Healthline Diet Score: 3.5 out of 5
Jenny Craig is a diet program that provides structure and support for people who want to lose weight and keep it off.
The program delivers prepackaged, low-calorie meals and offers one-on-one support from a consultant.
The goal is to remove the guesswork about what to eat and thus make weight loss simple.
This article reviews the effectiveness of the Jenny Craig diet and provides tips for getting started.
RATING SCORE BREAKDOWN
Overall score: 3.5
Fast weight loss: 4
Long-term weight Loss: 3
Easy to follow: 5
Nutrition quality: 2
BOTTOM LINE: The Jenny Craig diet is pretty well researched for weight loss, but most of the meals and snacks are prepackaged and processed. It’s a pretty expensive diet and transitioning over to regular meals might be challenging.
How Does It Work?
The Jenny Craig diet involves eating prepackaged meals and working with a personal Jenny Craig consultant to achieve your weight loss goals.
There are several steps to getting started.
Step 1: Sign up for a Jenny Craig Plan
To get started on the Jenny Craig diet, you must first sign up for a paid plan.
You can do so at a local Jenny Craig center or on the Jenny Craig website.
There is an initial sign-up and a monthly membership fee, plus the cost of Jenny Craig meals.
The sign-up fee is typically under $100 and the monthly membership fee around $20 per month. Food costs add up to about $150 per week, depending on which items you choose.
Step 2: Meet With Your Jenny Craig Consultant
Once you’re signed up, you will be assigned a personal Jenny Craig consultant, with whom you’ll meet at least once per week, either virtually or at a local Jenny Craig center.
This consultant provides you with a diet and exercise plan for weight loss, identifies your strengths and assists you in overcoming challenges along the way.
Step 3: Eat Jenny Craig Meals and Snacks
To simplify the weight loss process, Jenny Craig provides three entrées and two snacks each day, which can be picked up at a local Jenny Craig center or shipped to your home.
These items come from a catalog of over 100 choices and are usually frozen or shelf-stable.
Plan to add fruits, vegetables and dairy items to your meals and eat one extra snack of your choice each day.
Step 4: Transition to Home-Cooked Meals
Once you’ve lost half the weight, you will begin to reduce your reliance on the Jenny Craig meals and start cooking a few days per week.
Your Jenny Craig consultant provides you with recipes and guidance on portion sizes so that you can learn real-world strategies for weight loss and weight maintenance.
Once you have reached your weight loss goal, you gradually phase out the Jenny Craig foods entirely, until you’re cooking all of your own meals.
Even after reaching your weight loss goal, you can continue working with your Jenny Craig consultant for motivation and support, as long as you remain a monthly member.
Jenny Craig is a subscription-based diet program that provides prepackaged meals and snacks, plus the support of a personalized consultant to help you reach your weight loss goals.
Can It Help You Lose Weight?
The Jenny Craig diet is designed to help people lose weight by reducing calories through portion-controlled meals and snacks.
Most of the entrées are between 200 and 300 calories, while snacks and desserts range from 150 to 200 calories.
A typical Jenny Craig plan provides 1,200–2,300 calories per day, depending on your gender, age, activity level and weight loss goals.
Exercise is not required, but 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week is recommended to improve results.
According to the Jenny Craig website, the average member loses 1–2 pounds (0.45–0.9 kg) per week on the program. These claims are backed up by research studies.
In one study, a group of overweight, sedentary women followed the Jenny Craig diet for 12 weeks and lost an average of 11.7 pounds (5.34 kg) each (1).
A second study found that Jenny Craig helped people lose roughly 5% more weight than Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem or SlimFast after one year (2).
Even after two years, Jenny Craig members weigh on average 7% less than they did before starting the program. Moreover, the longer they stay on the program, the more weight they tend to lose (3, 4).
Jenny Craig helps people lose 1–2 pounds (0.45–0.9 kg) per week. Members who stick with the program for several years tend to keep the weight off.
The Jenny Craig diet has many benefits that make it a popular diet for weight loss.
1. It’s Easy to Follow
Since Jenny Craig provides pre-made entrées and snacks in the beginning stages, following the plan is relatively easy.
All you need to do is reheat an entrée and add your favorite fruits, vegetables or reduced-fat dairy products to complete the meal. Snacks are grab-and-go and don’t require cooking.
This makes eating quick and easy and eliminates much of the planning involved with typical diets.
2. It Helps Teach Portion Sizes and Balance
Jenny Craig entrées are low-calorie, low-fat and portion-controlled.
These prepackaged foods help people better understand portion sizes, so they can replicate them when cooking at home or eating out.
Adding fruits and vegetables to the meals also encourages people to eat more produce and learn how to build a balanced plate.
3. It Provides Social Support
One of the most helpful components of the diet is the individualized support from Jenny Craig consultants.
Research has found that having social support from family, friends or health coaches improves people’s chances of losing weight and keeping it off (5, 6).
Jenny Craig consultants are always available for paying members, which may help explain why many Jenny Craig members maintain their weight loss for several years (3).
4. It May Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease and Improve Blood Sugar Control
In addition to weight loss, the Jenny Craig diet can reduce your risk of heart disease and improve blood sugar control.
One study found that women who lost at least 10% of their body weight on the Jenny Craig diet had less inflammation and lower insulin, triglyceride and cholesterol levels after two years — all of which are risk factors for heart disease (7).
The Jenny Craig diet may also be a good choice for people with type 2 diabetes since it has been linked to better blood sugar control and lower triglyceride levels, compared to other counseling methods (8, 9).
The Jenny Craig diet is easy to follow and helps people learn to eat balanced meals. It also provides support from Jenny Craig consultants and has been linked to improved heart health and lower blood sugar levels.
While the Jenny Craig diet may be a good option for some people, it has its downsides.
1. It’s Expensive
Getting started on the Jenny Craig diet is not cheap.
It costs several hundred dollars upfront, plus monthly fees and the cost of food.
Members must also buy extra fruit, vegetables and dairy products to add to their meals and snacks.
Jenny Craig foods can be convenient, but the cost may make it unrealistic for some.
2. It Does Not Work for All Special Diets
Since the entrées and snacks on the Jenny Craig diet are prepackaged, options may be limited for people following special diets.
For example, none of the Jenny Craig food items are labeled kosher or halal, and there are no vegan lunch or dinner options.
Gluten-free items are available but are not clearly marked. Label-reading or contacting the company may be required for further guidance.
3. Jenny Craig Foods Are Highly Processed
Most of the Jenny Craig prepackaged foods are heavily processed.
They contain high amounts of refined carbs and oils, artificial sweeteners and additives that may be bad for your gut health (10, 11, 12).
If you don’t enjoy eating a lot of prepackaged or frozen foods, then the Jenny Craig diet may not be a good fit for you.
4. It May Be Difficult to Transition Away From Jenny Craig Foods
While eating prepackaged foods makes it easy to follow a diet in the short term, it does not teach the skills needed to lose weight on your own.
Jenny Craig members must learn how to prepare healthy meals to continue and maintain weight loss.
Jenny Craig consultants help with this transition, but some people may still find it difficult.
5. Jenny Craig Consultants Are Not Healthcare Professionals
While the Jenny Craig consultants are an essential part of the diet program, they are not medical professionals and cannot give diet advice related to medical conditions.
Many are former Jenny Craig members who decided to become consultants themselves.
People with complex health conditions should seek guidance from a registered dietitian or other nutrition professional before starting a new diet.
The Jenny Craig diet is expensive and may not work for people with dietary restrictions, as it includes many processed, prepackaged foods. Jenny Craig consultants are not healthcare professionals, so members may require additional support.
Foods to Eat on the Jenny Craig Diet
While on the Jenny Craig diet, you can choose from a selection of over 100 prepared foods.
There are many breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks, desserts, shakes and bars available so that you won’t feel like you’re eating the same things over and over.
In addition to the entrées and snacks provided by Jenny Craig, you’re encouraged to add fruit, vegetables and reduced-fat dairy products to your meals and enjoy one other snack of your choice.
Once you have reached your weight loss goals, you will gradually transition away from the Jenny Craig foods and learn to cook your own nutritious, low-calorie meals.
In the beginning stages of the diet, most of the foods you will eat are prepackaged Jenny Craig items. As you lose weight, home-cooked meals are gradually added.
Foods to Avoid on the Jenny Craig Diet
Jenny Craig members are allowed to eat anything, as long as it fits within their allotted calories for the day — even alcohol is allowed in moderation.
Once members begin cooking their own meals, portion control is emphasized and low-fat and low-calorie foods are encouraged. Frequently eating out is not recommended.
No foods are forbidden on the Jenny Craig diet, but drinking too much alcohol and frequently eating out are not recommended.
Here’s an example of three days on the Jenny Craig diet:
Breakfast: Jenny Craig Blueberry Pancakes and Sausage with 1 cup (28 grams) of fresh strawberries and 8 fluid ounces (237 ml) of nonfat milk.
Snack: Jenny Craig Peanut Butter Crunch Anytime Bar.
Lunch: Jenny Craig Tuna Dill Salad Kit with 2 cups (72 grams) of lettuce and 1 cup (122 grams) of carrots.
Snack: 1 cup (151 grams) of grapes.
Dinner: Jenny Craig Classic Lasagna with Meat Sauce with 1 cup (180 grams) of roasted asparagus.
Snack: Jenny Craig Apple Crisp.
Breakfast: Jenny Craig Turkey Bacon and Egg White Sandwich with 1 apple and 8 fluid ounces (237 ml) of nonfat milk.
Snack: Jenny Craig Strawberry Yogurt Anytime Bar.
Lunch: Jenny Craig Southwest Style Chicken Fajita Bowl with 2 cups (113 grams) of garden salad and 2 tablespoons (30 grams) of low-fat dressing.
Snack: Jenny Craig Cheese Curls with a half cup (52 grams) of sliced cucumber.
Dinner: Jenny Craig Butternut Squash Ravioli with 1 cup (180 grams) of sauteed spinach.
Snack: 1 cup (177 grams) of fresh cantaloupe.
Breakfast: Jenny Craig Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal with 1 orange and 8 fluid ounces (237 ml) of nonfat milk.
Snack: Jenny Craig Cookie Dough Anytime Bar.
Lunch: Jenny Craig Turkey Burger with 2 cups (60 grams) of spinach salad and 2 tablespoons (30 grams) of low-fat dressing.
Snack: 1 light string cheese (24 grams) with 1 cup (149 grams) of cherry tomatoes.
Dinner: Jenny Craig Chicken Pot Pie with 1 cup (180 grams) of steamed zucchini.
Snack: Jenny Craig Chocolate Lava Cake.
Most of your meals will be ordered from Jenny Craig, but ideas for meal and snack additions (“Fresh and Free Additions”) include:
Berries: Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries or grapes.
Citrus fruit: Oranges, grapefruits, lemons or limes.
Hand fruit: Apples, pears, peaches, nectarines or plums.
Melon: Cantaloupe, honeydew or watermelon.
Tropical fruit: Bananas, pineapples or mangos.
Other fruit: Kiwis, pomegranates, cherries or avocados.
Leafy greens: Spinach, swiss chard, collard greens or kale.
Salad greens: Lettuce of any kind, whole heads or pre-chopped.
Bulb vegetables: Onions, garlic, shallots, chives, scallions or leeks.
Flower head vegetables: Broccoli, cauliflower or artichokes.
Pod vegetables: String beans, sugar snap peas or snow peas.
Root vegetables: Beets, carrots, radishes, parsnips or turnips.
Stem vegetables: Celery, asparagus or rhubarb.
Other vegetables: Zucchini, mushrooms, cucumber, eggplant, tomato or peppers.
Canned or frozen versions of these fruits and vegetables work as well.
Light string cheese
Nonfat Greek yogurt
Reduced-fat, low-fat or nonfat milk
Low-fat or low-calorie salad dressings
Pickles, capers, horseradish, mustard, vinegar, etc.
The Bottom Line
Jenny Craig offers prepackaged, portion-controlled meals and one-on-one support.
People on the program lose 1–2 pounds (0.45–0.9 kg) per week and long-term members tend to keep the weight off for years.
It may even improve heart health and blood sugar levels.
Yet, the program may be too expensive for some. In addition, you may not like the idea of eating so many packaged and processed foods.
Regardless, the Jenny Craig program works for weight loss and remains a popular diet option.