Should You Try the Optavia Diet? (2024)

At Verywell, we believe there is no one-size-fits-all approach to a healthy lifestyle. Successful eating plans need to be individualized and consider the whole person. Prior to starting a new diet plan, consult with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian, especially if you have an underlying health condition.

What Is the Optavia Diet?

The Optavia Diet uses meal replacements such as shakes, bars, pre-packaged foods, and other small, calorie-controlled meals to create a calorie deficit to induce weight loss. This diet claims to provide convenience while taking the guesswork out of weight loss, focusing on lean proteins and non-starchy vegetables and discouraging sweets and higher-calorie foods. Experts do not recommend the Optavia Diet .

The 2021 U.S. News and World Report Best Diets ranks the Optavia Diet number 28 in Best Diets Overall and gives it a score of 2.6/5. Learn the pros and cons of this diet to find out if it's a healthy plan for you.

What Experts Say

“The Optavia Diet is a meal replacement plan. Followers eat a certain number of ‘fuelings’ per day (plus one homemade meal), resulting in calorie reduction and weight loss. Experts worry that it’s unsustainable; many will regain weight when transitioning off the meal replacements.”

Chrissy Carroll, RD, MPH

The 7-Day Optavia Diet Plan

In all of its plans, Optavia products take the place of several meals consumed throughout the day. Everything offered is within strict calorie ranges.One serving of vegetables is equal to half a cup.

While there are many different ways to implement the Optavia Diet, here is one example.

  • Day 1: Three 7-ounce servings of cod, shrimp, or egg whites, two healthy fat servings, three servings of non-starchy vegetables; 1 snack such as celery sticks, sugar-free gum, or dill pickle spears; 3 fuelings (Optavia bars or shakes)
  • Day 2: Three 6-ounce servings of pork tenderloin, trout, or chicken breast, one healthy fat serving, three servings of non-starchy vegetables; 3 fuelings
  • Day 3: Two meals of5 ounces salmon, beefsteak, or dark poultry meat, three servings of non-starchy vegetables; 1 pre-packaged Optavia meal; 1 snack; 3 fuelings
  • Day 4: Three 7-ounce servings of cod, shrimp, or egg whites, two healthy fat servings, three servings of non-starchy vegetables; 1 snack; 3 fuelings
  • Day 5: Two meals of5 ounces salmon, beefsteak, or dark poultry meat, three servings of non-starchy vegetables; 1 pre-packaged Optavia meal; 1 snack; 3 fuelings
  • Day 6: Three 6-ounce servings of pork tenderloin, trout, or chicken breast, one healthy fat serving, three servings of non-starchy vegetables; 3 fuelings
  • Day 7: Three 7-ounce servings of cod, shrimp, or egg whites, two healthy fat servings, three servings of non-starchy vegetables; 1 snack; 3 fuelings

What You Can Eat on the Optavia Diet

Depending on the Optavia Diet plan you select, you'll eat between two and five of the company's pre-made meal replacements ("fuelings") per day. You'll also eat one to three of your own low-calorie meals, which are primarily lean protein and non-starchy vegetables ("lean and green").

Optavia Diet Fuelings

The majority of the food you consume on the Optavia Diet takes the form of its pre-packaged fuelings. The company states that "each fueling is nutritionally equivalent and portion-controlled."

This means they can be eaten interchangeably, providing users the same nutrients whether they decide to eat a granola bar or red bean and vegetable chili, for instance. You can choose from around 50 products, including soups, bars, shakes, pretzels, and cookies.

Lean Protein

The "lean and green" meals you prepare must include a 5- to 7-ounce portion of cooked lean protein. Optavia distinguishes between lean, leaner, and leanest protein sources using the following examples:

  • Lean: Salmon, lamb, or pork chops
  • Leaner: Swordfish or chicken breast
  • Leanest: Cod, shrimp, and egg whites

Non-Starchy Vegetables

Optavia’s 5&1 program allows for two non-starchy vegetables alongside the protein in your lean and green meal. These veggies are divided into lower, moderate, and higher carbohydrate categories, with the following as examples:

  • Lower carb: Salad greens
  • Moderate carb: Cauliflower or summer squash
  • Higher carb: Broccoli or peppers

Healthy Fats

In addition to lean protein and non-starchy vegetables, a lean and green meal can include up to two servings of healthy fats.

  • Olive oil
  • Walnut oil
  • Flaxseed
  • Avocado

Low-Calorie Condiments

The Optavia Diet permits certain condiments as part of your homemade meals.

  • Mustard
  • Vinegar
  • Lime
  • Lemon
  • Spices
  • Salsa
  • Herbs

Low-Fat Dairy, Fresh Fruit, and Whole Grains

When you reach your ideal weight, the Optavia Diet allows you to add servings of fruit, dairy, and grains, such as:

  • Cottage cheese
  • Greek yogurt
  • Apples, bananas, berries, etc.
  • Whole grain bread, whole wheat English muffins, high fiber cereals, etc.

What You Can't Eat on the Optavia Diet

Although no food is technically forbidden on the Optavia Diet, many items (such as sweets) are strongly discouraged.

Desserts

Optavia discourages indulging sugar cravings with sweets. However, after the initial weight loss phase, you can add lower-calorie sweet treats like fresh fruit or flavored yogurt back into your diet. But you should generally avoid:

  • Cakes
  • Cookies
  • Ice cream

High-Calorie Additions

  • Mayonnaise
  • Sugary BBQ sauce
  • Butter

Sugar-Sweetened and Alcoholic Beverages

  • Soda
  • Sweetened coffee beverages
  • Beer
  • Spirits
  • Wine

Tips to Prepare for the Optavia Diet

Like other meal replacement diets, the Optavia Diet provides users with an array of branded products. The 5&1 plan is the most popular and designed for rapid weight loss. On this plan, users eat five Optavia fuelings and one low-calorie lean green meal daily.

The Optavia Diet's other plans include the 3&3 plan (3 fuelings plus three lean and green meals) and the 4&2&1 plan (4 fuelings, two lean and green meals, and one snack). These plans are designed for users who want to lose weight slowly or maintain their current weight.

A lean and green meal includes 5 to 7 ounces of cooked lean protein and three servings of non-starchy vegetables with up to two servings of healthy fats. The amount of fat you will eat depends on the fat content in your protein choice.

You should consume a minimum of two servings of fatty fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids every week. You can consume your lean and green meal whenever you choose. You should eat every 2 to 3 hours.

Once you've reached your weight goal, you will add servings of fruit, low-fat dairy, and whole grains to your lean and green meals.

Optavia's parent company is Medifast, which you may remember was the name of a meal replacement weight loss program in years past. The Medifast program evolved into Optavia, and the Medifast program is no longer a separate entity.

Pros of the Optavia Diet

The main health benefit of following an Optavia Diet plan is rapid weight loss, particularly for people who need to lose a significant amount of weight.

  • Convenience: Buying pre-portioned, packaged foods can be easy and convenient; there is little need to count calories or carbs. A simple formula for creating your meals at home is also convenient. Instead of calorie counting, you will track portions of specific foods, which makes meal tracking easier.
  • Reduced overweight and obesity risks: Being overweight or obese can increase the risk of some diseases. Among them are high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, osteoarthritis, and various types of cancer. Losing just 5% of body weight can help reduce these risks.
  • Improved blood sugar and cholesterol levels: While some health experts recommend a more gradual weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds per week, there are some times when a faster rate is preferred. For example, studies have connected rapid weight loss with more significant improvements in lipid and glycemic profiles. This means that losing weight faster may be better for people with cholesterol and/or blood sugar issues threatening their health. However, this study also found that body composition changes were better with slower rates of weight loss.
  • Coaching support: Optavia offers support through its coaching program, which some users may find helpful. Coaching might help you keep on track, increasing the likelihood of success.

Cons of the Optavia Diet

There are also potential downsides to the Optavia Diet's plan that could adversely affect your health.

  • Nutrient deficiency: This diet may cause nutrient deficiency if calorie levels are too low for too long. In addition to restricting calories, Optavia plans limit food groups, including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains—all of which provide essential vitamins and minerals.
  • Reduced sports performance: Dropping weight quickly can also reduce sports performance. A review of 10 articles noted that, although many athletes (fighters, specifically, in this case) want to reduce their body mass, doing so too fast can impair their performance while also risking their health. A low-calorie diet will not likely support an athlete's rigorous training program. Some health experts suggest that if an athlete wants to lose weight, it's best to do it in the off-season when training demands are not as stringent.
  • Sales pressure: Coaching "support" can also be a drawback. Critics have called the plan a pyramid scheme because of its multi-level structure. Users who complete Optavia's program are encouraged to become coaches, sell the company's products, and recruit new sales representatives. This can be a turnoff for potential customers.
  • Cost: The plans can be expensive; 5 fuelings will cost you about $17, not including tax and shipping (or the groceries you buy for lean and green meals).
  • Hunger: Losing weight this way can be uncomfortable and not sustainable. Low-calorie diets typically cause extreme hunger, fatigue, and other undesirable symptoms. Experiencing hunger can make you more likely to eat outside the diet plan.

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Is the Optavia Diet a Healthy Choice for You?

The Optavia Diet deviates from health and nutrition guidelines that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) encourages. For example, Optavia's 5&1 plan tops out at 800 to 1,000 calories per day, an extreme reduction from the USDA's recommendation of roughly 2,000 calories per day for adults.

An 800-calorie-per-day diet is considered a "very low-calorie diet" and should be medically supervised. Extreme calorie restriction can cause fatigue, brain fog, headaches, or menstrual changes. As such, the 5&1 option should not be used long-term. The 3&3 and 4&2&1 plans typically supply between 1,100 and 2,500 calories daily and can be appropriate for longer periods.

Optavia's plans also provide 80 to 100 grams of carbohydrates daily, representing about 40% of the diet's daily calories. The USDA recommends a diet that is 45% to 65% carbs. The USDA also emphasizes grains and dairy products, which are not represented in Optavia's 5&1 plan.

The 5&1 plan limits calories to 800 to 1,000 per day, so it might not meet all your nutritional needs. It's also not suitable for pregnant or nursing people, those who exercise 45 minutes per day or more, teens, older adults who are sedentary, or people with diabetes or gout.

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A Word From Verywell

With its extremely low-calorie eating plans, the Optavia Diet is likely to help you shed pounds; however, whether that weight loss will stick once you go off the diet is much less likely. Before starting any meal replacement diet, consider whether you can realistically follow it.

If you opt for Optavia, learn about healthy eating to keep the weight off long-term. Consult with a healthcare professional before starting such a restrictive, low-calorie plan. You can also discuss your weight loss goals and if it is healthy for you to lose weight. The best diet is always one that is balanced and fits your lifestyle.

Remember, following a long- or short-term diet may not be necessary for you and many diets out there don’t work, especially long-term. While we do not endorse fad diet trends or unsustainable weight loss methods, we present the facts so you can make an informed decision that works best for your nutritional needs, genetic blueprint, budget, and goals.

If your goal is weight loss, remember that losing weight isn’t necessarily the same as being your healthiest self, and there are many other ways to pursue health. Exercise, sleep, and other lifestyle factors also play a major role in your overall health. The best diet is always the one that is balanced and fits your lifestyle.

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much does a month of Optavia cost?

    Assuming you are doing the 5&1 plan, using Optavia Flavors of Home Meals for the lean and green meal, the plan would cost $588.52 per month, using choices from the Essential Fuelings list, which has the most options. Select Fuelings would cost a little more, and Optimal Health Fuelings would cost a little less.

  • What shakes are similar to Optavia?

    Meal replacement shakes are built on the same notion as Optavia in that you are swapping out a meal you'd typically prepare yourself with a pre-packaged replacement. Some meal replacement weight loss shakes include SlimFast, Huel, and plant protein shakes like Evolve and Owyn.

  • Is Optavia FDA approved?

    Optavia's food products are subject to FDA food labeling regulations, and its manufacturing facilities are inspected and regulated by the FDA. However, the FDA does not evaluate weight loss programs, so the FDA does not approve their effectiveness.

  • Why am I so tired on Optavia?

    Fatigue is not uncommon for anyone who begins a drastic change in eating habits to lose weight. These effects are usually most notable toward the beginning of a new weight loss program. Sometimes the effect lessens. If you continue a very low-calorie diet, the fatigue you experience might not lessen until you increase your calorie intake. Contact a healthcare provider for guidance if you are concerned about your energy level on any specific weight loss program.

Should You Try the Optavia Diet? (2024)
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