If you can afford it, Jenny Craig is a proven and convenient weight-loss method. The program delivers prepackaged food to your home or office and provides support from counselors and fellow dieters. However, transitioning off packaged meals and to your own food is a challenge, and cost of the program's foods can be prohibitive.
Effective for weight loss. Experts and users agree that Jenny Craig is nutritionally sound and can lead to weight loss, but a review published on WebMD.com warns that the critical point comes when you transition from the prepackaged meals to preparing your own food. This diet is the star of a single clinical study published in a 2010 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers found that dieters lost significantly more on Jenny Craig than a "usual care" regimen, but critics say this is hardly a real-life scenario because the prepackaged meals and support were provided free of charge. There are no long-term studies on keeping the weight off, but user reviews indicate that it's easy to gain the weight back when you stop buying the food.
Your portions are controlled for you. Jenny Craig is structured around prepackaged frozen meals that restrict your fat and calorie intake; you purchase breakfast, lunch and dinner, then supplement meals with fresh produce and yogurt or purchased Jenny Craig snacks. All meals are delivered to your door on a weekly basis. Users say the food is tasty, but the portions are skimpy. One of the program's top features is the wide range of support options from Jenny Craig counselors and fellow dieters, as well as online. The diet is designed for your specific dietary needs, both physical and emotional. There is a fitness component, but experts say it's not as integral as it could be.
No-hassle dieting. When you strictly follow the Jenny Craig plan, you know what you're going to have for every meal, every day. The meals are fully cooked and arrive either frozen or in shelf-stable packages that are ready-to-eat. Calories are counted for you. Once you make it halfway to your goal weight, the amount of Jenny Craig food you eat diminishes and counselors begin helping you plan your own meals one to two days per week, which makes it less convenient. Many say they struggle with making that transition when they have to once again find the time and commitment to meal prep.
A pricey weight loss solution. The most popular component of Jenny Craig is its convenience, but you pay dearly for it. In addition to a monthly fee of $15 to $40 per month, with varying access to support at each membership level, an enrollment fee of $25 to $99, depending upon the program you choose, as well as an estimated $15 to $30 per day for meals and snacks. And that doesn't include shipping costs. Users on Jenny Craig's forums say weekly food costs range from $90 to $170 weekly. It's not a viable option at some income levels, say experts. Others say for what you pay, you could hire a personal trainer and nutritionist.
Jenny Craig Reviews
1. U.S. News & World Report
Angela Haupt offers a thorough overview of the Jenny Craig Diet. U.S. News & World Report's 2015 roundup of the best diets names Jenny Craig #2 in the category of easiest-to-follow diet, #8 for best diet overall, and it ties for third, with The Biggest Loser Diet, as the best weight loss diet overall.
Review: Jenny Craig Diet, Angela Haupt, Dec. 30, 2014
Four commercial weight-loss programs, including Jenny Craig, are evaluated and rated. Ratings are based upon feedback from 9,376 subscribers. Each plan receives an overall score for initial weight loss, maintenance, calorie awareness, food variety, inclusion of fruits and vegetables, and exercise integration and encouragement.
Review: Diet Plans Ratings, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Not Dated
3. The Journal of the American Medical Association
Researchers observe more than 400 overweight or obese women for two years as they either follow a Jenny Craig protocol provided free of charge or receive "usual care." Although the Jenny Craig participants lost more weight than the usual-care subjects, researchers say the high retention rate may be unrealistic once you factor in the program's high cost.
Review: Effect of a Free Prepared Meal and Incentivized Weight Loss Program on Weight Loss and Weight Loss Maintenance in Obese and Overweight Women: A Randomized Controlled Trial, C.L. Rock, et al., Oct. 27, 2010
The editors of NextAdvisor.com call Jenny Craig a "solid choice" due to their tasty meals, and strong support system. Overall, they give it a 4.5 star rating, due to its equal focus on providing resources for body, mind and food. They give the meals a 5-star rating for taste.
Review: Editor's Choice: Online Diet Programs, Editors of NextAdvisor.com, Jan. 7, 2015
Editors of WebMD.com offer an extensive overview of the Jenny Craig diet plan. They do not compare it to other diets or offer any opinions beyond this straightforward overview. Editors also offer an estimate of the costs, and note that it's not suitable for vegans.
Review: Jenny Craig, Editors of WebMD.com, Not Dated
Jenny Craig earns a score of 73 out of 100 from more than 80 user reviews. Many users love the simplicity of not having to cook or plan meals, but others say the food is simply too expensive. Some also report regaining weight easily after they stopped eating the prepackaged meals.
Review: Jenny Craig Weight Loss Program Reviews, Contributors to Viewpoints.com, As of January 2015