What Is the Optavia Diet?

The Optavia 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.

What Is the Optavia Diet?

The Optavia diet uses meal replacements such as shakes, bars, pre-packaged foods, and other small, calorie-controlled meals to create a calorie deficit to induce weight loss. This diet claims to provide convenience while taking the guesswork out of weight loss. The diet focuses on lean proteins and non-starchy vegetables and highly discourages sweets and higher calorie foods. Experts do not recommend the diet.

The 2021 U.S. News and World Report Best Diets ranks the Optavia Diet number 28 in Best Diets Overall and gives it a score of 2.6/5. Learn about the pros and cons of this diet to find out if it's a healthy plan for you.

What Experts Say

“The Optavia diet is a meal replacement plan. Followers eat a certain number of ‘fuelings’ per day (plus one homemade meal) resulting in calorie reduction and weight loss. Experts worry that it’s unsustainable; many will regain weight when transitioning off the meal replacements.”

Chrissy Carroll, RD, MPH

The 7-Day Diet Plan

In all of its plans, Optavia products take the place of several meals consumed throughout the day. All are also kept within strict calorie ranges. One serving of vegetables is equal to half a cup.

While there are many different versions of the diet, here is one example.

  • Day 1: Three 7-ounce servings of cod, shrimp, or egg whites, 2 healthy fat servings, 3 servings of non-starchy vegetables; 1 snack such as celery sticks, sugar-free gum, or dill pickle spears; 3 fuelings (Optavia bars or shakes)
  • Day 2: Three 6-ounce servings of pork tenderloin, trout, or chicken breast, 1 healthy fat serving, 3 servings of non-starchy vegetables; 3 fuelings
  • Day 3: Two meals of 5 ounces salmon, beefsteak, or dark poultry meat, 3 servings of non-starchy vegetables; 1 pre-packaged Optavia meal; 1 snack; 3 fuelings
  • Day 4: Three 7-ounce servings of cod, shrimp, or egg whites, 2 healthy fat servings, 3 servings of non-starchy vegetables; 1 snack; 3 fuelings
  • Day 5: Two meals of 5 ounces salmon, beefsteak, or dark poultry meat, 3 servings of non-starchy vegetables; 1 pre-packaged Optavia meal; 1 snack; 3 fuelings
  • Day 6: Three 6-ounce servings of pork tenderloin, trout, or chicken breast, 1 healthy fat serving, 3 servings of non-starchy vegetables; 3 fuelings
  • Day 7: Three 7-ounce servings of cod, shrimp, or egg whites, 2 healthy fat servings, 3 servings of non-starchy vegetables; 1 snack; 3 fuelings

What You Can Eat

Depending on the Optavia Diet plan you select, you’ll eat between two and five of the company’s pre-made meal replacements ("fuelings") per day. You'll also eat one to three of your own low-calorie meals, which are primarily lean protein and non-starchy vegetables ("lean and green").

Optavia Fuelings

The majority of the food you consume on the Optavia Diet takes the form of its pre-packaged fuelings. The company states that “each Fueling is nutritionally equivalent and portion-controlled."

This means they can be eaten interchangeably, providing users the same nutrients whether they decide to eat a granola bar or red bean and vegetable chili, for instance. You can choose from around 50 different products including soups, bars, shakes, pretzels, and cookies.

Lean Protein

The "lean and green" meals that you prepare must include a 5- to 7-ounce portion of cooked lean protein. Optavia distinguishes between lean, leaner, and leanest protein sources using the following examples:

Non-Starchy Vegetables

Optavia’s 5&1 program allows for two non-starchy vegetables alongside the protein in your lean and green meal. These veggies are divided into lower, moderate, and higher carbohydrate categories, with the following as examples:

Healthy Fats

In addition to lean protein and non-starchy vegetables, a lean and green meal can be prepared with up to two servings of healthy fats.

Low-Calorie Condiments

The diet permits certain condiments as part of your homemade meals.

Low-Fat Dairy, Fresh Fruit, and Whole Grains

When you reach your ideal weight, the Optavia Diet allows you to add servings of fruit, dairy, and grains, such as:

  • Cottage cheese
  • Greek yogurt
  • Apples, bananas, berries, etc.
  • Whole grain bread, whole wheat English muffins, high fiber cereals, etc.

What You Cannot Eat

Although no food is technically forbidden on the Optavia diet, many items (such as sweets) are strongly discouraged.


Optavia discourages indulging sugar cravings with sweets. However, after the initial weight loss phase, lower-calorie sweet treats like fresh fruit or flavored yogurt can be placed back into your diet. But you should generally avoid:

  • Cakes
  • Cookies
  • Ice cream

High-Calorie Additions

  • Mayonnaise
  • Sugary BBQ sauce
  • Butter

Sugar-Sweetened and Alcoholic Beverages

  • Soda
  • Sweetened coffee beverages
  • Beer
  • Spirits
  • Wine

How to Prepare the Optavia Diet & Tips

Like other meal replacement diets, the Optavia Diet provides users its own array of branded products. The 5&1 plan is the most popular and designed for rapid weight loss. On this plan, users eat five Optavia fuelings and one low-calorie lean and green meal each day.

Optavia's other plans include the 3&3 plan (3 fuelings plus 3 lean and green meals) and the 4&2&1 plan (4 fuelings, 2 lean and green meals, and 1 snack). These plans are designed for users who want to lose weight slowly or maintain their current weight.

A Lean & Green meal includes 5 to 7 ounces of cooked lean protein and three servings of non-starchy vegetables with up to two servings of healthy fats. The amount of fat you will eat depends on the fat content in your protein choice.

Every week you should consume a minimum of two servings of fatty fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids. You can consume your Lean & Green meal whenever you choose. You should eat every 2 to 3 hours.

Once you've reached your weight goal, you will add servings of fruit, low-fat dairy, and whole grains to your Lean & Green meals.

Pros of the Optavia Diet

The main health benefit of following an Optavia plan is rapid weight loss, particularly for people who need to lose a significant amount of weight.

  • Convenience: Buying pre-portioned, packaged foods can be easy and convenient; there is little need to count calories or carbs. A simple formula for creating your own meals at home is also convenient. Instead of calorie counting, you will count portions of specific foods, which makes meal tracking easier.
  • Reduced overweight and obesity risks: Losing weight fast has two positive health benefits: People tend to lose more weight and have an easier time keeping it off. If you have a lot of weight to lose, getting it off rapidly can help not only enhance your results but also provides a greater chance of long-term results. Being overweight or obese can increase the risk of a number of diseases. Among them are high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, osteoarthritis, and various types of cancer. Losing just 5% of body weight can help reduce these risks.
  • Improved blood sugar and cholesterol levels: While some health experts recommend a more gradual weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds per week, there are some times when a faster rate is preferred. For example, studies have connected rapid weight loss with greater improvements in both lipid and glycemic profiles. This means that losing weight faster may be better for people with cholesterol and/or blood sugar issues that are threatening their health. However, this study also found that body composition changes were better with slower rates of loss.
  • Coaching support: Optavia also offers support through its coaching program, which some users may find helpful. Coaching might help you keep on track, increasing the likelihood of success.

Cons of the Optavia Diet

There are also some potential downsides to Optavia's plan that could adversely affect your health.

  • Nutrient deficiency: This diet may cause nutrient deficiency if calorie levels are kept too low for too long. In addition to restricting calories, Optavia plans limit food groups including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains—all of which provide important vitamins and minerals.
  • Reduced sports performance: Dropping weight quickly can also reduce sports performance. A review of 10 articles noted that, although many athletes (fighters, specifically, in this case) want to reduce their body mass, doing so too fast can impair their performance while also risking their health. Following a very low-calorie diet also will not likely support an athlete's rigorous training program. Some health experts suggest that if an athlete wants to lose weight at all, it's best to do it in the off-season, when training demands are reduced.
  • Sales pressure: Coaching "support" can also be seen as a drawback. Critics have called the plan a pyramid scheme because of its multi-level structure. Users who complete Optavia's program are encouraged to become coaches, sell the company’s products, and recruit new sales representatives. This can be a turnoff for potential customers.
  • Cost: The plans can be expensive; 5 fuelings will cost you about $17, not including tax and shipping (or the groceries you buy for lean and green meals).
  • Hunger: Losing weight this way can be very uncomfortable and may not be sustainable. Very low-calorie diets typically cause extreme hunger, fatigue, and other undesirable symptoms. Experiencing hunger can make it more likely for you to be tempted to eat outside of the diet plan.

Is the Optavia Diet a Healthy Choice for You?

The Optavia Diet deviates from health and nutrition guidelines encouraged by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). For example, Optavia's 5&1 plan tops out at 800 to 1,000 calories per day, an extreme reduction from the USDA's recommendation of roughly 2,000 calories per day for adults.

An 800-calorie-per-day diet is considered a "very low calorie diet" and should be medically supervised. Extreme calorie restriction can cause fatigue, brain fog, headaches, or menstrual changes. As such, the 5&1 option should not be used long-term. The 3&3 and 4&2&1 plans typically supply between 1,100 and 2,500 calories per day and can be appropriate for longer periods.

Optavia's plans also provide 80 to 100 grams of carbohydrates per day or about 40% of the diet’s daily calories. The USDA recommends a diet that is 45% to 65% carbs. The USDA also emphasizes grains and dairy products, which are not represented in Optavia's 5&1 plan.

The 5&1 plan limits calories to 800 to 1,000 per day, so it might not meet all of your nutritional needs. It's also not suitable for people who are pregnant or nursing, those who exercise 45 minutes per day or more, teens, older adults who are sedentary, or people with diabetes or gout.

A Word From Verywell 

With its extremely low-calorie eating plans, the Optavia Diet is certainly likely to help you shed pounds; however, whether that weight loss will stick once you go off the diet is debatable. Before you begin any meal replacement diet, carefully consider whether you can realistically follow it.

If you decide to opt for Optavia, learn about healthy eating so you can keep the weight off long-term. Consult with a healthcare professional before starting such a low-calorie plan. You can also discuss your weight loss goals and if it is healthy for you to lose weight. The best diet is always the one that is balanced and fits your lifestyle.

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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12 Sources
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