The Optavia diet, formerly known as Take Shape for Life, is a commercial weight loss program that offers pre-packaged, portion-controlled meals along with one-on-one coaching. It was created in 1980 by Dr. Wayne Scott Andersen who believed that using shakes and prepared meals could help people lose weight more effectively.
The Optavia diet is based on restricting calories, limiting carbohydrates, and eating several small meals throughout the day. Through cutting down on calories and portion management, the diet program asserts that it can assist people in losing approximately of a ten-pound weight loss in the first month. In this comprehensive guide, we will cover everything you need to know about the Optavia diet including:
- Overview of the Optavia diet and how it works
- Benefits of the Optavia diet
- Major Foods to eat and to avoid on the Optavia diet
- Sample meal plan and recipes
- Pros and cons of the Optavia diet
- Effectiveness for weight loss according to experts
- Is Optavia sustainable long term?
- Optavia cost
Understanding the Optavia Diet
The Optavia diet relies on meal replacement shakes, bars, and prepared frozen meals for most calorie intake. People following the diet eat 4 Optavia fuelings, as they call them, and 1 lean and green meal made up of non-starchy vegetables and lean protein each day.
The Optavia fuelings provide an average of only 800-1000 calories per day. They are nutritionally balanced to provide protein and vitamins but limited in calories and carbohydrates. The lean and green meal adds additional calories and nutrients. Some examples of Optavia fuelings include:
- Optavia shakes: whey protein shakes with around 11-15 grams of protein. Flavors like chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry.
- Optavia bars: high protein bars in flavors like chocolate peanut butter, lemon, and apple cinnamon.
- Optavia recipes: prepackaged foods like oatmeal, soups, pastas, and desserts with controlled calories and carbs.
Along with the fuelings and lean and green meal, the Optavia diet recommends drinking 64 ounces of water and taking supplements each day. Optional snacks like popcorn, jerky, and pickles can be added in moderation.
The Optavia diet limits calories to 800-1000 per day to promote rapid weight loss. It also restricts carbohydrates significantly, usually to under 100 grams daily depending on individual needs. There is no strict meal plan, but rather meal planning guidance and sample menus are provided. A typical day on the Optavia 5&1 plan might look like:
- Breakfast: Optavia shake
- Mid-morning: Optavia bar
- Lunch: Optavia lean cuisine or soup
- Afternoon: Optavia shake
- Dinner: 5-7 oz lean protein + non-starchy vegetables
The Optavia diet also includes one-on-one coaching and support. Sports coaches offer inspiration, accountability check-ins, and individualized planning for food advice. However, coaches are not required to have accredited nutrition or medical qualifications.
Benefits of the Optavia Diet
The Optavia diet offers several benefits for those looking to lose weight quickly:
- Portion and calorie control: By relying on shakes and prepared meals, calories and portions are carefully controlled. This can make calorie restriction simpler.
- Rapid weight loss: Severely restricting carbs and calories often leads to significant weight loss in the first 4-12 weeks. Some may lose 10 pounds or more in the first month.
- Convenience: The prepackaged fuelings and meals require minimal cooking or prep work. Meals can be taken on-the-go which makes sticking to the diet easier.
- Reduced decision fatigue: Not having to meal plan or count calories can help reduce stress and overeating associated with diet choices.
- One-on-one support: Having a coach provides accountability which can increase compliance and weight loss results.
- Nutritionally balanced: Meals and shakes are fortified to provide balanced nutrition despite their low calorie content.
Potential Downsides of Optavia
However, there are also some potential downsides to consider with the Optavia diet:
- Nutritional deficiencies: Providing most calories from shakes and bars may not provide adequate nutrition in some cases. The diet is very low in fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Lack of long-term behavior change: Relying on prepackaged meals does not teach skills like meal planning, portion control, and carb management that facilitate long-term weight maintenance.
- High cost: Optavia food can cost over $300 per month, along with minimum $180 monthly coaching fees making it unaffordable for many.
- Low calorie intake: Consuming 800-1000 calories daily is not enough for most people and can be difficult to sustain long-term.
- May regain weight: Severe calorie restriction can cause rebound weight gain once normal eating is resumed after the diet ends.
- Limited research: There are few peer-reviewed studies on the Optavia program specifically. Most evidence is limited to short studies funded by the company.
Foods to Eat and Avoid on Optavia
The Optavia diet has strict rules about which foods are permitted. Here are the basic guidelines:
Foods to Eat on Optavia:
- Optavia shakes, bars, and prepared meals
- Non-starchy vegetables: leafy greens, carrots, broccoli, peppers, etc.
- Lean proteins: chicken, turkey, fish, shellfish, eggs, lean cuts of beef/pork
- Low fat dairy like cheese, milk, yogurt
- Healthy fats from nuts, seeds, oil, avocado
- Limited whole grains like brown rice and 100% whole wheat bread
Foods to Avoid or Limit on Optavia:
- Added sugar including juice, soda, candy, ice cream
- Starchy vegetables: corn, peas, potatoes
- Grains: rice, quinoa, pasta, bread
- Beans and legumes
- Fatty cuts of the meat and the processed meats
- Fried foods and heavy sauces or dressings
Lean protein sources, healthy fats, moderate amounts of carbs, suggested veggies, and things to avoid are all included in Optavia’s comprehensive list of foods that are acceptable.
Optavia Diet Sample Meal Plan
Here is a sample 1-day menu on the Optavia 5&1 plan:
Breakfast: 1 Optavia chocolate shake
Mid-Morning: 1 Optavia cinnamon oatmeal
Lunch: Optavia Santa Fe rice and bean soup
Afternoon: 1 Optavia bar (lemon or apple cinnamon)
Dinner: 5oz grilled salmon, 1 cup green beans, side salad with 2 tbsp light dressing
This provides around 800-1,000 calories with 80-100g protein, very low carbs, and balanced nutrition. Other options for lean proteins at dinner include grilled chicken, shrimp, lean beef, or eggs.
10 Optavia Diet Recipes
It can be challenging to come up with lean & green meal ideas that align with the Optavia diet guidelines. Here are 10 Optavia-friendly recipes to add variety:
1. Lemon Garlic Shrimp with Zucchini Noodles
A zesty lemon garlic shrimp recipe served over spiralized zucchini instead of pasta. Get the recipe here.
2. Southwest Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Lettuce wraps are the perfect low carb substitute for burritos and sandwiches. This Southwest chicken version has only 2g net carbs per wrap!
3. Green Goddess Tuna Salad
A protein-packed tuna salad with lots of fresh herbs and a creamy avocado dressing. Recipe here.
4. Buffalo Chicken Zucchini Boats
Chicken breast coated in buffalo sauce then stuffed into scooped out zucchini boats for a fun low carb meal. Get the buffalo chicken zucchini boats recipe.
5. Turkey Taco Stuffed Peppers
Bell peppers stuffed with lean ground turkey, black beans, corn, and taco seasoning for a Mexican-inspired meal. Find the recipe.
6. Cajun Shrimp and Sausage Skillet
A quick one-pan meal with shrimp, chicken sausage, bell pepper, onion, and Cajun seasoning. Get the recipe here.
7. Caprese Chicken Skillet
Chicken cooked with mozzarella, tomato, and basil for amazing flavor. Recipe here.
8. Taco Stuffed Avocados
Halved avocados filled with taco meat, cheese, lettuce, and more for a fun low carb taco night. Find the recipe.
9. Jalapeno Popper Stuffed Chicken
Chicken breasts stuffed with cream cheese, cheddar, jalapeno, and bacon for a tasty lean and green meal. Get the recipe.
10. Loaded Cauliflower Casserole
This filling casserole is stuffed full of cheddar cheese, which is bacon, the cauliflower plant, and broccoli. Perfect low carb comfort food. Find the recipe here.
Optavia Diet Pros and Cons: Does it Work for Weight Loss?
Like most very low calorie diets, the Optavia diet will likely produce significant short term weight loss, but it is difficult to maintain long term.
- High protein intake preserves lean body mass as you lose
- Pre-portioned meals simplify calorie and carb counting
- Severe calorie restriction jumpstarts weight loss
- Doesn’t completely eliminate carbs or food groups
- More affordable than many food delivery plans
- Teaches some nutrition basics
- Very low calorie intake may cause fatigue, headaches, etc.
- the Rapid weight loss often the leads to the rebound weight gain
- Relying on shakes and bars may not lead to sustainable changes
- High cost at around $300+ per month
- May be overly restrictive and difficult to stick to for 6+ months
- Not based in sound clinical research according to many dietitians
Most health experts agree very low calorie diets can produce short term weight loss, but losing weight at a slower pace with an balanced diet you can maintain is best for keeping weight off long term.
Can the Optavia Diet Help You Lose Weight?
The Optavia diet can help people lose a large amount of weight quickly due to calorie restriction. However, it may be difficult to sustain safely for more than 12 weeks.
According to the Healthline, “The severe calorie restriction may be initially result in the rapid weight loss. However, such severe restrictions often the sets the stage for a weight regain once normal eating habits are resumed.”
For many dietitians, the Optavia diet falls into the category of a quick fix or fad diet that is unlikely to produce lasting changes. Cutting calories so low tends to backfire as soon as normal eating patterns return. As registered dietician Lisa Sasson notes, “Any diet that suggests eliminating or severely limiting entire food groups should send up red flags.” She advises balancing fresh whole foods with some shakes and meals replacements instead.
Is the Optavia Diet Sustainable Long Term?
The Optavia diet is intended for rapid weight loss over 12-24 weeks. The very low calorie Optavia plan would be difficult to sustain as a lifestyle eating pattern for most people. To sustain weight loss long term, many dietitians recommend a more moderate meal plan with plenty of minimally processed, filling foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, lean proteins, nuts and seeds.
After losing weight on Optavia, transitioning to healthier meals you can enjoy in proper portions is important. Establishing nutritious eating routines that are suited to what you would like and medical needs might be made easier by working with a licensed dietitian.
How Much Does Optavia Cost?
One downside of Optavia is the high monthly cost with no option for customization. Here’s how much you can expect to pay for optavia diet cost:
- $300+ per month for Optavia food items (meals, shakes, bars, snacks)
- $180+ per month for an Optavia coach membership
- $50-$300 one-time start-up fee
- Shipping fees on food orders
So in the first month, expect to pay around $530+ as a bare minimum for the meals and coaching. Ongoing it would cost around $480 per month.
You have to commit to purchasing their food each month and cannot customize your shipment. There is a minimum order of $110 per month. This makes Optavia inaccessible for many, especially for long term use.
If you are looking for meal delivery plans for weight loss, Optavia is one of the pricier options with no flexibility. Here are some more affordable Optavia alternatives to consider:
- Nutrisystem: as low as $8/day for meals and support.
- WW (Weight Watchers): plans start at $20/month.
- Medifast: meal delivery around $11/day.
- Jenny Craig: prices range from $15-$23/day.
- FreshlyFit: fresh prepared meals starting at $8.49/meal.
Many dietitians also recommend working with an accredited registered dietitian locally if you have specific health needs. An RD can help tailor a custom nutrition plan just for you.
The Optavia Diet: Is It Right For You?
The Optavia diet can produce fast weight loss through calorie restriction and carb reduction. But it may be difficult to follow long term due to nutritional deficiencies, high costs, and sustainability issues.
For many people looking to lose weight, working with a dietitian to develop healthy eating habits may be more effective long term than following a restrictive fad diet. Find a lifestyle of eating you can stick with for the rest of your life, start with tiny adjustments, and concentrate on eating foods that are whole.
The Optavia diet is a commercial weight loss program that involves replacing most meals with pre-packaged shakes, bars, and frozen foods. It may help some people lose weight quickly due to its very low calorie nature. However, it is an extremely restrictive and expensive plan that can be difficult to sustain long term. Working with a dietician to create positive lifestyle choices may be a more appropriate choice for some people looking for long-term weight management.
Consult your healthcare provider before using Optavia, especially if you have any underlying medical issues. While fast weight loss may be tempting, gradual lifestyle changes using balanced whole foods are best for achieving and maintaining your health goals.