Why You Should Think Twice Before Trying The Optavia Diet

The Optavia diet is a weight loss program that features low-calorie, low-carb, pre-packaged meals, a few simple home-cooked meals, and one-on-one coaching (via Healthline). The program is owned by Medifast, a meal replacement company, and users choose from branded products called "Optavia fueling." These offerings comprise of more than 60 low-carb, high-protein selections and include bars, soups, cereals, shakes, puddings, cookies, and pastas. Those adhering to the program are meant to consume 800 to 1000 calories a day.

The most popular Optavia program is the 5&1 plan, which consists of five of these prepackaged meals and one "Lean and Green" meal each day. The Lean and Green meal is home-cooked and features lean protein, non-starchy vegetables, and healthy fats. Users are meant to eat every two to three hours and partake in 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day. You may also have an optional approved snack a day.

For people requiring more calories or flexibility, there is a 4&2&1 plan, which includes four Optavia fuelings, two home cooked Lean and Green meals, and one snack each day. Once users obtain their optimal weight, they enter a six-week transition program in which they slowly increase caloric intake. The company then offers a maintenance program, consisting of three Optavia fuelings and three Lean and Green meals a day. One-on-one coaching is available throughout the weight loss and maintenance programs.

Pros and cons of the Octavia diet

Studies looking at short-term results find that the program does lead to weight loss (via U.S. News & World Report). This makes sense, considering users are consuming half the calories a normal adult would eat. There are currently no studies examining the long-term outcomes of the Optavia diet.

The program requires you to buy weeks' worth of prepackaged meals and only requires cooking one simple recipe each day. While this may be ideal for individuals who don't like cooking or thinking about what their next meal will be, others may find the program too restrictive and difficult to stick to. The fuelings are also highly processed, containing large amounts of additives, sugar substitutes, and processed vegetable oils. This in turn, may harm your gut health and lead to chronic inflammation. Additionally, extended caloric restriction may lead to nutrient deficiencies and a slower metabolism, which can cause weight regain.

What's more, the meals are not cheap. About three weeks worth of fuelings cost $350 to $450, and this does not include the cost of groceries for the once-a-day home cooked meals. The price does include one-on-one health coaching, but most of Optavia's coaches are not certified health professionals and are unqualified to give dietary or medical advice. It's important to speak to your doctor, especially if you have an existing health condition, before starting a new diet program.