Optavia Review: The Best Weight Loss Diet?

Optavia Review: The Best Weight Loss Diet?


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Optavia is a weight loss program that includes coaching and meal delivery. The company claims that their program is clinically proven to work, and "designed by dietitians, scientists and physicians."

But is Optavia actually proven in clinical studies to cause weight loss? And if so, how much? Do the meals contain any unhealthy ingredients? And why was Optavia sued in 2022?

In this article we'll answer all of these questions and more, as we review results from clinical studies on Optavia for weight loss.

We'll also share our concerns about the healthiness of Optavia meals, explain why the brand was sued in 2022, and feature unsponsored customer reviews.

Does Optavia Cause Weight Loss?

A clinical trial published in the Obesity Science & Practice journal tested the effects of the Optavia diet on weight.

The study lasted 16 weeks, and compared three diets: Optavia, Medifast and a self-directed, reduced-calorie diet.

Trial participants on the Optavia diet lost slightly more weight than those on the Medifast diet. Those eating Optavia meals lost an average of 11.46 pounds.

The Optavia meal plan used in the trial was Optavia’s "5 & 1 Plan," which is currently available on the brand's website.

Both Optavia and Medifast diets yielded better results than the self-directed diet, which is unsurprising since the commercial diets are portion-controlled (which means they provide a fixed number of calories per day), while people on a self-directed diet have to weigh and measure their own food and caloric intake, which creates more chance for human error.

Optavia's parent organization also funded a 2022 clinical trial to assess factors associated with successful weight loss outcomes on their program, which included higher accountability from coaches, increased self-awareness from participants, and the act of "paying it forward."

While we consider it to be a sign of a high-quality brand to fund so much clinical research, we'd like to see a trial lasting six months or longer, because diets that significantly restrict calories are often associated with rebound weight gain, as we discussed in our BistroMD reviews article.

Optavia does provide coaching which should help, since an online support system is proven in medical research to aid in weight loss efforts.

Overall, we consider Optavia likely to be effective for weight loss in the short-and-medium term, given that the program is clinically proven to be effective and its online coaching feature should further improve results.

We do not currently recommend the program because we don't consider the meals to be healthy, as we'll discuss in the following section.

Are Optavia Meals Healthy?

Optavia Smoky BBQ Crunchers ingredients

The ingredients in Optavia Smoky BBQ Crunchers are shown above.

We consider Optavia meals, also called "Optavia Fuelings," to be relatively processed and we recommend instead eating whole foods that are free of questionable additive ingredients.

Here are some of the "Fuelings" listed in the "Weight Loss" section of Optavia’s website at the time of updating this article:

  • Smoky BBQ Crunchers
  • Essential Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Bar
  • Essential Cookie Dough Bar
  • Drizzled Chocolate Fudge Crisp Bar
  • Essential Cinnamon Roll Cake Mix

These sound like desserts, not nutritious meals. 

Eating highly processed foods is definitively associated in medical research with negative health outcomes like cardiovascular disease and depression. 

Added sugar and natural flavorings are included in the Smoky BBQ Crunchers, as well as a notice that the meal "CONTAINS BIOENGINEERED FOOD INGREDIENTS." 

Citric acid is another ingredient included, and is a preservative and flavor enhancer that appears to cause whole-body inflammation in some individuals, according to a medical review published in the Toxicology Reports journal.

Vitamins and minerals are added to this snack, and Optavia states on their website that all of their Fuelings contain 24 vitamins and minerals. 

In 2022, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported that a wellness brand had to recall several products due to the added vitamins causing toxicity in some consumers.

Healthiness certainly exists on a spectrum, but there are a number of questionable ingredients in Optavia Fuelings, and for this reason we don't recommend the program overall from a health perspective.

We recommend a diet comprised of whole foods with minimal processing.

As we discovered in one of our nutrition reviews, it's even possible to find healthy food at Dollar Tree that we'd recommend over Optavia.

Real People Try Optavia

The most popular YouTube video on Optavia comes from the TODAY show, has been viewed over 1 million times, and interviews someone who claims to have lost over 330 pounds on Optavia:

A YouTube user named "Feliciannurse" shared what a full week of Optavia-approved Lean and Green recipes look like.

Keep in mind that the one daily "Lean & Green" meal is recommended but not provided by Optavia:

 Why Was Optavia Sued?

In July of 2022, Optavia was sued in a class-action lawsuit over claims that the company was operating an illegal auto-renewal scheme.

The lawsuit alleges that Optavia was enrolling customers in auto-renewal plans in a deceptive and illegal manner.

Several customer complaints on Optavia's Better Business Bureau (BBB) page allege similar. A user named "Bobbi B" claims that Optavia charged them without their consent or approval:

"When I opened the products, they were expired. I called the customer service number and they would not help me with a return or refund stating they could not find an order under my email address, I awoke this morning to another charge on my account, I've ordered nothing and did not sign up for auto delivery, and they still won't help since they cannot locate an order in my email address."

At the time of updating this article, the lawsuit appears to be ongoing, and appears to have been re-filed in California state court.

Questionable Vegetable Conversion Chart

Optavia vegetable conversion chart

Optavia has a "Vegetable Conversion Chart" that's meant to help customers assess the caloric and carbohydrate (carb) content of vegetables by measuring in cups (because many people don't have a food scale but have a measuring cup).

Our issue with this chart is that it highlights vegetables in red, yellow, and green, which suggests that "red" vegetables which are higher in carbs should be avoided.

We disagree with disincentivizing people from consuming any vegetables, and the carb content of most vegetables is negligible.

According to the USDA, half a cup of broccoli, which is categorized as "red" by Optavia, provides only 5.6 grams (g) of carbs, but only 3.03 g "net" carbs after subtracting fiber. This serving provides only 27 calories.

Fruits and vegetables are high in fiber and low in calories, which fills up the stomach and can help reduce cravings and binging on high-calorie processed foods like pizza. This makes them perfect for a healthy diet plan.

We have not come across any medical evidence suggesting that eating too many vegetables causes negative health or weight loss outcomes, nor does Optavia cite any on this page, so we consider this approach to be unscientific. 

How Much Does Optavia Cost?

The cost of Optavia depends on the program.

The 5 & 1 program, which appears to be the most popular, and which is the program was studied in the clinical trial on Optavia, currently costs $396.50 and contains 154 servings.

Assuming five servings per day as their plan outlines, this equates to a daily cost of $12.87.

Consumers will be responsible for purchasing ingredients for the one "Lean & Green" daily meal separately.

Since we initally published this article, Optavia actually reduced the daily cost by nearly $4.

Given that the Optavia program includes coaching, we consider this to be a reasonable daily cost.

It's worth noting that Optavia is slightly more expensive than Nutrisystem on a monthly basis, and we consider the two programs somewhat equivalent as they're both weight loss programs with clinical research backing.

Questionable Business Model

Optavia is a multi-level-marketing (MLM) business, which means that independent distributors called "Optavia Coaches" help sell their products.

We consider MLMs to be questionable business models from an ethical perspective, because they often rely on people with no relevant medical or scientific background to make health claims in regard to a brand's products or services.

Optavia's "Become a Coach" webpage does not list any medical requirements. Rather, the brand states they are seeking "like-minded, like-hearted" people.

In our opinion, someone being "like-hearted" is a not a good qualifier for them coaching someone else to achieve weight loss.

The phrase "Optavia ruined my life" gets 8,100 monthly searches at the time of updating this article, according to software tool SEMRush, and some of the results are published by coaching partners.

Our Clean Weight Loss Picks

There are food-based nutrients which have been shown in medical studies to be effective for weight loss.

Dietary fiber was shown in a medical review published in The Journal of Nutrition to cause 16 pounds of weight loss in 6 months when combined with moderate caloric restriction (750 calories per day below baseline).

MBG Organic Fiber Potency+ is our top fiber pick because it's certified organic, provides 7 g of fiber per serving and costs under $1.85 per serving at the time of updating this article.

MCT oil was shown in a meta-study to cause more than one pound of weight loss over 10 weeks. This equates to potential annualized weight loss of 6 pounds per year with less than one tablespoon's worth of MCT oil per day.

Bulletproof MCT Oil is our top MCT oil product, because the only ingredient is MCT oil derived from coconuts. and it currently costs only $15.50 for over a month's worth of product.

Ginger intake "significantly decreased body weight" according to a 2019 meta-study on ginger and weight loss that analyzed data from 14 clinical trials.

Pique La Ginger is our top ginger product, because it's an organic tea in convenient crystallized form, and all that's needed is to pour the powder into a glass and add hot water.

All three of the products mentioned in this section are entirely free of additive ingredients that we consider to be unhealthy.

Optavia Pros and Cons

Here are the pros and cons of Optavia in our opinion:

Pros:

  • Significant clinical backing
  • Clinically shown to cause medium-term weight loss
  • Includes online coaching
  • More affordable than most weight loss meal delivery programs

Cons:

  • Meals are relatively "processed"
  • Some meals contain synthetic vitamin and mineral additives
  • Some meals contain refined, added sugar
  • Some meals contain citric acid
  • Fuelings are quite low in calories
  • Lean & Green meal not provided
  • Many people monthly search "Optavia ruined my life"
  • Vegetable Conversion Chart disincentivizes eating some veggies
  • MLM business model
Stay up-to-date on our research reviews

Conclusion

We consider Optavia likely to be successful for short-to-medium-term weight loss, because it was proven so in a clinical trial published in a peer-reviewed journal.

That trial found Optavia to be a more effective weight loss option than another commercial dieting plan called Medifast, and also to be more effective than a self-directed diet.

We do not currently recommend Optavia, because we consider the Fuelings to be highly processed and unhealthy.

Eating high-fiber whole foods and eliminating processed food is a more sustainable, healthy weight loss approach in our opinion.

Optavia was sued over allegations that the brand was enrolling customers in auto-renewal schemes without their consent.

The cost of Optavia, around $350 per month, is reasonable given that the program includes coaching, which is clinically proven to help optimize weight loss efforts.

Optavia has actually decreased the daily cost of their 5 & 1 Program since our initial publication of this article, which is impressive given the increasing cost of raw materials.