores the importance of choosing a plan that not only meets your needs but addresses your limitations as an individual.

If considering the Jenny Craig plan, do a head-to-head comparison with other weight loss programs, tally the costs, and take a good, long 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.

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Article Sources
  • Gudzune, K.; Doshi, R.; Mehta, A. et al. "Efficacy of Commercial Weight-Loss Programs: An Updated Systematic Review." Annal Inter Med. 2015; 162(7):501-12. DOI: 10.7326/M14-2238.