Choosing the Best Weight Loss Plan Part 5: Optavia Promotes Weight Loss but at What Price?
The Optavia program is a bit of a hybrid. People on the Optavia plan eat 4 servings of Optavia foods and prepare two “Lean and Green” meals on their own. They also eat one snack per day that can be either purchased from Optaviaor prepared at home.
The Optavia foods are low in carbohydrates and have been fortified with vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber. Each Lean and Green meal incorporates 3 servings of vegetables. The idea is to spread calorie intake out over the day, switch the body from burning sugar to burning fat, and preserve muscle mass by promoting protein intake.
What we like:
- We like the wide variety of Optavia options. That makes finding something you like really easy.
- We like the incorporation of the two “Lean and Green” meals, because this helps participants learn about better food choices and gets them to spend some time in the kitchen, skills which will help with weight loss maintenance afterwards.
- We love the emphasis on vegetables. Any weight loss plan that asks you to get 6 servings of vegetables per day piques our interest.
What we don’t like:
- There is an over-emphasis on protein. In many ways this is the Atkins diet by a different name. Every Optavia product contains about 11 g of protein and the options presented for Lean and Green meals, for example 14 egg whites, contain up to 50 grams of protein. So before you know it, you’ve consumed over 150 g of protein in one day. Unless you are an elite athlete, this is roughly three times what you needed for optimal health. Why does too much protein matter? Excess protein can place a stress on your kidneys and it can make your blood more acidic. Because calcium is an effective acid neutralizer, in response to the increased acidity in the blood stream, your body leaches calcium out of your bones. Taking calcium out of bones and putting it into the blood stream promotes osteoporosis and can lead to the formation of kidney stones.
- Optavia foods are so fortified they resemble supplements. And we know – based on extensive published data – that supplements are inferior sources of nutrients. Whole real foods are the best source of vitamins and minerals because the micronutrients are delivered in the right context – and are easily recognized and utilized in the body. Getting vitamin C from a bowl of blueberries or from an orange is far superior to getting that vitamin C from a pill or from a Twinkie fortified with vitamin C.
- The ingredient lists of Optavia products represent formulations that look like they came out of a chemistry lab instead of a kitchen.
Here’s what’s in a Cookie Dough Chewy Bar, aside from the vitamin and mineral fortifications:
SOY PROTEIN ISOLATE, POLYDEXTROSE, GLYCERINE, WHEY PROTEIN ISOLATE, SOLUBLE CORN FIBER, SUGAR, FRACTIONATED PALM KERNEL OIL, MILK PROTEIN ISOLATE, WATER, FRUCTOSE, NONFAT MILK, INULIN, WHEAT FLOUR, NATURAL FLAVOR, SOY LECITHIN, YOGURT POWDER, SALT, CANOLA OIL, COCOA (PROCESSED WITH ALKALI), SUCRALOSE, BAKING SODA.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t have soy protein isolate or polydextrose in my pantry.
Our bottom line: we cannot recommend the Optavia program. Very high protein intake increases your risk of significant long-term health issues. And the encouragement to consume vegetables is overshadowed by the requirement to eat heavily processed foods 4-5 times per day.
Series take away: If you’ve read our weight loss series, you’ve probably noticed we have not found a commercial weight loss plan we can fully stand behind. And given that the statistics around weight loss maintenance are so dismal, our skepticism is justified. After all, Americans spend over $60 billion per year on diet related products and services, yet obesity rates continue to rise.
So what should you do if you want to lose weight?
Stop thinking about losing weight and start thinking about building health. Eat nutritious foods made from real ingredients in their most whole and natural form. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins (in moderation), and whole grains.
If you follow this advice, not only will you feel better, but the weight part will take care of itself.
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