Rating Calorie-Control Diets For Seniors

Jenny Craig for Seniors

The Jenny Craig program was founded more than 20 years ago by a woman named Jenny Craig who was struggling with her own weight. At the time, the program was unique because it offered frozen or shelf-stable prepared meals to help with portion management and calorie-intake control.

Quick Take

  • Offers a variety of prepared, packaged meals and snacks that are required during the initial phase of dieting
  • Safe and nutritionally balanced
  • Requires weekly, one-on-one counseling sessions
  • Encourages gradual weight loss
  • Can be expensive

This Diet Is Best For

People who prefer total support and guidance over a more independent approach to dieting


Who Should Not Try This Diet

People with a limited budget or those who don't like being told what to eat. Also, Jenny Craig requires a time commitment for the weekly counseling sessions. If eating out is a big part of your work or your life, then this plan probably isn't the best choice.

The Premise

Jenny Craig offers weekly one-on-one counseling that provides both information and motivation. Developed by registered dietitians and psychologists, the program focuses on lifestyle changes, such as incorporating exercise into your daily life, and diverting your attention from food.

If you don't have a Jenny Craig Weight Loss Centre near you or if you prefer to go it alone, you can try Jenny Direct, the at-home program. Jenny Direct offers a personalized weight-loss program, delivery of materials to your home, and weekly support consultations over the phone.

The Rationale

With individual counseling and prepackaged meals, the program leaves little to chance -- or to the dieter's discretion. Jenny Craig helps you set a realistic weight-loss goal and then helps you craft a plan to successfully achieve that goal.

The program says it teaches you how to manage food, feelings, and fitness. Jenny Craig believes that the combination of complete support, step-by-step instruction about what to eat, and controlled portions during the initial dieting stage together help dieters win at weight loss.

Eating on the Jenny Craig Diet

The diet consists of three meals and three snacks per day. About 20 percent of the daily calories are from protein, 20 percent from fat, and 60 percent from carbohydrates. During the initial phase, and as long as it takes to knock off the first half of the total number of pounds you want to lose, Jenny Craig requires that you purchase and eat Jenny Craig prepared entrees and snacks every day at every meal.

There is a wide variety of dishes to choose from, including such options as sweet and sour chicken, beef sirloin dinner, pancakes and vegetarian sausage, and double chocolate cake. Written materials and your diet counselor will help you add fruits, vegetables, dairy foods, and whole grains to the Jenny Craig dishes.

The number of calories you should consume every day is calculated according to your height and weight, but you are not allowed to go below a minimum of 1,000 calories. Diet plans are available for vegetarians, people with diabetes, and those who observe kosher dietary laws.

Once the first half of your extra weight is lost, you can begin the transition to supermarket food, using a food diary to keep a record of everything you eat. Counselors guide dieters with their new food choices, and the dieter and counselor together decide how rapidly or how slowly the transition to supermarket foods should be made.

What the Experts Say

If you follow the prescribed diet, you'll eat a balanced, nutritious, reduced-calorie diet. However, adhering to the diet over the long term may present a challenge. "It may be a good way to get started, but for the dieter, very little thought is going into what they're doing in the beginning.

The dieter has no control over what they're eating," says Elizabeth Ward, M.S., R.D., nutrition counselor in Reading, Massachusetts. And, while the counselors are trained to be Jenny Craig counselors, they are not nutritionists. Keep in mind that it's almost impossible to get all the nutrients you need from 1,000 calories a day. It's healthier if you set 1,600 calories as your personal minimum calorie intake.

If you follow the program (no cheating) and exercise as recommended, you can expect to lose one to two pounds a week. Though the diet is a safe and healthy one for any age as long as you don't eat less than 1,600 calories a day, it doesn't come cheap.

Prices vary depending on your individual choices, but the company says the average cost is about $65 a week to get started, including entrees and snacks. There are generally three membership options. Depending on which membership level and which meals and snacks you choose, it can cost you about $400 during the first month of the program.

Calorie quota: Calorie levels are calculated by computer for each individual at the start of the program. They can range from 1,000 to 2,300 calories a day.

No: Anything except what's on preplanned menus, eating out

Yes: Jenny Craig prepared entrees and snacks; prescribed amounts of fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and whole grains

Other similar diets: Nutri/System, Weight Watchers

Continue to the next page for information about the 90/10 Weight-Loss Plan for Seniors.

To learn more about senior health, see: