Optavia’s weight loss program has been trending around social media for the past year. With a new diet seeming to hit the market each week, it can be hard to know which one is right for you. Let's discuss the benefits - and potential risks - of the Optavia diet.
While Optavia supports eating several small meals per day, there are numerous studies that conflict over whether it’s better to eat several small meals or a few bigger meals in your day.
Optavia may not be for everyone as it is calorie restricting and may not give you all of the nutrients you need, causing other health issues.
Before starting Optavia’s weight loss program, read all of the side effects and discuss with your doctor if it’s safe for you based on your needs.
What is the Optavia diet program?
Optavia advertises healthy-habit lifestyle-building and eating six meals per day (approximately 2-3 hours apart), packed with high protein, healthy starches, and lots of vegetables. In addition to coaches working with you to build healthy habits, the brand focuses on small meals called ‘fuelings,’ which consist of pre-made shakes, bars, cereals, and pasta to keep you satisfied until your next meal.
While eating six meals per day may seem overwhelming, there’s concern about whether Optavia is restricting calories and nutrients overall, leading to a short-term program.
Optavia's diet plans
Optavia offers three different plans, depending on your lifestyle and where you are in your weight loss journey. Each of Optavia’s meal plans includes:
- Lean & Green Meals. Optavia has collaborated with The Culinary Institute of America (CIA), creating over 200 recipes that are carbohydrate-controlled and include lean protein, vegetables, and healthy fats. Lean and Green Meals comprise 5-7 ounces of protein and three servings of vegetables, which can be eaten at any time throughout your day.
- Fuelings. 60 interchangeable and scientifically designed options to choose from, including pasta, shakes, cereal, mashed potatoes, and cookie bars.
- Snacks. Snacks can come from any Optavia snacks offered, or you can eat a serving of fruit, dairy, or healthy starch.
Optimal weight 5 & 1 plan
This plan incorporates a fat-burning process while maintaining the muscle mass you already have by eating six small meals every day (every 2-3 hours). While everyone has a different technique for what works best in helping them lose weight, continuously eating small meals is one of the healthiest things you can do for your body. Doing this keeps your metabolism going so it continues to burn fat instead of going into starvation mode and burning muscle for energy. It also prevents you from becoming so hungry that you begin to get other cravings or possibly binge on your next meal.
The Malmo Diet and Cancer study found that eating more than six meals per day can reduce the risk of obesity compared to those consuming less than three meals per day. They also found that frequent eaters had a smaller waist circumference.
With the Optimal 5 & 1 Plan, you can choose from your 60 interchangeable fuelings for 5 of your meals, and for your sixth meal, you make a Lean & Green meal, which includes your protein and three servings of vegetables.
Optimal Weight 4 & 2 & 1 plan
The 4 & 2 & 1 plan is an excellent option for those who want a more flexible lifestyle change. This lets you continue eating all of the same food groups you are now and still achieve a healthy weight. Four of your meals consist of Optavia’s fuelings, two meals are the Lean and Green Meals, and the seventh meal is a healthy snack. This is also a great meal plan as it promotes a continuous eating schedule.
Optimal health 3 & 3 plan
After achieving your weight loss goal, the 3 & 3 plan is available to maintain your new healthy weight as a lifestyle. The plan consists of three balanced meals and three fuelings (again, eating every 2-3 hours). In addition, as cravings are recognized, this plan gives you an option for one free choice daily to enjoy the food you want.
Because the optimal health plan is more flexible, it is recommended that you calculate your total energy expenditure (the number of calories you burn each day) before you begin. Based on this number, you can choose an appropriate meal plan inside the plan’s food groups, including fruits, dairy, starches, proteins, healthy fats, and vegetables. Since this is a more independent meal plan, it doesn’t require a kit.
Is Optavia worth it?
While there are some benefits to the diet that come with weight loss, such as reducing the risk of heart disease and oxidative stress, it doesn’t rule out the concern that this might be just another short-term solution. Based on research and reviews, there is the worry that some individuals may be undernourished while in the program. For example, not getting enough fat, which, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, should make up 20-35% of our daily calories.
Being undernourished would also make sense for many of the side effects that individuals have experienced, including dizziness, fatigue, headaches, and nausea.
While the concept of eating several small meals every few hours is an excellent way to maintain a healthy metabolism, it only works if you’re getting the appropriate amount of calories and nutrients your body requires. This way, you’re not only likely to lose the weight, but once you lose it, you’re less likely to gain it back, like with so many other weight loss programs.
- Nutrients. The Influence of Meal Frequency and Timing on Health in Humans: The Role of Fasting.
- British Journal of Nutrition. A high eating frequency is associated with an overall healthy lifestyle in middle-aged men and women and reduced likelihood of general and central obesity in men.
- Obesity Science and Practice. Randomized controlled trial assessing two commercial weight loss programs in adults with overweight or obesity.
- Optavia. Commit To Health.