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Healthline Diet Score: 2.96 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 low calorie prepackaged meals and offers one-on-one support from a coach. 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.

DIET REVIEW SCORECARD
  • Overall score: 2.96
  • Weight loss: 4.25
  • Healthy eating: 2
  • Sustainability: 4
  • Whole body health: 2.25
  • Nutrition quality: 2.25
  • Evidence-based: 3

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 fairly expensive diet and transitioning over to regular meals might be challenging.

Jenny Craig was founded in 1983 by Sid and Jenny Craig, who wanted to create an easy-to-follow weight loss program (1).

The program is designed for individuals looking to lose weight with the support of a personal coach and the convenience of prepared meals and snacks.

Pros

  • The Max Up Weight Loss Plan includes 1:1 coaching.
  • The program provides convenient preportioned prepared meals and snacks.
  • Meals are free from high fructose corn syrup, trans fats, MSG, and artificial colors and sweeteners.
  • Programs include education on transitioning back to cooking your own meals.

Cons

  • The program is expensive.
  • Coaches are previous members rather than qualified nutrition professionals.
  • Some plans require the purchase of additional meals and snacks.
  • The program is not suitable for people with specific dietary needs or preferences.

The Jenny Craig diet involves eating prepackaged meals and working with a personal Jenny Craig coach to achieve your weight loss goals.

There are several steps to getting started.

Step 1: Sign up for a Jenny Craig plan

You can sign up for a Jenny Craig plan at a local Jenny Craig center or on the Jenny Craig website. During the process, you can choose from three plans, which are detailed in the table below.

Simple Meal PlanEssential Meal PlanMax Up Weight Loss Plan
Cost$97.93 per week$153.93 per week$203 per week
What’s included• 7 breakfasts
• 7 lunches
• 7 breakfasts
• 7 lunches
• 7 dinners
• 7 breakfasts
• 7 lunches
• 7 dinners
• Recharge Bars
• 7 snacks and desserts
• personal coaching

Previously, Jenny Craig charged a membership fee and required more of a commitment. Now, you’ll pay weekly for the plan you choose, but you can cancel any time by calling customer service before your order is processed.

Each plan comes with a satisfaction guarantee, which allows dissatisfied individuals to call customer service to cancel and return any remaining food for a full refund. It’s important to note that this guarantee is only available to first-time customers.

Finally, keep in mind that the prices above don’t include taxes or shipping. Delivery fees start at $29 per order, though shipping is free for your first week.

Step 2: Meet with your Jenny Craig coach

If you sign up for the Max Up Weight Loss Plan, you’ll be assigned a personal Jenny Craig coach, with whom you’ll meet at least once per week, either virtually or at a local Jenny Craig center.

The coach 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 preportioned meals and snacks, which can be picked up at a local Jenny Craig center or shipped to your home.

All of the packaging used is water-soluble, 100% recyclable, and compostable.

Over 100 choices are available, all of which are under 300 calories and typically frozen or shelf-stable.

According to the website, meals are designed by dietitians and food science experts. They’re also made without artificial sweeteners or colors, high fructose corn syrup, trans fats, or monosodium glutamate (MSG).

Depending on the plan you choose, you may still need to provide your own meals and snacks.

For example, the Simple Meal Plan is the most flexible option and designed for people who want the convenience of portion-controlled breakfasts and lunches but prefer to choose their own dinner and snacks.

The Max Up Weight Loss Plan provides all of your meals and snacks, including Jenny Craig Recharge Bars, though you can also add fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the day.

Additionally, with the Max Up Weight Loss Plan, you’ll follow an intermittent fasting protocol, in which you’ll fast for 14 hours each day and consume all of your meals and snacks within a 10-hour window.

Step 4: Transition to home-cooked meals

Once you’ve lost half the weight, you’ll begin to reduce your reliance on the Jenny Craig meals and start cooking a few days per week.

Your Jenny Craig coach 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 reach your weight loss goal, you’ll transition to the Jenny Craig Maintenance Program.

During the first month of the Maintenance Program, you’ll meet weekly with a health coach and begin to gradually phase out Jenny Craig foods entirely.

During this time, your coach will help teach you how to plan your own meals, understand food labels, and navigate menus when dining at restaurants.

By the second month, you’ll transition to monthly check-ins with your maintenance coach and be eating your own meals, though you can always include a few Jenny Craig meals if you prefer the convenience.

The Jenny Craig diet is designed to help people lose weight by reducing their calorie intake through portion-controlled meals and snacks.

Most of the entrées contain 200–300 calories, while snacks and desserts have 150–200 calories.

A typical Jenny Craig plan provides 1,200–2,300 calories per day, depending on your sex, age, activity level, and weight loss goals.

Exercise is not required, but 30 minutes of physical activity 5 days a week is recommended to improve your results. Your coach will work with you to come up with a realistic exercise goal.

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 also backed by research studies.

For example, 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 (2).

A second study found that Jenny Craig helped people lose roughly 5% more weight than Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, or SlimFast after 1 year (3, 4).

Intermittent fasting

The Max Up Weight Loss Plan, which uses an intermittent fasting protocol, is relatively new to the Jenny Craig program.

Intermittent fasting is a way of eating in which you restrict your food intake to a specific time frame.

There are several intermittent fasting protocols, some of which call for a 16-hour fast, while others recommend a full 24 hours of fasting once or twice per week.

Jenny Craig recommends a 14-hour fast followed by a 10-hour eating window. Toward the end of the eating window and before officially breaking the fast with breakfast, you can consume a Jenny Craig Recharge Bar.

Fasting has been associated with various health benefits, such as improving insulin sensitivity, reducing blood pressure, and helping regulate your appetite (5).

While it has gained popularity as a weight loss method, its effectiveness may at least be partially because individuals often eat fewer calories during the day when their eating window is smaller.

That said, preliminary research suggests that intermittent fasting may be an effective approach to weight loss, though more long-term research is needed (6, 7, 8).

Are Jenny Craig Recharge Bars effective for weight loss?

Jenny Craig Recharge Bars are meant to be consumed toward the end of the fasting window, before eating breakfast.

Recharge Bars come in either Fudge Nut or Nut & Honey flavor, and they don’t contain any artificial sweeteners, flavors, or colors.

According to the website, the bars can help increase fat burning and accelerate fat loss, without breaking your fast, though no available evidence confirms these claims.

Additionally, because they are made from calorie- and carb-containing ingredients, including nuts, almond butter, honey, and chocolate, the Recharge Bars would be considered a fast-breaking food on most intermittent fasting protocols.

The Jenny Craig diet has many benefits that make it a popular diet for weight loss.

Easy to follow

Since Jenny Craig provides premade 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.

Plus, with three plan options available, you can pick the option that best fits your weight loss goals and lifestyle.

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.

Provides social support

One of the most helpful components of the diet is the individualized support from Jenny Craig coaches.

Research has found that having social support from family, friends, or health coaches improves people’s chances of losing weight and keeping it off (9, 10).

May help improve blood sugar management

In addition to weight loss, the Jenny Craig diet may help improve blood sugar management.

One study found that following the Jenny Craig program led to better blood sugar regulation and lower triglyceride levels, compared with other counseling methods (11, 12).

While the Jenny Craig diet may be a good option for some people, it has its downsides.

Expensive

While the monthly membership fee has been eliminated, participating in Jenny Craig every week is not cheap.

It costs a minimum of nearly $100 per week, plus taxes and shipping costs. Additionally, the plan recommends individuals also purchase extra fruits, 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.

In fact, one study determined that Jenny Craig is priced too high to be considered cost-effective when comparing the average amount of weight lost in relation to the price of the program (13).

Doesn’t work for all special diets

Since the entrées and snacks on the Jenny Craig diet are prepackaged, options are 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. While gluten-free items are available, they’re not clearly marked.

Nevertheless, you can view the nutritional information, ingredients, and included allergens for each item on the company’s website, allowing you to choose products that fit your dietary needs and preferences.

Jenny Craig foods are highly processed

Most of the Jenny Craig prepackaged foods are heavily processed.

They contain high amounts of additives and refined carbs and oils that may be bad for your gut health (14, 15, 16).

If you don’t enjoy eating a lot of prepackaged or frozen foods, the Jenny Craig diet may not be a good fit for you.

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 doesn’t 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.

While Jenny Craig coaches help with this transition, some people may still find it difficult.

Jenny Craig coaches are not healthcare professionals

While the Jenny Craig coaches are an essential part of the diet program, they’re not registered dietitians or medical professionals and cannot give diet advice related to medical conditions.

Many are former Jenny Craig members who decided to become coaches themselves.

People with complex health conditions should seek guidance from a registered dietitian or other health professional before starting a new 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 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 fruits, vegetables, and reduced fat dairy products to your meals and enjoy one other snack of your choice, depending on your plan.

Once you’ve 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.

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.

Here’s an example of 3 days on the Jenny Craig Max Up Weight Loss Plan.

Day 1

  • Rise & Shine: Recharge Bar
  • Breakfast: Jenny Craig Blueberry Pancakes and Sausage with 1 cup (28 grams) of fresh strawberries and 8 ounces (237 mL) of nonfat milk.
  • Snack: Jenny Craig Sweet & Salty Peanut Butter 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 Cheese Ravioli with 1 cup (180 grams) of roasted asparagus
  • Snack: Jenny Craig Lemon Cookies

Day 2

  • Rise & Shine: Recharge Bar
  • Breakfast: Jenny Craig Turkey Bacon and Egg White Sandwich with 1 apple and 8 ounces (237 mL) of nonfat milk
  • Snack: Jenny Craig Vanilla Cream Shake
  • Lunch: Jenny Craig Ham and Swiss Baguette with 2 cups (113 grams) of garden salad and 2 tablespoons (30 grams) of low fat dressing
  • Snack: Jenny Craig Cheese Curls with one-half cup (52 grams) of sliced cucumber
  • Dinner: Jenny Craig Bourbon Steak with 1 cup (180 grams) of sautéed spinach
  • Snack: 1 cup (177 grams) of fresh cantaloupe

Day 3

  • Rise & Shine: Recharge Bar
  • Breakfast: Jenny Craig Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal with 1 orange and 8 ounces (237 mL) of nonfat milk
  • Snack: Jenny Craig Cocoa & Nut 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 Marsala with 1 cup (180 grams) of steamed zucchini
  • Snack: Jenny Craig Chocolate Lava Cake

Shopping list

You’ll order most of your meals from Jenny Craig, but you also have the option of adding foods such as the following — known as “Fresh and Free Additions” — to your meals and snacks:

Fruits

  • berries
  • citrus fruit
  • apples
  • melons
  • pineapple
  • bananas
  • cherries

Non-starchy vegetables

  • leafy greens
  • broccoli
  • asparagus
  • zucchini
  • cucumber
  • tomatoes
  • peppers

Canned or frozen versions of these fruits and vegetables also work.

Reduced fat dairy

  • light string cheese
  • nonfat Greek yogurt
  • reduced fat, low fat, or nonfat milk

Calorie-free beverages

  • sparkling water
  • coffee
  • tea

Jenny Craig has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), though it is not BBB accredited. BBB accreditation is based on criteria set by the BBB that show trustworthiness and integrity (17).

The company has been involved in a few lawsuits that are worth noting.

A 2013 lawsuit claimed that the Jenny Craig diet caused gallstones in some individuals. However, these claims have not been proven (18).

In 2019, the company was sued for sending unsolicited text messages advertising its services (19).

Reviews of Jenny Craig are mostly positive, with satisfied customers commenting on the ease and convenience of following the plan. Others found the support of a personal coach to be a valuable aspect of the program.

In contrast, several previous members complain that the program is too expensive, while others dislike the emphasis on highly processed packaged foods.

If you’re looking to lose weight, there’s no shortage of commercial weight loss programs to consider. Here’s a quick look at how Jenny Craig compares to its main competitors:

BasicsWeekly subscription costResourcesProsCons
Jenny Craiglow calorie packaged meals$97.93–$203• app
• digital cookbooks
• educational infographics
• newsletter
• 1:1 coaching (Max Up Weight Loss Plan)
• convenient
• easy to follow
• personalized coaching
• maintenance program
• expensive
• not suitable for dietary restrictions
• relies on heavily processed foods
• limited research on long-term effectiveness
Nutrisystemlow calorie packaged meals$59.99–$97.51• app
• getting started guide
• grocery guide
• dining out guide
• convenient
• easy to follow
• one-size-fits-all approach
• expensive
• not suitable for dietary restrictions
• relies on heavily processed foods
• limited research on long-term effectiveness
South Beach Dietlow carb, high protein diet based on a booknone• book
• website
• recipes
• grocery guides
clear guidelinesrestrictive
Weight Watcherspoints-based tracking system using an app$3.19–$8.65• app
• recipe library
• shopping lists
• meal ideas
• restaurant cheat sheet
• 1:1 and group support (some plans)
• flexible
• suitable for various dietary restrictions
• no off-limits foods
• researched-backed effectiveness for weight loss
• does not provide food
• can get expensive

Jenny Craig has been shown to help people lose weight and keep it off in the long term.

That said, it may not be the best fit for everyone.

For example, Jenny Craig isn’t ideal if you have dietary restrictions or serious allergies, as the meals aren’t designed to accommodate special diets.

Additionally, if you enjoy cooking and eating freshly prepared food, you may want to consider a program like WW (previously Weight Watchers), or a meal planning service like PlateJoy, which makes personalized recipe recommendations based on your health goals.

While they’re not cheap, several meal delivery services offer fully prepared meals or meal kits and may support your weight loss efforts.

However, if you prefer not to cook and are looking for a plan that’s easy to follow and provides an extra layer of social support, Jenny Craig may be worth considering.

Lastly, Jenny Craig is rather expensive, especially when you factor in the cost of shipping and any additional food items that need to be purchased, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, and dairy products.

If your budget is tight, you might want to consider looking for a more cost-effective plan, such as WW.

In fact, one study that compared several nonsurgical weight loss methods found Weight Watchers to be the only cost-effective option (13).

Heads-up

Trying to “do it right” when it comes to nutrition may feel tempting, but it can backfire. If you are preoccupied with food or your weight, feel guilt surrounding your food choices, or routinely engage in restrictive diets, consider reaching out for support. These behaviors may indicate a disordered relationship with food or an eating disorder.

Disordered eating and eating disorders can affect anyone, regardless of gender identity, race, age, socioeconomic status, or other identities.

They can be caused by any combination of biological, social, cultural, and environmental factors — not just by exposure to diet culture.

Feel empowered to talk with a qualified healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian, if you’re struggling.

You can also chat, call, or text anonymously with trained volunteers at the National Eating Disorders Association helpline for free or explore the organization’s free and low cost resources.

Is the Jenny Craig diet safe?

The Jenny Craig diet is likely safe for most individuals, though some of the meals and snacks may not be suitable for those with serious food allergies or restrictions.

It’s worth noting that in 2013, the company was involved in a lawsuit that claimed the program caused gallstones and other side effects in some individuals (18).

That being said, the potentially affected individuals used Jenny Craig between the years of 1987 and 1990, and the claims were never officially proven.

How long can someone safely be on the Jenny Craig diet?

There is no specific time frame for how long someone should follow the Jenny Craig diet.

According to the website, once individuals reach their weight loss goal, they will transition to the maintenance plan, which they can continue for as long as necessary.

How long will it take to notice weight loss with the Jenny Craig diet?

According to the company’s website, the average Jenny Craig member loses 1–2 pounds (0.45–0.9 kg) per week. This estimate is also supported by several studies (2, 3, 4).

Jenny Craig is a popular diet option that offers prepackaged, portion-controlled meals and one-on-one support.

The program may help you lose 1–2 pounds (0.45–0.9 kg) per week and may even improve blood sugar management in some individuals.

However, some people may find the program too expensive, while others may not like the idea of relying mostly on prepackaged and highly processed foods.

Overall, while Jenny Craig may be effective for weight loss, there are less expensive and more sustainable options that are worth considering instead.