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If you don’t enjoy cooking or have time to make meals, you may be interested in a diet that minimizes your time in the kitchen.
The Optavia diet does just that. It encourages weight loss through a combination of one-on-one coaching, a few simple home-cooked meals, and low calorie packaged products.
Still, you may wonder whether it’s safe or if it has any downsides.
This article reviews the pros and cons of the Optavia diet, as well as its effectiveness, to help you decide if it’s a good fit for you.
Rating Score Breakdown
- Overall score: 2.25
- Weight loss: 2
- Healthy eating: 2.5
- Sustainability: 3
- Whole body health: 1.5
- Nutrition quality: 1.5
- Evidence-based: 3
BOTTOM LINE: The Optavia diet has been shown to result in short-term weight loss, but research is needed on its long-term effectiveness. The weight loss plan has limited food options and relies largely on packaged, heavily processed meals and snacks.
The Optavia diet is a low calorie, reduced carb program that combines packaged foods, homemade meals, and personalized coaching to encourage weight loss.
The program offers several plans to choose from, all of which involve a mixture of packaged Optavia Fuelings and homemade entrees known as Lean and Green meals.
For people who aren’t interested in cooking, the company also provides a line of premade low carb meals called Flavors of Home as a replacement for Lean and Green meals.
What are Optavia Fuelings?
You can choose from more than 60 Optavia Fuelings, including bars, cookies, shakes, puddings, cereals, soups, and pastas.
Fuelings use sugar substitutes, small portion sizes, whey protein powder, and soy protein isolate to create low carb, high protein versions of popular food items, like vanilla milkshakes and mac and cheese.
Versions of the diet
The Optavia diet includes two weight loss programs and a weight maintenance plan:
- Optimal Weight 5&1 Plan. The most popular plan, this version includes five Optavia Fuelings and one balanced Lean and Green meal each day.
- Optimal Weight 4&2&1 Plan. For those who need more calories or flexibility in food choices, this plan includes four Optavia Fuelings, two Lean and Green meals, and one snack per day.
- Optimal Health 3&3 Plan. Designed for maintenance, this plan includes three Optavia Fuelings and three balanced Lean and Green meals per day.
The Optavia program provides additional tools to aid weight loss and maintenance, including tips and inspiration via:
- text message
- community forums
- weekly support calls
- an app that allows you to set meal reminders and track your food intake and activity
The company also provides specialized programs for older adults, teens, people who are nursing, and people with diabetes or gout.
Although Optavia offers these specialized plans, it’s unclear whether this diet is safe for people with certain medical conditions. Additionally, teenagers and people who are nursing have unique nutrient and calorie needs that the Optavia diet may not meet.
Pros at a glance
- likely to result in short-term weight loss
- requires minimal food prep
Cons at a glance
- limits calories to an unsustainable level that is likely to promote rebound weight gain when the diet ends
- extremely expensive, at $400–$500 per month
- uses coaches who are not health professionals or trained in nutrition
- encourages dependence on highly processed foods
Optavia operates as a direct sales company, and the individuals who sell its products are called Coaches. Many Coaches are previous Optavia clients, although this is not a requirement.
It’s also important to note that Optavia Coaches are not certified nutrition professionals.
To join Optavia as a client, you must first connect with a Coach. You can either enter the Coach’s name on the website, if you know it, or enter your contact information to be connected to a Coach in your area.
After signing up, you’ll meet with your coach daily for the first 4 days. After this initial period, you and your Coach will determine an optimal schedule for one-on-one meetings, as well as how you’ll keep in touch (call, text, email, etc.).
Since Optavia Coaches are paid on commission, you’ll order all your Optavia products using a link provided by your Coach.
The cost of Optavia depends on the types and number of products you purchase each month.
Optavia products are available individually and in kits. Individual Fuelings cost $2.96 or $3.46 per serving, while kits come out to $3.60 or $3.38 per serving, depending on the kit.
Here’s a breakdown of the current prices:
|Price||Number of servings||Compatible plan|
|Essential Optimal Kit||$378.25||119||5&1|
|Essential On-the-Go Kit||$378.25||119||5&1|
|Essential Optimal Kit||$423||140||4&2&1|
Keep in mind that these prices don’t reflect the additional cost of groceries needed to prepare Green and Lean meals.
If you sign up for an Optavia Premier membership, products will be mailed to you automatically each month. Premier members can also qualify for 5 free Fuelings boxes when they order 15 boxes or 1 kit.
Signing up for Optavia starts with talking with an Optavia Coach over the phone. During this phone call, you’ll choose an Optavia diet plan, set weight loss goals, and familiarize yourself with the program.
For weight loss, most people start with the Optimal Weight 5&1 Plan, which is an 800–1,000-calorie regimen that the company claims can help you drop 12 pounds (5.4 kg) over 12 weeks.
On the 5&1 plan, you’re instructed to eat 5 Optavia Fuelings and 1 Lean and Green meal each day. The program recommends eating a meal or a Fueling every 2–3 hours and incorporating 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week.
The 5&1 plan also includes 1 optional snack per day, which must be approved by your Coach. Some examples of plan-approved snacks are:
- 3 celery sticks
- 1/2 cup (60 grams) of sugar-free gelatin
- 1/2 ounce (14 grams) of nuts
Here’s what 1 day on the Optimal Weight 5&1 Plan could look like:
- Fueling 1: Essential Golden Chocolate Chip Pancakes with 2 tablespoons (30 mL) of sugar-free maple syrup
- Fueling 2: Essential Drizzled Berry Crisp Bar
- Fueling 3: Essential Jalapeño Cheddar Poppers
- Fueling 4: Essential Homestyle Chicken Flavored & Vegetable Noodle Soup
- Fueling 5: Essential Strawberry Shake
- Lean and Green Meal: 6 ounces (172 grams) of grilled chicken breast cooked with 1 teaspoon (5 mL) of olive oil, served with small amounts of avocado and salsa, plus 1.5 cups (160 grams) of mixed cooked veggies like peppers, zucchini, and broccoli
- Optional snack: 1 fruit-flavored sugar-free fruit pop
Alternatively, if you prefer more flexibility, your Coach may recommend the 4&2&1 plan, which consists of 4 Optavia Fuelings, 2 Lean and Green meals, and 1 snack each day.
Ordering Optavia Fuelings
Since Optavia Coaches get paid on commission, you’ll order all your Fuelings using a link from your Coach.
There are two kinds of Fuelings to choose from:
- Essential Fuelings. These are Optavia’s versions of classic American dishes and flavors, such as Cheesy Buttermilk Cheddar Mac, Wild Rice & Chicken Flavored Soup, and Essential Creamy Vanilla Shake.
- Select Fuelings. These products are described on the website as “diverse and delicious flavors from around the world.” Examples of Select Fuelings include Spinach Pesto Mac & Cheese and Honey Chili Cranberry Nut Bar.
What you can eat for a Lean and Green meal
Lean and Green meals are homemade meals that are designed to be high in protein and low in carbs.
Here’s what a Lean and Green meal should include:
- 5–7 ounces (145–200 grams) of cooked lean protein
- 3 servings of non-starchy vegetables
- up to 2 servings of healthy fats
The program also includes a dining out guide that explains how to order a Lean and Green meal at your favorite restaurant.
Foods allowed in your daily Lean and Green meal
- Meat: chicken, turkey, lean beef, game meats, lamb, pork chop or tenderloin, ground meat (at least 85% lean)
- Fish and shellfish: halibut, trout, salmon, tuna, lobster, crab, shrimp, scallops
- Eggs: whole eggs, egg whites, Egg Beaters
- Soy products: only tofu
- Vegetable oils: canola, flaxseed, walnut, olive
- Additional healthy fats: low carb salad dressings, olives, reduced fat margarine, almonds, walnuts, pistachios, avocado
- Low carb vegetables: collard greens, spinach, celery, cucumbers, mushrooms, cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, zucchini, broccoli, peppers, spaghetti squash, jicama
- Sugar-free snacks: ice pops, gelatin, gum, mints
- Sugar-free beverages: water, unsweetened almond milk, tea, coffee
- Condiments and seasonings: dried herbs, spices, salt, lemon juice, lime juice, yellow mustard, soy sauce, salsa, sugar-free syrup, zero-calorie sweeteners, 1/2 teaspoon only of ketchup, cocktail sauce, or barbecue sauce
Foods to avoid — unless included in Fuelings
- Fried foods: meats, fish, shellfish, vegetables, sweets like certain pastries
- Refined grains: white bread, pasta, biscuits, pancakes, flour tortillas, crackers, white rice, cookies, cakes, pastries
- Certain fats: butter, coconut oil, solid shortening
- Full fat dairy: milk, cheese, yogurt
- Alcohol: all varieties
- Sugar-sweetened beverages: soda, fruit juice, sports drinks, energy drinks, sweet tea
Once you reach your desired weight, you enter a 6-week transition phase, which involves slowly increasing your calories to no more than 1,550 calories per day.
You’ll also be allowed to incorporate a wider variety of foods, including:
- Fruit: all fresh fruit, particularly berries because they’re lower in carbs
- Low fat or nonfat dairy: yogurt, milk, cheese
- Whole grains: whole grain bread, high fiber breakfast cereal, brown rice, whole wheat pasta
- Legumes: peas, lentils, beans, soybeans
- Starchy vegetables: sweet potatoes, white potatoes, corn, peas
After 6 weeks, Optavia recommends transitioning to the Optimal Health 3&3 Plan, which includes 3 Lean and Green meals and 3 Fuelings daily, plus ongoing Optavia coaching.
The Optavia diet is designed to help people lose weight and fat by reducing calories and carbs through portion-controlled meals and snacks.
The 5&1 plan limits calories to 800–1,000 per day, divided among 6 portioned-controlled meals.
A short-term 16-week study followed 65 people on Optavia’s 5&1 Plan with excess weight or obesity and found that those on Optavia’s 5&1 Plan had significantly lower weight, fat levels, and waist circumference than the control group by the end of the study (
Specifically, those on the 5&1 Plan lost 5.7% of their body weight, on average, and 28.1% of participants lost more than 10%. This may suggest additional benefits, as research associates 5–10% weight loss with a reduced risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
However, it’s important to note that participants on the Optavia plan were eating only 800–1,000 calories per day, while those in the control group were allowed 1,500 calories or more daily. The latter is a more sustainable approach to long-term weight loss (
The one-on-one coaching may be helpful as well.
The same study found that individuals on the 5&1 diet who completed at least 75% of the coaching sessions lost more than twice as much weight as those who participated in fewer sessions (
However, keep in mind that this study was funded by Medifast, which is the former name of the company that owns Optavia.
All the same, other research shows that ongoing expert coaching may help improve weight loss and diet adherence. However, Optavia Coaches are not required to have any kind of certification or nutrition training, so it’s unlikely that most of them are experts (
No studies have yet examined the long-term results of the Optavia diet.
Overall, more research is needed to assess the Optavia diet’s long-term effectiveness.
In addition to weight loss, some people may be drawn to the Optavia diet because it’s easy to follow, may improve blood pressure levels, and offers ongoing support.
Easy to follow
Since the diet relies mostly on packaged Fuelings, you’re responsible for cooking only one meal per day on the 5&1 Plan.
What’s more, each plan comes with meal logs and sample meal plans to make it easier to follow.
While you’re encouraged to cook 1–3 Lean and Green meals per day, depending on the plan, they’re simple to make — and the program includes specific recipes and a list of food options.
Plus, people who aren’t interested in cooking can buy packaged meals called Flavors of Home to replace Lean and Green meals.
May improve blood pressure
Optavia programs may help improve blood pressure through weight loss and limited sodium intake.
All Optavia meal plans are designed to provide less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day — although it’s up to you to choose low sodium options for Lean and Green meals.
Numerous health organizations, including the Institute of Medicine, American Heart Association, and U.S. Department of Agriculture, recommend consuming less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day.
That said, there’s currently no evidence showing the effectiveness of the Optavia 5&1 diet for improving blood pressure.
Offers ongoing support
Optavia’s Coaches are available throughout the weight loss and maintenance programs.
As noted above, one study found a significant relationship between the number of coaching sessions on the Optavia 5&1 Plan and improved weight loss (
Still, keep in mind that the Coaches are not qualified nutrition professionals and shouldn’t replace the care of a credentialed expert, such as a registered dietitian.
While the Optavia diet may be an effective weight loss method for some, it has several downsides to consider.
Very low in calories
With just 800–1,000 calories per day, the Optavia 5&1 program is quite low in calories, especially for individuals who are used to eating 2,000 or more calories per day.
While this rapid reduction in calories may result in overall weight loss, research has shown that it can also lead to significant muscle loss (
In addition, low calorie diets may decrease the number of calories your body burns, making it even more difficult to lose weight. This slower metabolism can last even after you stop restricting calories (
Calorie restriction can also lead to the inadequate intake of essential nutrients, including vitamins and minerals.
As a result, populations with increased calorie needs, such as pregnant people, athletes, and highly active individuals, should take special care to meet their nutrient needs when reducing their calorie intake.
May be difficult to stick with
The 5&1 Plan includes 5 packaged Fuelings and 1 low carb meal per day. As a result, it can be quite restrictive in food options and calorie count.
Since you may tire of relying on packaged foods for most of your meals, it could become easy to cheat on the diet or develop cravings for other foods.
While the maintenance plan is much less restrictive, it still relies heavily on Fuelings.
Can be costly
Regardless of your specific plan, the Optavia diet can be expensive, especially when you factor in the additional cost of groceries for Lean and Green meals.
Depending on your budget, you may find it cheaper to cook low calorie meals yourself.
May be incompatible with other eating patterns
The Optavia diet includes specialized programs for vegetarians, people with diabetes, and people who are nursing. Plus, about two-thirds of its products are certified gluten-free.
However, options are limited for those on specific diets. For example, Optavia Fuelings are not suitable for vegans or people with dairy allergies because most options contain milk.
Plus, the Fuelings use numerous ingredients, so people with food allergies should read the labels carefully.
Finally, the Optavia program is not recommended for people who are pregnant or nursing because it cannot meet their nutritional needs.
May lead to weight regain
Weight regain may be a concern after you stop the program.
No research has yet examined weight regain after the Optavia diet. However, weight regain is common after restrictive diets such as this one (
One potential cause of weight regain is your reliance on packaged food items. After the diet, it may be difficult to transition to shopping for and cooking healthy meals on your own.
Additionally, as a result of the dramatic calorie restriction of the 5&1 Plan, some weight regain may also be due to a slower metabolism.
Relies on highly processed Fuelings
The Optavia diet relies heavily on packaged food items. In fact, you would eat 150 Fuelings each month on the 5&1 Plan.
This is a cause for concern, as many of these items are highly processed. Highly processed foods contain less fiber and fewer beneficial nutrients than a balanced diet with a variety of whole fruits and vegetables.
Specifically, these products contain large amounts of food additives, sugar substitutes, and processed vegetable oils, which may harm your gut health and contribute to chronic inflammation.
Carrageenan, a common thickener and preservative used in many Fuelings, is derived from red seaweed. Animal and test-tube studies suggest that it may negatively affect digestive health and cause intestinal ulcers.
Many Fuelings also contain maltodextrin, a thickening agent that has been shown to spike blood sugar levels and alter gut bacteria composition.
However, the amounts studied are much higher than those used in Fuelings, so Fuelings may not spike blood sugar levels any more than other carbohydrates. More research is needed (
While these additives are likely safe in small amounts, consuming them frequently on the Optavia diet may increase your risk of side effects.
Employs Coaches who are not health professionals
Most Optavia coaches have successfully lost weight on the program but are not certified health professionals.
As a result, they are unqualified to provide dietary or medical advice. You should take their guidance with a grain of salt and talk with a healthcare professional if you have any concerns.
If you have an existing health condition, it’s also important to consult a medical professional or registered dietitian before starting a new diet program.
As a dietitian, I don’t recommend the Optavia diet for several reasons:
- It’s unnecessarily restrictive. The 5&1 Plan cuts calories to just 800–1,000 per day, which simply isn’t sustainable. In fact, 2-year-olds require more calories than that (
- It depends heavily on processed foods. Not only is this not ideal for optimal health, but you’re also missing out on the variety of flavors and textures offered by whole foods.
- It doesn’t create lasting habits. Relying on premade meals means you aren’t learning how to make incremental lifestyle changes, such as cooking nutritious meals or reading nutrition labels.
- It isn’t cheap. Optavia’s plans are very expensive, with kits costing roughly $400–$500 per month — and that’s without the cost of groceries for your Green and Lean meals.
Additionally, as the Fuelings are all single-serving, the diet isn’t practical for people with larger households.
Overall, while following the program likely will result in weight loss initially, it lacks the educational component needed to sustain your weight loss after the program ends.
There are several products and programs that provide a sustainable and balanced approach to weight loss while still offering the same ease and convenience as Optavia.
|PlateJoy||• offers meal plans for a variety of dietary needs and preferences|
• allows you to filter for ingredients, portion sizes, and kitchen equipment
• syncs with Instacart and Amazon Fresh
|ingredients not included in cost||Read our full review.|
|Factor_||• fully prepared, easy-to-reheat meals|
• gluten-free, keto, and vegan options available
• variety of add-on snacks and sides available
• good reviews for flavor and texture
|expensive compared to cooking at home||Read our full review.|
|WW||• encourages healthier choices using points-based system|
• meal planning tools, workouts, and other features available in WW app
• effective for short-term weight loss
• doesn’t restrict food groups or require processed foods
|• can be expensive|
• allows for the possibility of making less healthy choices while staying within your points allotment
|Read our full review.|
PlateJoy is a meal planning app that offers custom meal plans and recipes to suit your preferences and goals, as well as those of your household.
In addition to choosing from a variety of specialty diets — like low carb, vegetarian, or clean eating — you can set parameters around ingredients, desired portion sizes, and required kitchen appliances.
The app even syncs with Instacart and Amazon Fresh, making grocery shopping a breeze.
While it regularly costs $8.25–$12.99 per month, depending on the subscription length you choose, Healthline readers can join for just $4.99 per month.
Prepared meal delivery services
If you find it helpful to have single-serving prepared meals in your fridge or freezer, it’s worth considering a prepared meal delivery service.
Factor_ is one of our favorites, since the meals are designed by registered dietitians and chefs. The service also offers several plans to choose from, including Calorie Smart, Keto, and Vegan & Veggie.
Meals cost $11–$15 each. Shipping is free on all orders.
For a more traditional diet program experience that provides a great deal of support, consider WW (formerly known as Weight Watchers).
The program’s PersonalPoints help you learn to identify more nutritious food choices while allowing you to enjoy your favorite foods.
You can choose from among plans that have varying levels of support and accountability from your own coach or an online community.
Depending on the plan you choose, myWW+ costs $3.38–$7.69 per week.
Is Optavia a pyramid scheme?
Optavia is a multilevel marketing, or direct sales, company. These companies are often referred to as pyramid schemes because the representatives typically make as much money — or even more money — by recruiting others to join the company as they do by selling products.
Generally, this means that a few people at the “top of the pyramid,” who have signed up many people who rank lower than themselves, earn a great deal of money, while those at the bottom likely lose money once their startup costs are factored in.
Many of these direct sales companies are considered predatory toward job seekers because representatives must pay to join, even though they are statistically extremely unlikely to make a livable income.
According to Optavia’s 2021 Income Disclosure Statement, about 20% of the company’s Coaches earned $0 in 2021, and only about 12% of Coaches made more than $10,000. Optavia’s starter kit costs $199 (20).
Is Optavia worth the cost?
In my opinion as a dietitian, Optavia is not worth the cost. The highly processed, low calorie food is not a sustainable way to lose weight.
You can save money and develop healthy, sustainable habits by preparing your own meals from whole-foods ingredients or opting for a more sustainable diet program.
What do you eat on the Optavia diet?
On Optavia, most of the food you eat is packaged, Optavia-branded meals and snacks. Additionally, you can eat one or two meals per day consisting of lean proteins, fruits and vegetables, and minimal carbs.
The Optavia diet promotes weight loss via low calorie packaged foods, low carb homemade meals, and one-on-one coaching.
While the initial 5&1 Plan is fairly restrictive, the 3&3 maintenance phase allows for a greater variety of foods and fewer processed snacks, which may make weight loss and long-term adherence easier.
However, the diet is expensive and repetitive and doesn’t accommodate all dietary needs. What’s more, extended calorie restriction may result in nutrient deficiencies and other potential health concerns.
While the program promotes short-term weight loss and fat loss, there are better alternatives to consider for maintaining a healthy weight in the long run.