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Jenny Craig continued...

For the most part, Jenny Craig is based on the government's Food Guide Pyramid. You can eat a variety of foods (even chocolate), but everything is low-fat and portion-controlled.

Cutting down your portions will help you trim down, but Jenny Craig isn’t a long-term weight-loss solution, says Thomas Halton, DSc, licensed nutritionist and owner of Fitness Plus, a nutrition counseling service in Boston, Mass. "The concern is: Will it really teach you how to eat right? Are you going to eat that for the rest of your life?" Layman agrees. "If you don’t learn new behaviors in the first six months of going on a new nutrition program, then you’re going to fail at it and a year later you’ll be back as heavy as you were, if not heavier."

The price of Jenny Craig

What Jenny Craig does offer is an important lesson in portion sizes, Fernstrom says. "I tell people to keep the containers from their packaged meal plan so they can use them for their own food."

Bottom line? Jenny Craig is healthy and takes the guesswork out of dieting, but the food gets pricey ($120–$145 a week, plus shipping and handling costs if you’re having it sent to your home), and a lot of people eventually want to get back to eating food that doesn’t come from a plastic container.

Eat More, Weigh Less

Cardiologist Dean Ornish, MD, originally designed his very low-fat diet to help people with heart disease lose weight and lower their cholesterol levels. In his research, his diet did trim people down and it protected against heart disease, although it wasn’t clear whether the diet alone -- or the added exercise and other lifestyle interventions -- made the difference.

Eat More, Weigh Less is his recent approach -- slightly less militaristic than the very low-fat vegan regimen used in many of his studies, although still pretty restrictive. His goal is to change the average American diet from its current composition of 40% fat, 20% protein, and 40% carbs to 10% fat, 20% protein, and 70% carbs.

The bulk of the diet is made up of fiber-rich whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Meats are severely limited, and simple carbs (read: sugar) are forbidden. Because fat has almost twice the calories of carbohydrates or protein, Ornish says changing the math allows you to eat almost a third more food without increasing calories.

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