One of the most difficult things to do is losing weight. It takes commitment, consistency, and stamina, all of which can be difficult to come by. In fact, it’s so hard that many people look for help from online programs and done-for-you meal prep services. However, nutritionists advise that although programs like Weight Watchers and Optavia can help you get started, a fad diet or quick solutions won’t always set you up for long-term success.
If you’re thinking about joining a paid weight loss program like Jenny Craig or Noom, this guide to popular weight loss plans will help you decide which one is ideal for you.
Five weight loss programs as rated by dietitians
With the abovementioned in mind, we looked into a bunch of the most popular weight loss programs. There are several weight loss plans to pick from, ranging from self-guided app-based programs to premade meal delivery.
We want to be clear that none of these programs are necessary to lose weight, but they’ll be useful for those who need assistance, convenience, or accountability.
Noom, which bills itself as “Weight Watchers for Millennials,” is a relative newcomer to the weight loss game. The stoplight technique is used in this app-based program, which assigns colors (red, yellow, and green) to meals based on their nutritional qualities. The Noom app tracks your meals and physical activity and helps you in losing weight without the need of restrictive diets. Noom typically offers all diet programs, including the low carb diet, the DASH diet, the low-fat diet, the Mediterranean diet, and the flexitarian diet.
Prices for Noom are difficult to find online, but according to a Noom spokesman, the current cost is $59 per month, $99 for two months, or $129 for four months. What’s nice is that Noom rewards you with discounts if you commit to a longer period of time. You may sign up for a 14-day free trial, which will automatically change to a paid membership if you do not cancel.
“Noom may help with making a sustainable diet by learning from the recommendations provided and food logging,” Wunder explains. “When you fully engage, you must be accountable, which will surely help in weight loss.”
Noom’s social media-like features can also be beneficial, according to Wunder, because those who thrive in online social forums will like sharing their weight loss success stories.
Based on several online reviews, it seems that Noom tends to give really low calorie recommendations. CNET reporter Shelby Brown tried Noom and the app told her to eat 1,200 calories per day, which is far too low for a 5-foot-9 adult woman.
Wunder says the Noom diet might not work for people who don’t like social media or don’t want extra screen time. She also doesn’t recommend Noom for people who have a history of disordered eating, because calorie prescriptions and categorization of foods can trigger bad habits.
Should you try it?
Noom might be a good fit for you if: You’re generally a self-directed person but could use some structure, or if you need a digital-only weight loss program to work with your busy schedule
Nutrisystem is a weight loss program that provides ready-to-eat meals and snacks delivered to your door. This makes it simple to follow, but it does not include suggestions for maintaining weight loss if you stop consuming Nutrisystem weight loss diet meals.
Nutrisystem costs around $300 per month for the most basic plan, and you’ll still need to buy kitchen essentials and some other products in addition to your packed meals. Nutrisystem may be worth it if the convenience benefit outweighs the cost for you.
Having meals delivered to your home is undoubtedly convenient and can help you stick to your diet, but that is about the only advantage of Nutrisystem weight loss programs.
According to Gillespie, Nutrisytem “does not represent the elements of successful weight loss and is not long-term sustainable,” and it’s pricey for what you receive out of the program.
Experts advise patients who follow a Nutrisystem weight loss program to limit their sodium intake because the prepared meals include a lot of salt. Furthermore, “although this plan does assist to educate on portion sizes, the food offered does not completely support learning how to eat properly,” they noted.
Should you give it a shot?
Nutrisystem may be a good fit for you if you value convenience and are willing to pay a premium for it; you should be fully commited to monitoring your sodium intake and have no preexisting health issues that require you to keep your sodium intake low; and you are confident in your ability to maintain weight loss after ditching the plan.
WW (formerly Weight Watchers)
WW has been around for quite long time. It’s a long-running weight loss program that frequently ranks at the top of lists of “best diets,” with one of the main reasons being the knowledge offered to help users make beneficial dietary changes for healthy weight loss. WW also provides a vegetarian diet or plant-based diet options that allow vegetarians and vegans to lose weight.
WW provides a variety of plans at various prices. Sign up for the Digital program for $3.38 per week, Digital 360 for $4.61 per week, and Unlimited Workshops + Digital for $6.92 per week.
“Overall, this is one of the greatest weight loss plans since it is pretty sustainable over lengthy periods of time,” says Gillespie. “Because the points system allows users to eat seemingly any meals they desire, it is not viewed to be as limiting.”
The accountability provided by group meetings (with an in-person choice) and weigh-ins also contributes to long-term success.
The biggest disadvantage of the WW program is that it may foster the development of bad habits, which is the contrary of what was intended. “Points are solely based on calorie consumption, not nutritional quality of foods,” Gillespie explains. “In essence, you could eat a king-size Reese’s cup instead of a balanced nutritious meal and still stay inside your allowed points.”
Should you give it a shot?
If you require basic nutrition instruction to influence your calorie intake, meal replacement, and eating choices, as well as a systematic, data-driven approach to weight loss, WW may be a good option for you.
Optavia provides a number of different (but very similar) weight loss programs that rely on shakes, bars, and other Optavia-branded packaged meals to produce better results. It’s simple to implement, yet it may not give long-term effects.
Expect to spend about $400 per month on an Optavia weight loss plan, plus the cost of purchasing any fresh food or lean protein you want in addition to the premade meals and snacks. “Considering the convenience and pleasure of these products would undoubtedly be a factor in determining if it is worth the price,” Wunder adds.
One-on-one coaching is provided with some Optavia programs, although it is unclear whether Optavia coaches are licensed dietitians. When asked about the coaches’ qualifications, an Optavia spokeswoman stated that the coaches “come from different backgrounds” and that many had previously been clients, so they understand the program inside and out.
Optavia clients have access to a dietary support team that includes registered dietitians, mental health professionals, and others in addition to their coach.
The biggest benefit of this weight loss program is that it is practical and simple to follow.
Optavia plans appear to be quite restricted, ranging from 800 to 1,200 calories, the majority of which are derived from Optavia-branded processed foods. You can lose weight on an Optavia diet, but you may gain it back if you stop taking it.
Optavia programs also push you to get a big part of your calories from Optavia “Fuelings,” which include bars, shakes, cookies, puddings, cereals, and soups. Relying on these meals for weight loss will not provide you with good habits to follow in the future.
Should you give it a shot?
If you can afford the program’s cost and are confident in your ability to maintain weight loss after you stop using Optavia, it may be a suitable option for you.
Jenny Craig is another all-inclusive weight-loss program. It has many of the same features as Optavia and Nutrisystem, but it is more costly.
Jenny Craig is the most expensive plan on our list. The most basic package costs roughly $390 per month and includes only two meals every day. If you want the Complete Weight Loss Plan, which includes a meal plan with all daily meals and snacks as well as counseling (which isn’t provided by a licensed dietitian), your monthly cost will be close to $690.
“This program will help in visually displaying portion amounts, but depending on the plan selected, it may not give much more to lead to a healthy, sustainable diet,” Wunder notes. Jenny Craig’s main advantage is convenience, but as Wunder and Gillespie have previously said, convenience is not necessarily the greatest method to accomplish long-term weight loss.
“You must be willing to pay a premium in order to get this plan,” Wunder explains. “Again, when it comes to processed meals, being cautious of salt levels is really crucial.”
Jenny Craig, like the other meal delivery services, does not provide much in the way of instruction. This weight loss strategy is unlikely to provide you with the knowledge you require to continue losing weight or maintain your current weight or maintin your weight when you ditch this plan.
Should you give it a shot?
Jenny Craig may be a suitable option for you if you don’t have a medical condition that needs you to reduce salt and you can afford the monthly expenses.
Working directly with a dietitian
Of course, all weight experts agree that working with a dietician is the most effective way to lose and maintain weight loss. This gives you access to a qualified professional’s expertise of dietary science and behavioral change strategies, which are the two most important aspects in weight loss.
Working with a dietician to establish a meal plan, on the other hand, may be costly and time-consuming, and as a result, it is not accessible to everyone.
The cost will vary by practice, but if your practitioner deems nutritional treatment or a medical weight loss program medically essential, your insurance may pay the cost. People with Type 2 diabetes, for example, who need to monitor their blood sugar levels may frequently obtain their health insurance to cover the costs of working with a dietitian.
“Dietitians are far more accessible than people believe,” Gillespie adds, adding that insurance may cover it.
If you want to work with a dietitian, check out the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ database of experts: Only registered dietitians who have passed the board-certifying test and are licensed to give specialized nutrition advice are included in this database.
The information in this article is provided solely for educational and informational purposes and is not intended to be health or medical advice. If you have any questions about a medical condition or your health goals, always see a physician or other trained health expert.