Jenny Craig is a pricey, one-on-one diet program using extensive packaged meals, but will yield substantial weight loss for those who can stick with it. Dieters sign up for individual, private counseling sessions with program consultants at Jenny Craig outlets, by phone, or online. Consultants are not required to have nutrition or health professional certifications, but have attended the Jenny Craig training program. After joining members purchase prepackaged food in convenient single serving sizes from their local center, or directly shipped dry and frozen foods in chilled containers via the Jenny Direct program.
Initially, dieters follow a planned menu to follow, using the Jenny Craig line of frozen and dry foods, supplemented by fresh supermarket items such as fruits, low fat, dairy, salad, and other vegetables. Later, you can customize your own menus (the "YourStyle Profile") using the same range of foods and focusing on your personal eating style, activity stage, and weight loss mindset. Members transition to using a menu with three or four days each of non-program foods once they have reached the "halfway point" for their weight loss goals. Exercise is a part of the program, aiming for moderate levels of physical activity.
Published studies show a high level of dropout among Jenny Craig customers, however for those who stick with the program, they lose considerable amounts of weight. For instance, the company claims that their members lose 12 pounds during the holidays.
The weekly consultations can be a great benefit to keeping your motivation up. After five weeks, there will be an intermediate check-up to see how you're doing, establish and refine goals, etc. We're very impressed that the company even has a 24/7 support line for information and support when you need it.
Jenny Craig operates 550 weight loss centers mainly in the US, but also Canada, Australia, Puerto Rico, and New Zealand. Few people know that Jenny Craig was actually founded in Australia in 1983 by Jenny and Sidney Craig, commencing operations in the US in 1985. The company was acquired by Nestle (of chocolate fame--oh the irony).
Menu: Jenny Craig's menu promises convenience--most meals are single serving prepared foods which you just pop in the oven or microwave, so it's a good choice for someone on the go with little time for cooking. However, you pay for this convenience of course, and won't get the benefits of fresh whole foods. Also, although Jenny Craig notes the eventual goal is to wean dieters off the branded foods and teach them portion control, this goal is hard to accomplish using the packaged meals. This experience works in the short term to control calories, but doesn't teach the long-term methods of healthy eating.
Taste is very subjective, but most reviewers believe these meals taste fairly good for packaged food.
Nutritionally, the prepared Jenny Craig meals follow the USDA food pyramid, and contain 50% to 60% carbohydrate, 20% to 25% protein, and 20% to 25% fat. A downside common to most prepared food however, is chemical preservatives and relatively high levels of sodium. Again--Jenny Craig may be alright for awhile, but we'd advise transitioning to a healthy, long-term eating plan.
Prices: The Jenny Craig program varies in cost depending on the plan you choose. The company claims that purchasing the meals costs on average $1 per day more than the typical American spends on food.
Sign-up costs include weekly one-on-one counseling, personalized menus, motivational plans and assorted manuals and guides, varying by your membership level. They often offer low introductory plans and then prices ramp up--add to membership costs the prepackaged foods, which generally cost $12 to $18 per day, and you're looking at $84 to $126 per week.