The Medifast diet — which has been replaced by a new program called Optavia — promises to help you lose weight with pre-packaged snacks and meals. But the plan can be pricey and could harm your health, which is why you may be wondering how to duplicate the Optavia diet to try more safely at home.
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Here's what to know about the Optavia diet, including its pros and cons, whether you should try it at home and how to adapt the diet to better suit your health (and wallet).
Talk to your doctor before starting any weight-loss program to make sure it's the right one for you, per the Mayo Clinic.
What Is the Medifast Diet?
Medifast is a pre-packaged meal-replacement plan that involves eating branded shakes, snacks and meals five times a day to lose weight, according to Beth Israel Lahey Health. However, Medifast has been phased out and replaced by Optavia, per the brand's website.
For reference, though, Medifast's main program was the 5 & 1 Plan, which involved eating five meal replacement shakes, bars or soups and one "Lean & Green" meal that contained protein and non-starchy veggies.
After achieving the desired weight loss, Medifast followers would then enter the transition phase, where they could add starches, fruit and dairy products into their diet while cutting back on the pre-packaged snacks and meals.
The final maintenance phase consisted of eating balanced meals with some supplemental Medifast snacks, per Beth Israel Lahey Health.
What Is the Optavia Diet?
Optavia replaced Medifast to offer a more well-rounded approach to weight loss, according to the website. The program includes:
- Meal replacements and snacks called Fuelings
- A "Habits of Health" program that helps you change health-related behaviors
- Access to a health and wellness coach
- Access to other members of the Optavia community
Optavia encourages followers to eat six meals a day, divvied up between Fuelings products and Lean & Green meals you make for yourself at home, per the Optavia website.
The Fuelings snacks (options include shakes, soups, bars and biscuits) are low in carbs and calories, high in protein and contain added probiotics, according to the website. The Lean & Green meal template recommends a combination of lean protein, non-starchy veggies and beneficial fats, per the website.
There are three plan options to pick from that involve various combinations of Fuelings and meals, including:
- 5&1 plan: Five Fuelings and one Lean & Green meal daily
- 4&2&1 plan: Four Fuelings, two Lean & Green meals and one snack per day
- 3&3 plan: Three Fuelings and three Lean & Green meals each day
Medifast vs. Optavia
Though they spawn from the same company, Medifast is not the same as Optavia and Optavia is not Medifast, per the website.
Here's the biggest difference between the two: Optavia's program aims to help you build beneficial habits (like exercising) with the help of a health coach in addition to reforming your diet. Medifast, by contrast, was a self-guided program that centered around meal replacement snacks, according to Beth Israel Lahey Health.
Optavia vs. Medifast
Meal replacement products
Behavioral changes program
Optavia Diet Pros and Cons
Despite its promises of weight loss and improved health, Optavia has some drawbacks. Here are the pros and cons to consider before trying the diet at home or otherwise:
It's possible that Optavia can help you shed pounds, as low-carb diets in general can support short-term weight loss, according to the Mayo Clinic.
However, the low-carb nature of Optavia may not provide you much of an edge compared to eating a balanced diet that includes carbs and exercising regularly, per the Mayo Clinic.
- Optavia may not provide your body with enough calories (plans can restrict you to as few as 800 calories per day, according to the brand's website). This can be especially dangerous for pregnant people, teens and people with eating disorders, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, liver disorders and kidney conditions.
- Pre-packaged meal replacements typically don't provide as much nutrition as whole foods and can contain unwanted additives. For instance, some of Optavia's Fuelings have added sugars and saturated fat.
- It can be expensive.
- Dry mouth
- Thinning hair
Opt for Safe Weight Loss Instead
Because Optavia may not provide you with adequate fuel or nutrition, per U.S. News & World Report, it's typically best to stick to safer, more sustainable weight-loss efforts.
Many Optavia plans curb your energy intake to little more than 1,000 calories per day, which falls below the minimal recommended daily caloric intake, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
While restricting calories this severely can lead to some fast initial weight loss, this is neither safe nor recommended and can cause side effects like burning muscle instead of fat or regaining the weight, per the Mayo Clinic.
The Mayo Clinic instead recommends losing weight at the safe and sustainable pace of 1 to 2 pounds per week, which can be accomplished by cutting your daily caloric intake by 500 to 1,000 calories through a combination of eating less and exercising more.
Reasons to Duplicate the Optavia Diet on Your Own
As a result, modifying the Optavia diet to try on your own at home is likely safer than subscribing to the program. Here are some reasons why:
- You can increase the daily calorie intake to suit your health needs.
- You can eat more nutrient-dense whole foods and avoid the additives in packaged products.
- It may fit your budget better.
- You can work with your doctor or a registered dietitian to develop a lifestyle plan — including diet and exercise — that's best for you.
Calorie intake should not fall below 1,200 per day for people assigned female at birth or 1,500 per day for people assigned male at birth, except under the supervision of a doctor, per Harvard Health Publishing.
How to Do Optavia on Your Own
While buying pre-packaged meals is convenient, creating your own meals at home is a better way to avoid unwholesome ingredients and additives, according to the Cleveland Clinic. As a bonus, making your own food is also more economical.
Here's how to duplicate Optavia's Lean & Green meals: Pick nutritious source of protein — like fish or skinless poultry — then pair it with non-starchy veggies and beneficial fats to balance out the macronutrient ratios in your diet.
Low-starch vegetables include:
- Leafy greens like spinach, Swiss chard and lettuce
Nutritious sources of fat include:
- Nuts and nut butters
- Seeds like flaxseed, sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds
- Oils like olive, canola, peanut, sunflower and safflower oil
- Fatty fish like salmon, herring and sardines
You can also substitute nutritious, homemade foods for Optavia's branded snacks. Here are some snacks that make for cheaper alternatives to Optavia Fuelings, per the American Heart Association:
- Fruit like pears or apples
- Veggies like carrot sticks, broccoli florets or cucumber slices
- Roasted chickpeas
When cooking Optavia-approved meals and DIY Optavia Fuelings at home, limit or avoid starchy vegetables like potatoes, corn, peas and yams, according to the brand's website.
- American Heart Association: "Healthy Snacking"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Eating Out May Mean Poor Nutrition Quality, Study Says"
- Optavia: "What is a Lean & Green meal?"
- Medifast: "Medifast Direct"
- Optavia: "We Are Optavia"
- Optavia: "What is a Fueling?"
- Mayo Clinic: "Low-carb diet: Can it help you lose weight?"
- U.S. News & World Report: "Optavia"
- Optavia: "How many calories and carbohydrates does the Optimal Weight 5 & 1 Plan provide?"
- Mayo Clinic: "Why do doctors recommend a slow rate of weight loss? What's wrong with fast weight loss?"
- Mayo Clinic: “Weight loss: Choosing a diet that's right for you"
- National Health Service: "Very low calorie diets"
- Penn Medicine: "How to Stop Food Cravings"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Calorie counting made easy"