Millions of US adults try to lose weight each year, with strategies that include doing exercise, having a calorie deficit and eating more fruits and veggies. But you need a proper program if you’re considering losing weight. This guide to popular plans should help you evaluate the best subscription for you. It can also help you decide if seeking a nutritionist, instead, is in your best interest.
Editor’s note, Jan. 17, 2023: Weight loss programs are not recommended for those with a history of disordered eating. Consult your doctor or nutritionist before beginning a diet or weight loss program.
Best weight loss programs
WeightWatchers has been around for decades. The program is known for telling its customers that “no food is off limits.” While clients follow a point system that assigns food to a certain number of points, there are plenty of ZeroPoint foods that are allowed.
WeightWatchers often tops lists of “best diets,” with a primary reason being the education provided to help users make positive diet changes. The popular weight loss program also offers diabetes-tailored, vegetarian and plant-based diet plans.
WeightWatchers offers two membership plans.
Core: This membership starts at $15 a month if you buy two months upfront. It includes a customized nutrition plan, a library of recipes, on-demand workouts, activity and weight trackers and 24/7 live support from coaches.
Premium Plan: This membership starts at $30 a month. It includes everything in the Core plan plus Workshops — the in-person and virtual support groups that WeightWatchers is known for. They’re available seven days a week, day or night.
WeightWatchers runs promotions that offer free months or discounted rates, so check its website for the most up-to-date costs.
Accountability from group meetings (with an in-person option) and weigh-ins help with sustainability.
Flexibility with ZeroPoint foods
Personalized food plans
It takes time to track and plan meals — not for someone looking for convenience
Not for someone who struggles with portion control
Should you try it?
WeightWatchers might be a good fit for you if:
You need general nutrition and wellness education to inform your calorie intake, meal replacement and eating decisions.
You have diabetes, are vegan, vegetarian or need flexibility in your food choices.
You are looking for on-demand workouts and 24/7 support.
Noom is a relative newcomer to the weight loss game, calling itself “WeightWatchers for millennials.” This app-based program uses the stoplight method, assigning colors (orange, yellow and green) to foods based on their nutritional quality. Noom is also known for using a psychology-based approach by educating clients on healthy habits, lifestyles and changing the way you think about food.
Its app tracks your food, physical activity and helps you lose weight with no restrictive dieting. Noom typically has all diet plans — low-carb, DASH, low-fat diet, Mediterranean and flexitarian.
Noom is about $60 a month, but if you sign up for two months it is $99 for both. Four months is about $129. The longer you commit, the lower the cost. Noom will recommend the duration of your program based on your weight loss goals.
You can sign up for a week free trial, which turns into a paid subscription if you don’t cancel. Keep in mind that the payments auto-renew at the end of each month.
Focuses more on your behavior than the food
Lots of educational resources available on the app
Doesn’t ban food groups such as sugar or fats
Noom is not for someone who doesn’t like social media or doesn’t want extra screen time
No in-person time with your coach
Should you try it?
Noom might be a good fit for you if:
You’re generally a self-directed person but could use some structure.
You want a digital-only weight loss program to work with your busy schedule.
You are looking for educational content on top of dieting help.
Nutrisystem is a traditional weight loss program that features premade meals, shakes and snacks delivered to your home. The program focuses more on providing meals for you rather than strategies to maintain weight loss. It provides breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert.
Nutrisystem offers three membership plans:
Basic: The budget plan costs $10 a day ($280 a month) and includes food for five days a week, access to the app, coaching, over 100 menu items and essential nonperishable items.
Uniquely Yours: The second-tier plan costs $11.79 a day ($330 a month) and includes food for five days a week, access to the app, coaching, over 150 menu items, frozen snacks and meals and essential nonperishable items.
Uniquely Yours Max Plus: The top plan costs $13.21 per day ($370 a month) and includes food for five or seven days a week, access to the app, coaching, over 160 menu items, frozen meals and snacks, personalized nutrition tool and essential nonperishable items.
In addition to your prepackaged meals, you’ll still have to buy kitchen staples and some other items.
Premade meals are delivered to your door
Shipment every four weeks with free shipping
Available meal plans for vegetarians, partners or those with diabetes
Sodium intake can be high with prepackaged meals
Very expensive and you must factor-in the cost of extra groceries
Coaching is not one-on-one
Should you try it?
Nutrisystem might be a good fit for you if:
You prefer the convenience of having prepared meals.
You can commit to monitoring your sodium intake and don’t have any preexisting health conditions that require you to keep your sodium intake low.
You are looking for the traditional shakes, prepackaged meals and snacks that come from a weight loss program.
Optavia is a weight loss program that relies on shakes, bars and other Optavia-branded packaged foods, called “essential fuelings,” to produce results. These fuelings include cookies, puddings, bars, cereals and soups that are shipped directly to your door. In addition to the fuelings, Optavia provides recipes for “lean-and-green meals” that you’re responsible for cooking with fresh ingredients.
Optavia offers three membership plans.
Optimal Weight 5-and-1 Plan: This plan costs $378.25 a month and includes 17 boxes of essential fuelings.
Optimal Weight 4-and-2-and-1 Plan: This plan costs $423 a month and includes 18 boxes of essential fuelings and two boxes of snacks.
Optimal Health 3-and-3 Plan: This plan will cost you $20.75 per box of fuelings or $249 for a case. You have the option between a box and a case of two fuelings or two shakes.
Optavia is convenient and easy to follow
Gives you access to a personal coach and a community of others on a weight loss journey
Lean-and-green meals may encourage healthy eating after the program
More expensive than other options and contains lots of Optavia-brand processed foods
You could start relying on Optavia “fuelings,” which won’t set you up for healthy eating habits later on.
Optavia-brand food is not known for tasting the best
Should you try it?
Optavia might be a good fit for you if:
You are looking for easy-to-prepare meals and support from a community.
You’re confident in your ability to maintain weight loss after you stop using Optavia.
You don’t mind meal replacements such as shakes.
Jenny Craig is another traditional weight loss program that ships premade meals to your ship. It embodies many of the same characteristics as Optavia and Nutrisystem, but it’s even more expensive.
Jenny Craig offers three membership plans.
Simple: The lowest membership costs $14 a day (about $420 a month) and includes a week of breakfasts and lunches.
Essential: The middle-tier plan costs $22 a day (about $660 a month) and includes a week of breakfasts, lunches and dinners.
Max Up Weight Loss: The most expensive plan costs $26 a day (about $780 a month) and includes a week of breakfasts, lunches, dinners, recharge bars, activity and quality of life plans and personal coaching.
Meals come premade, prepackaged and shipped to your door
Offers personal coaching with Max Up membership
Offers some of the best-tasting meals on this list
Jenny Craig is the most expensive program on this list and doesn’t provide many educational resources.
You must watch your sodium levels with prepackaged food
You may struggle when switching to making your own, fresh meals after the program
Should you try it?
Jenny Craig might be a good fit for you if:
You don’t have a medical condition that requires you to limit sodium.
You require personal coaching and support (although you will have to pay for the top membership).
You want the convenience of premade meals.
Advice from experts
We consulted experts to help make sense of a successful diet and weight loss journey. How do you find the right program for you? Here is what they had to say.
What makes a diet successful?
The best diet program for you will be the one that meets you where you are at in life. It must be “realistic, sustainable and flexible,” said Jamie Nadeau, a registered dietitian. “Learning to eat healthy consistently truly comes down to learning how to build healthful habits into your life.”
“If a diet program is too rigid or strict, it’s unlikely to work for most people,” she continued. “If it’s asking you to do things that aren’t realistic for you or require tons of effort and change all at once, it’s not going to work.”
Dietitian Amelia Ti takes a different approach to the question. She said, “I define a successful program as one that allows members to choose from a variety of foods without restriction and [one that] measures progress by how its clients/participants feel (their mood, energy levels, sleep, etc.).”
Ti added, “A successful diet program should improve one’s relationship with food and their body, not worsen it.” Nadeau agreed: “The most successful diet programs are the ones that involve learning how to eat a normal, well-balanced diet that includes all food groups (and fun foods, too!).”
Dieting red flags
It is easy to fall for a weight loss program’s empty promises. Our two experts told us how to spot the red flags from miles away.
Nadeau said to watch out for “any program that requires you to buy their specific products or foods to be successful. If you have to buy their bars, shakes or prepacked foods — run. The minute you don’t have their food to rely on, any weight that you lost is going to return.”
In addition to the food, a program may tell you to eat, watch out for programs that are too restrictive. Ti said, “If a diet program instructs you to cut out various foods or food groups, red flag! A few others include if they label foods as “good” or “bad” and promise immediate results.”
Who should steer clear of weight loss programs?
Dieting programs are not for everyone. Nadeau recommends working with a registered dietitian over a diet or weight loss program. She said, “Working with a registered dietitian means you’ll be getting individualized advice from a credentialed professional with experience working with people just like you.”
Best weight loss program FAQs
What is the best weight loss program?
The best weight loss program is the one that meets your needs, goals and lifestyle. Not every program is one-size-fits-all. In fact, if you are looking for a personalized nutrition program that lasts, you may be better off seeking a dietitian.
What is the most successful weight loss program?
According to US News and World Report, the best diet of 2023 is the Mediterranean diet. However, this diet is not for everyone. The most successful weight loss program for you will be one that meets where you are in life.
What does a commercial weight loss program typically not provide?
A commercial weight loss program typically does not provide one-on-one counseling with a dietitian or nutritionist. Some programs provide prepackaged frozen or nonperishable foods, but commercial weight loss programs typically do not provide fresh food.