The Optavia diet was Google’s top trending diet in 2018 and it created a buzz in the online community. The diet was originally called Medifast and it has been developed by the same team. It consists of a structured eating plan that consists of low-calorie pre-packaged Optavia-branded meals and snacks. The concept of the diet is to bring about a long-term transformation by gradually incorporating healthy habits into the lifestyle. In case you do not have sufficient time to cook, this is a diet that will be the right choice for you. The diet is a mix of processed food that is termed as “fuelings”, and other fresh green items that are prepared in the kitchen. The fuelings and the lean and green items consist of fewer calories, thereby cutting down the overall calorie intake and promoting weight loss. The program has different variations to meet the needs and requirements of individuals coming from a variety of lifestyles.
The ready-to-eat snacks include around 80 different types of items consisting of pasta, oatmeal, mashed potatoes, shakes, bars, pre-made shelf-stable meals, and even brownies. These fuelings are based on protein components and also offer a probiotic that enhances overall digestive health. The diet aims to promote weight loss through the process of consuming small-calorie meals throughout the day. In addition, the planners of the diet also provide access to a competent health coach who will answer all the queries and provide the necessary guidance. As the dietary components are very low in calories, the Optavia diet promotes quick weight loss. The other advantage is that it does not require tracking of carbs or calories. However, this diet is not a cheap option as the price of the fuelings varies, depending on the type and the quantity that you buy.
The variations of Optavia diet
The diet comes in three different varieties which are listed below.
The 5&1 Plan
With this plan, there will be five fuelings to consume in a day along with one meal of lean protein and veggies. This cooked dish is termed a “lean and green” meal. This plan is aimed at those who are planning to lose weight in a fast and effective manner.
The 4&2&1 Plan
This plan consists of four fuelings, two lean and green meals, and one healthy snack in a day. This plan offers more flexibility in terms of choice of food.
The 3&3 Plan
This plan offers three fuelings and three” lean and green” meals each day. This plan also involves the maximum amount of cooking and is best suited for those who are looking to maintain a steady weight, rather than lose it.
Apart from this, the diet plan also encourages regular exercise and provides the following advice -“If you already work out regularly, the program recommends cutting duration and intensity in half for the first couple of weeks. And if you’re not exercising already, they recommend waiting two to three weeks to start”. Along with the support of a coach, the diet also provides other forms of support that include tips and inspiration via text message, support via community forums, weekly support calls, and an app that can set meal reminders and can track food intake and activity.
Even though the diet is not targeted at a specific range of consumers, it is well-suited for people who do not want to think and calculate their daily diet. In the popular 5 & 1 plan, five meals come in a pre-planned, pre-packaged format that does not involve any form of decision-making. So it is a popular choice for those who want to lose weight but does not have the necessary time to plan meals due to a busy lifestyle. The diet also guides on when to eat these meals. In general, Optavia recommends eating the fuelings at an interval of two to three hours. The followers of the 5&1 plan can consume a breakfast, a mid-morning snack, lunch, and an afternoon fueling. The homemade lean and green dish can be consumed during dinner and the last fueling of the day can be taken as an evening snack. However, there is no restriction on when to consume the “lean and green” meal and it can be eaten at a time that best suits the user.
What to eat in an Optavia diet?
Apart from the pre-made meals that are delivered to your doorstep, you will need to prepare between one to three low-calorie meals, depending on the plan. These have to be cooked by including lean protein and non-starchy vegetables. The diet does not forbid any food but it strongly discourages some items and highly recommends a few others.
These pre-packaged fuelings have been specially designed to serve the purpose of the diet. The 80 variations include a wide range of food items that you can choose from. The company states that “each item has a nearly identical nutrition profile” and they can be interchanged as required.
It is recommended that the “lean and green” meals should include around six ounces of cooked lean protein. The protein is categorised in the program in terms of lean, leaner, and leanest, based on the source. Salmon, lamb, or pork chops are classified as lean, chicken breast as leaner and cod, shrimp, and egg whites are marked as the leanest.
Greens and non-starchy vegetables
The program recommends two non-starchy vegetables along with protein as a part of the cooked meal. The vegetables are also categorised into lower, moderate, and higher carbohydrate groups. The salad greens are of lower grade, cauliflower or summer squash are in a moderate group whereas broccoli or peppers fall into the higher-carb group.
Low-fat Dairy, fresh fruit, and whole grains
These items are not originally included in the meal. Once the desired weight loss is achieved, the users can introduce these food items as a part of the 3 & 3 and 4 & 2 & 1 weight maintenance programs.
Desserts are strongly discouraged as a part of this diet plan and none one of the plans supports the consumption of cakes, cookies, or ice cream. Once the weight loss phase is completed, items like fresh fruit or flavoured yogurt can be gradually introduced into the diet.
Items like butter, mayonnaise, and other high-fat salad dressings are not recommended as they contain a very high number of calories. They can be used in very small quantities if necessary or can be substituted by special low-calories versions.
All types of beverages like soda, juice, or energy drinks that contain a high amount of calories without any fibre content, are strongly discouraged in this diet.
The consumption of alcohol also needs to be limited while following this diet. Alcohol contains a high number of calories that can affect the weight loss goals adversely.
Optavia diet – pros and cons
Convenient for those with busy lifestyles
With a majority of the packed items being delivered at your doorstep, this diet offers a much more level of convenience than the other weight-loss diets. This reduces the amount of time you need to spend shopping along with the time spent in the kitchen. It also provides an easy and flexible choice to consume the items you want anytime you like.
Enhances Weight Loss
It has been proven that the Optavia diet promotes fast weight loss. In general, a healthy individual requires 1600-3000 calories per day to maintain weight, whereas Optavia supplies only around 800 calories. This ensures that weight loss happens at a very fast rate. This can be helpful for individuals who need to lose weight quickly because of specific medical conditions.
No need to plan a diet
The Optavia diet reduces the overall mental effort needed to figure out what to eat on a day. The fuelings offer a readymade solution for every meal and the lean diet has been prescribed based on approved foods. This makes the overall planning for food simple.
Offers Social Support
Another advantage of this diet is that it offers social support that will encourage the user and keep him or her motivated. The support from a coach or a group can create a major difference in terms of results and also help the user to tackle any obstacle faced tough the right level of advice.
It is costly
The cost of the diet can make it unsuitable for many users. The 5 & 1 plan ranges in price from $350 to $425 for 119 servings depending on the choice of the food. In addition, the user will also need to purchase the items needed to prepare the “lean and green” meal.
It involves a considerable amount of processed food
While the supplied fuelings supplied for the diet are rich with nutrients, they are processed foods that have their limitations. They contain items like food additives, sugar substitutes, and processed vegetable oils that can harm digestive health. The fuelings also contain items like carrageenan and maltodextrin which can have various adverse impacts on health. Research has indicated that consumption of excess processed food is detrimental to health and hence, this is a major disadvantage of Optavia.
The long-term outlook is not promising
Maintaining the weight after the course has been completed is a major challenge for those following the diet. Going back to regular eating patterns will see most users gaining back the lost weight. So a long-term planning is required to sustain the benefits gained from this diet. Calorie restrictions can also lead to a deficiency of essential nutrients, including vitamins and minerals. The loss of weight through the diet can also bring about the loss of muscle mass which might not be desirable for everyone.
Can leave the user hungry
In this diet, one usually consumes half the calories that most adults consume daily. Even when you might be eating frequently, the lack of calories can leave you with a sense of hunger throughout the day. This can lead to a craving for calorie-rich foods that can lead to cheating on the diet.
Not suitable for everyone
The Optavia diet is not suitable for vegetarians or those with allergies to dairy products. Those with food allergies also need to check the ingredients of the fuelings carefully. In addition, it is not suitable for pregnant women or for someone who just had a child since it does not meet the necessary nutritional requirements.
The coaches are not professionals
The coaches who guide the participants are not health professionals who have a thorough knowledge of the subject. They are the ones who have successfully lost weight through the diet and hence their advice is not as per the dietary or medical guidelines. It is best to take advice from a medical practitioner or a registered dietitian before changing your diet patterns.
The Optavia diet promotes weight loss through the consumption of low-calorie pre-packaged foods, low-carb homemade meals, and support in the form of personalized coaching. It is proven that the program leads to short-term weight and fat loss but there is not enough research material available to prove that it is beneficial in the long run. For a person with existing health issues, switching to a low-calorie diet without medical supervision can result in multiple adverse effects in the long run. For healthy individuals, the pre-packaged food items may not deliver the right amount of nutrients that are needed for healthy functioning.
When it comes to weight loss and overall health, looking for quick results is not the right approach to gain long-term benefits. Instead of cutting calories drastically, there can be healthier ways of losing weight. Consuming a well-balanced diet with fresh, nutrient-dense whole foods and balancing that with the right level of exercise can be a good way to start. So before you start on the Optavia diet, make sure that you take the advice of a qualified person who can provide the correct guidance.
- Healthy fats like olive oil, walnut oil, etc.
- Lean proteins.
- Non-starchy vegetables.
- Drink alcohol.
- High-calorie desserts.
- Sugary drinks.
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