The truth behind Jenny Craig’s frozen meals

Ever wonder if those Jenny Craig meals are really good for you? It's time to find out.
jenny craig meal

“We work with our clients to transition them to a healthier lifestyle and we offer a wide range of products that suit various tastes, cultural backgrounds and trends within the industry. Our consultants work with our clients on a one-on-one basis to ensure they learn the lessons to assist them to maintain a fresh and healthy approach to eating that can be maintained as part of their everyday lifestyle,” a spokesman Jenny Craig Australia New Zealand says.

Q: What does Jenny Craig say to suggestions that its frozen foods selection are “bait” for clients? (ie, that meals such as meat pies, sausage rolls, burritos, pizza all round and fish and chips replicate the taste and expectation of similar takeaway foods in order to entice dieters to the program)?

A: As with any service, we listen to the wants and needs of our clients. Jenny Craig foods are created for taste and nutritional value and are regularly reviewed by clients for flavour preferences. The 7-day menus are designed by our in-house dietitians and consist of over 70 options.

Q: If these items are bait, as alleged, then do they not also predispose dieters to return to similar takeaway products once they are no longer following the Jenny Craig menu plans?

A: The Jenny Craig philosophy is to build a healthy relationship with food. The program educates on regular eating (breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack), portion control and everything in moderation.

Q: How does Jenny Craig specifically support clients to understand what “Good nutrition” is?

A: Jenny Craig prepares the main component of the meal for our clients, and educates our clients about adding their own fruit, vegetables and salad. The elements of the vegetables and salad are included on the weekly menu and shopping list, and the preparation and eating style is discussed as part of the weekly one-on-one consultation. As clients progress on the program, home-prepared meals are introduced so clients are choosing and cooking their own meals – and discussing their choices with their consultant.

Q: Why does Jenny Craig believe that products such as choc chip bites, the aforementioned pizza all round and macaroni cheese as well as the products listed above, are meals that should be included in a diet that aims to produce weight loss? 

A: The Jenny Craig philosophy is to build a healthy relationship with food. Maintaining a healthy weight does not mean that you need to forgo everything. It just means that things can be enjoyed with portion control, as part of a nutritionally balanced day. These are the lessons our clients learn, and build upon in their weekly consultations. The Jenny Craig weight loss program has been successful for 100’s of 1000’s of clients over the past 30 years.

Q: How does Jenny Craig respond to the claim that these are in fact “habit-forming” foods in the same way that diet drinks are habit-forming and not conducive to good nutrition?

A: At Jenny Craig we work with our clients on establishing new habits that will assist them in achieving healthy weight loss goals. These include portion control, filling your plate with vegetables and salads, eating regularly to keep the metabolism going and engaging in regular exercise, all of which are habit forming for long term weight management.

Q: Jenny Craig lists a wide variety of fresh foods and vegetables as part of the suggested menus – What you’re the company’s primary reasons for offering packaged foods rather than choosing the fresh foods wouldn’t the consumer be better off simply choosing the fresh foods and adding lean meats for a better, healthier diet approach that would also meet their micro-nutritional needs in a sustainable way?

A: Cooking lean meats and fresh vegetables is a delicious and nutritious way to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and is part of the education we provide our clients as they transition off the program.

Q: A diet analysis by a qualified nutritionist and dietitian gives the Jenny Craig food provided (a week of packaged food) a score of 19 points out of a possible 74 on the Australian Recommended Food Score, a score that ranks as poor in dietary quality. How does Jenny Craig explain this when their primary business is claimed to be health and weight loss?

A: In house we have a team of seven Dietitians and four food technologists.

In addition we have a Jenny Craig Medical Advisory Board that provides qualified advice on our program, food products, weekly menus as well as specialist client advice.

Their role is to put our clients needs first and oversee the direction the menus are taking, ensure we comply with Weight Management Council guidelines, ensure all products are within the National Health and Medical and Research Council guidelines, manage specialist research programs to gain further insights, and confirm the program as a whole is a safe and healthy experience for our clients.

Q: Are there any efforts being made to make modifications to your current range of food to reflect your client’s needs?

A: We regularly add new items to our offering, and 60% of our new menu set to launch in October will showcase new products for our clients to enjoy. We are committed to continuing to provide a successful experience for our clients andalwayslooking at opportunities to further improve our offering.

Q: What evidence does Jenny Craig have that clients feel motivated to stick with the program over an extended period of time, say beyond 12 months?

A: Every client has different motivations to join Jenny Craig and lose weight, and set their own individual goals. Our consultants work with our clients to help them stay motivated and reach their own personal goals. That is the benefit of a face-to-face, personal consultation.

Q: All of the foods provided by Jenny Craig are highly processed with little in terms of fibre and whole grains. Can sustainable weight loss or indeed sustainable lifestyle change really be expected with the use of frozen, highly processed foods?

A: While the Jenny Craig menus provide pre-packaged foods, they are combined with fresh fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy, wholegrains and lean meats resulting in a nutritionally balanced menu plan. Each menu plan provides 30gm – 40gms of fibre per day.

Q: There appears to be discrepancies between the weights for Jenny Craig products noted on the packages and the actual weights of the products. For example, the 45g Nut and grain chew weighed 56 grams. The 325 g crumbed fish and wedges weighed 371 g in packaging but only 270 grams after reheating. The 350g macaroni cheese weighed 381 g in packet but 236 g after reheating, the 250 g chicken fettuccini weighed 212 g in packet but 190 g without the packet. Can you explain this and are consumers being short changed?

A: There can be slight variances between heating methods and cooking times can vary across appliances such as microwaves. We provide indicative guidelines on our packaging.

Q: Why are so many of your foods seem to be carbohydrate heavy and protein light? Is it because carbohydrate – pasta, rice, pastry – is cheap to produce and easy to stabilise in mass produced foods?

A: We use a variety of carbohydrate and protein sources, and where possible use wholegrain sources of carbohydrates. We are continually improving our products in line with new ingredients, new cooking methods and new research.

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