Programs like Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem are successful at helping people shed unwanted weight quickly, yet are an expensive weight loss option. Built on the “personal coach plus pre-packaged meal” model, these programs require that participants purchase a week’s worth of food and either visit or speak by phone with a weight loss counselor for support on a weekly basis. What the success stories do not tell you is that each week can cost at least $100. These weekly costs do not include annual membership fees and the purchase of vitamin supplements. Over the course of the program, it is possible to spend thousands of dollars when there is an alternative that can be more cost-effective than these programs. It is simple to use their program model for half the price, but you’ll have to do a little prep work before you can get started.
Daily Caloric Intake
The HealthStatus website will help you calculate your body mass index (BMI). We can also help you determine how many calories you should eat in order to lose weight. Have a talk with your physician to decide on a healthy daily caloric intake for you. You will need to factor in any preexisting conditions you have that require special dietary needs. Most weight loss programs have menus based on either 1,200 or 1,500 or 1,700 calories. It is essential to discuss ideal caloric intake with your physician or a nutritionist to lose weight in a healthy, sustainable way.
Let’s say that you’ve determined that a 1,500-calorie meal plan is best for you. The key to successful weight loss is portion control. The value of programs like Jenny Craig is convenience. If you have time to prepare nutritious meals and divide them into perfect portions for your freezer, please do. However, if your time is limited, Lean Cuisine and other low-calorie frozen meals will serve you well. Stock up when these meals are on sale at your local grocery store. You can often find them for $2 per meal during sales and there are always coupons online. You’ll need 14 meals per week ($28-$42). Keep the calories per meal less than 300. There are many delicious options that come in around 250-270 calories.
To round out your meals, you will need to add vegetables either to your meal or as a side dish. For example, add a cup of cooked broccoli or asparagus (~30 calories) to Lean Cuisine Alfredo Pasta with Chicken & Broccoli (260 calories). When adding salads to a meal, remember that dressing is often a sneaky culprit. Choose low-calorie dressings with 8 grams or less of fat per 2-tablespoon serving such as Hidden Valley Ranch Light or Ken’s Steakhouse Lite Raspberry. Read labels! In the case of salad dressing, you should portion out 2 tablespoons in small plastic containers. It is very easy to use too much dressing, which can derail all of your hard work.
You can purchase breakfast meals (i.e. Jimmy Dean Delights), but it will be just as effective to your weight loss to purchase boxed cereal; it will also save you money. Whole grain Cheerios, oatmeal, and raisin bran are great options. Measure out a serving of cereal and milk that is about 300 calories. Add fruit. It is definitely acceptable to add variety to your meals by purchasing breakfast sandwiches or “scrambles.” Whatever it takes to keep you on track is what you need to do to see results.
Eating six perfectly portioned meals will boost your metabolism. In between meals, you should eat a snack of no more than 150 calories. There are plenty of snack options for whatever your craving may be. Figure out what type of snacks satisfy you. If you are a chocoholic, by all means choose low-calorie chocolate cookies, brownies, granola bars, and pudding. If you need to crunch, freeze some grapes, grab some carrots, or purchase popcorn and Pirate brand Smart Puffs. There are also dessert options under 150 calories that can be found in your grocer’s freezer or enjoy yogurt for dessert.
With the cut in calories and fat, your body needs supplemental vitamins and nutrients. You can ask your physician or pharmacist to recommend a good vitamin to support your weight loss goals. You may also want to eat a nutrition bar (under 125 calories) for your vitamin supplement. The benefits of nutrition bars are the added protein to your diet and the sustained fullness you’ll feel afterwards. These bars can be added to your daily menu in addition to your 3 snacks. Check out your health food aisle or take a special trip to a nutrition store to find the right bar for you.
You are guaranteed to lose weight if you stay within your calorie limits, but wouldn’t you like to give your weight loss an extra boost? Simply walking 20 minutes a day will do the trick. Throw in some weight-bearing exercises and your metabolism will work for you even when you’re sitting still.
Below is a sample menu to give you an idea of what a day looks like so you can design your own menus. Once you figure out what your calorie intake should be, plan out your menus and create your shopping list. Your weight loss goals will be actualized for a fraction of the cost of national programs. Lose weight for less money!
80 oz water
1 cup Multi-Grain Cheerios with ½ cup skim milk (189 cal)
2 slices turkey bacon (70 cal)
5 medium strawberries (20 cal)
Optional: 1 cup coffee (1 cal) with ¼ cup milk (50 cal) and Splenda
Banana (105 cal)
Nutrition Bar (110 cal)
Lean Cuisine Baked Chicken with stuffing and red-skinned mashed potatoes (240 cal)
1 ½ cup Classic Romaine Salad with 2 tsp of low-calorie dressing (80 cal)
Pirate Smart Puffs (140 cal)
Low-fat Greek yogurt (80 cal)
Shrimp and Angel Hair Pasta (230 cal) + ½ cup carrot matchsticks (25 cal)
1 cup cooked spinach (7 cal)
1 cup grapes (62 cal)
Fiber One Brownie (90 cal)