The Optavia diet is advocated for weight loss programs as it involves low-calorie intake through prepackaged Fuelings. The initial 5&1 phase is regarded restrictive, leading to faster fat and weight loss, though it has its downsides, including the risk of nutrient deficiency.

Life is busy, with many people holding more than two jobs to make ends meet. These people have less time to enjoy cooking in the kitchen for their meals. The Optavia diet may be perfect for those with little or no time to enjoy cooking and still intend to lose weight. The diet promoted weight loss by recommending an intake of low calorie, few simple home-cooked meals, prepacked foods, and one-on-one guidance from a coach. We dive into the diet to provide you with information about the pros and cons and its effectiveness in promoting weight loss.

What is the Optavia Diet?

This diet was created by a meal replacement company called Medifast. The company has two diets; the Medifast (main diet) and the Optavia, which have low calories and less carb to encourage weight loss. The Optavia diet includes coaching, homemade meals, also called Lean and Green meals, and branded products known as the Optavia Fuelings. The Fuelings contain over 60 products high in probiotic culture and protein but low in carbs. The probiotics are intended to improve gut health. The company ensures low carb intake by substituting sugar content or using small portions in its products. The Fuelings pack is rich in soy protein isolate and whey protein powder to provide the body’s need for protein.

Versions of Optavia Diet

The Optivia diet has two weight loss programs and one weight maintenance plan that promises optimal weight. These are as follows:

5&1 Plan- This version uses five Optavia Fuelings coupled with one balanced Lean and Green food daily.

4&2&1 Plan-This meal plan suits people who prefer more calories, and it provides four Optavia Fuelings, one snack daily, and two Lean and Green meals.

3&3 Plan- This Plan is for weight maintenance, recommending three Fuelings and three Lean and Green meals daily.

The diet has community forums, tips, inspirations, and support through messages and weekly calls, and an app for creating your meals and tracking calories to help you lose weight.

Steps to Follow the Optavia Diet

Following the Optavia diet begins with a phone conversation with your coach to help choose which Plan is suitable for you, familiarize yourself with the diet, and set goals.

The First Step

Those intending to lose weight will begin with the 5&1 Plan (an intake of 800-1,000calories), designed to enable you to drop 5.4 kg in 12 weeks. This Plan encourages eating one meal after 2-3 hours coupled with 30 minutes of mild exercise several days a week. These meals and Fuelings are designed to provide a maximum of 100 grams daily carbs.

The Lean and Green meals in this Plan are low in carbs and high in protein, offering servings of vegetables with less starch, 5-7 ounces of cooked lean protein, and two servings of healthy fats. The coach can also approve one snack day, including 14 grams of nuts, three celery sticks, and 60 grams of sugar-free gelatin.

Maintenance Phase

When you have attained your weight loss goal, you will go through a 6-week transition phase, involving a slow introduction of additional daily calories to a maximum of 1,550. You can include a wide range of foods during this phase, such as fruits, whole grains, and low-fat dairy. At the end of the sixth week, you will graduate to Optimal Health 3&3 Plan, plus a regular Optavia coaching.

Optavia diet and weight loss

The Optavia diet can help individuals lose weight by controlling snacks and meals low in carbs and calories. For instance, the 5&1 Plan restricts calories to 800-1,000 carried over six portions of controlled meals. Though results from various studies differ, some have demonstrated greater weight loss with partial or complete meal replacement plans than the traditional diets restriction calorie intake.

In the short term, the Optavia diet promotes weight and fat loss, similar to a low-carb diet. For instance, one study involving 198 overweight and obese people found that following the 5&1 Plan led to reduced fat, weight, and waist circumference than the controlled group. The one-on-one coaching sessions also promote faster weight loss. However, no studies have been conducted to establish the long-term results of the diet.

Additional Potential Benefits of Optavia Diet

Some studies claim that apart from weight loss, the Optavia diet may improve one’s general diet.

Easy to follow

Because the diet uses prepacked Fuelings, you will need only to cook one meal a day when using the 5&1 Plan. It is easy to follow as the Plan comes with a sample meal plan and logs. The Lean and Green meals included in the diet have a specific list of food portions and recipes that incorporate them into your diet easy to follow.

It may enhance your blood pressure.

By limiting sodium intake and promoting weight loss, the Optavia diet may help stabilize blood pressure. One study on the effects of the Medifast program shows that following a similar diet can significantly reduce blood pressure. The Optavia diet provides a maximum of 2,300 mg of daily sodium, which is recommended by several health institutions, including the American Heart Association and the Institute of Medicine.

Possible Downsides of the Optavia Diet

Though this diet is praised for its efficiency in promoting weight loss, it also boasts some potential downsides.

It offers very low calories.

Individuals who are used to consuming over 2,000 calories daily may experience a shock in their bodies when implementing the Optavia diet that advocates for 800-1,200 calories. The drastic change in calorie intake could contribute to muscle loss. Furthermore, reducing calories can reduce one’s metabolism that can continue even after you are off the program. Calorie restriction could also result in a low intake of vital nutrients, such as minerals and vitamins. This diet may not be appropriate for athletes, pregnant women, needing extra calories and nutrients.

It isn’t easy to stick with this diet.

The Optiva diet is low in carbs with five prepackaged Fuelings; therefore, it is considered a restrictive diet with a calorie count. Individuals can get bored with prepackaged foods, thus encouraging easy cheating or developing cravings for foods outside the program.

It can be expensive

The Optavia diet is costly, with only three weeks of Fuelings (120 servings) of the 5&1 Plan costing between $350-450. This price is exclusive of grocery costs, which you have to buy with additional money.

It could lead to weight regain

After stopping the program, you may experience weight gain. Though no study has been conducted on weight gain following the Optavia diet, one study on the Medifast diet showed that participants experienced 11 pounds weight gain 24 weeks after stopping the product. The weight gain could be a duet over-reliance on prepackaged foods.

The Optavia Fuelings are Processed food items.

The 5&1 Plan requires 150 prepackaged Fuelings every month, which could be a cause of concern since they are all highly processed foods. Additionally, these Fuelings have high sugar substitutes, food additives, and processed oils that could harm gut health and inflammation. Test tube and animal studies indicate that the Optavia diet could cause intestinal ulcers and negatively impact one’s digestive health.

The Coaches may not be health professionals.

Most coaches have succeeded in losing weight through the program, and this does not make one an approved health professional. Therefore, these persons are not qualified to provide medical or dietary advice.

The Bottom Line

The Optavia diet is flaunted for enhancing weight loss using low-calorie homemade and prepacked foods. Though the first phase of the 5&1 plans is considered restrictive, the 3&3 phase allows adding a wide range of food and some snacks, making weight loss and sticking with the program bearable. Nevertheless, the diet is costly, excludes major nutrient-rich foods, and is repetitive. Therefore, it could lead to nutrient deficiency and some health concerns.


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Elena Ognivtseva

Nutritionist, Cornell University, MS I believe that nutrition science is a wonderful helper both for the preventive improvement of health and adjunctive therapy in treatment. My goal is to help people improve their health and well-being without torturing themselves with unnecessary dietary restrictions. I am a supporter of a healthy lifestyle – I play sports, cycle, and swim in the lake all year round. With my work, I have been featured in Vice, Country Living, Harrods magazine, Daily Telegraph, Grazia, Women's Health, and other media outlets.