What are the best weight loss programs out there?

by | May 18, 2022 | Last updated Aug 15, 2022

  • The market is full of trendy weight loss programs, but they each approach weight loss differently
  • Features to look for: food tracking, 1:1 coaching, and built-in support for making long-term behavioral changes
  • Ultimately, the best weight loss program is one that leads to lasting change.

When you’re looking to shed pounds, there are an overwhelming number of weight loss programs promising to help. 

Not sure which program will help you make lasting change? 

In this article, we break down the details of five of the most well-known weight loss programs to help you decide. We cover:

  • Noom
  • Weight Watchers
  • Nutrisystem
  • Jenny Craig
  • Optavia

Ready to make a lasting change?

A healthier you, wherever you are.

The best overall weight loss program

An effective weight loss program should give you the support you need to maintain a healthy weight long term. 

They should offer food tracking to help you monitor calories and nutrients, as well as 1:1 coaching. 

Most importantly, they should help you understand why you eat what you eat, so you can make positive lifestyle changes and build healthy habits.

Here’s a quick overview of five of the most popular weight loss programs available right now:

Noom Weight WW Nutrisystem Jenny Craig OPTAVIA
What can you eat? Nothing is off limits. Use our 3-color system as a guide to eat a balanced blend of food that keeps you feeling satisfied while staying within your daily calorie range. Nothing is off limits as long as you stay within your weekly points budget. Nutrisystem’s prepackaged frozen and shelf-stable foods, plus fresh fruits and vegetables. Jenny Craig’s prepackaged and pre-portioned foods and snacks, plus fresh fruits and vegetables. OPTAVIA’s prepackaged food and snacks, plus meals that include lean meats, vegetable oils, low-carb vegetables, some nuts, and sugar-free snacks
Lessons based in psychology
Food logging
Coaching 1:1 coaching at no extra cost Coaching is available, 1:1 coaching only available with higher-cost plans Coaches available but no 1:1 option 1:1 coaching 1:1 coaching
Recipes and meal planning Database of thousands of recipes to choose from Database of thousands of recipes to choose from No recipe database or meal planning No recipe database or meal planning Some meal planning required; recipe ideas and food lists included
Price $16.50 monthly for annual plan billed upfront as 12-month auto-renewing plan at $199)

$60 for month-to-month plan
$19.95 to $54.95 monthly $269 to $379 monthly

(Includes pre-packaged food. Men’s plans cost more)
$390 to $666 monthly

(Includes pre-packaged food.)
$20.75 to $472.95 monthly

(Includes pre-packaged food.)

Noom Weight

Here at Noom, we don’t believe in losing weight through sheer willpower (or by restricting foods). Instead, we take a psychology-based approach that teaches you how to think differently about the way you eat.

Daily lessons

The Noom Weight program includes daily lessons based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a tool psychologists use to help people reframe their thinking and change their habits. Our goal is to help people understand their cravings and food choices, so they’re aware of their triggers and can make healthy, long-term changes.

Best of all? Noom’s lessons accomplish this in less than 15 minutes per day—and they’re conveniently in the same app you use to log your food.

Food tracking and 3-color system

Tracking your food intake has been shown to increase your chances of reaching your goal weight, so logging what you eat (yes, everything) is a key element of the Noom program.

Noom’s food tracker works a little differently than other apps by categorizing every food item as green, yellow, or orange. No food is off-limits (we could never give up pasta or pierogies), so orange doesn’t mean “bad.” Rather, the colors represent a food’s caloric density, which translates to how much you would need to eat to feel satisfied.

Here’s how it works:

  • Green: These are the least calorie-dense foods (like veggies and whole grains). With Noom, we recommend green foods take up about 30% of your daily intake.
  • Yellow: These have a higher caloric density than green foods but will probably take up the largest portion of your diet (we recommend 45%). Lean meats, starches, and healthy fats like avocados and legumes fall into the yellow category.
  • Orange: These foods are the most calorie-dense and/or have the fewest nutrients (think cheeseburgers and desserts). We suggest keeping orange foods to 25% of your daily intake.

Any time you log a food item, Noom’s food tracker will tell you whether that food is green, yellow, or orange. Over time, you’ll learn how to fill up on more green and yellow foods, so you can lose weight without feeling hungry or deprived.

1:1 coaching and community

Your Noom coach is there to support you every step of the way with high fives and helpful tips. They can look at your food log and suggest different foods to try or just help you stay motivated when you feel stuck (hello, plateau).

You’ll also have the support of a group of Noomers just like you, who you can turn to for inspiration, advice, or to share your wins.

Weigh-ins

While using Noom, you’ll weigh yourself daily rather than weekly. We find this helps by reducing the anxiety you feel when you step on the scale for the first time in several days.

Daily weigh-ins also help you understand that weight fluctuations are normal. Your weight loss graph probably won’t be a straight line, and that’s more than okay.

Exercise

Exercise is a healthy habit we encourage at Noom Weight. However, it’s not a required part of the program. No one expects you to walk 10,000 steps on Day 1. We think exercise is most beneficial—and sustainable—if you incorporate it into your routine at a pace that works for you.

For example, you might start by walking 200 steps per day and gradually increase that to 400, then 1,000. Before you know it, you might be walking 3-4 miles per day, 6 days a week.

Recipes and meal planning

With Noom, you make the rules—you can eat what you want, when you want. Noom works the same way whether you’re vegan, following a low-carb or keto diet, or are an intermittent faster.

Our recipe database contains thousands of delicious recipes you can try, along with information about how “green” they are (meaning you’ll feel full on fewer calories) and how they fit into your caloric range.

What happens when you hit your goal weight on Noom?

The Noom program isn’t just designed to help you lose weight. We want you to use the lessons to make mindful decisions and positive behavioral changes in the long term.

Everyone’s weight fluctuates over the years, and our goal is to help you avoid yo-yo dieting and sustain the healthy habits you develop through the program.

Cost

Most Noom Weight users have a 4-month subscription, which comes out to $34.75 per month (billed upfront as a 4-month auto-renewing plan at $139). But our plans range from $16.50 per month (for an annual plan billed upfront as $199) to $60 per month (for a month-to-month plan).


WW

WW (formerly Weight Watchers) helps you lose weight through a personalized points-based system based on your age, weight, height, and gender. Each week, members meet with their WW group in person or online and record their weight on the WW platform.

The lessons

WW lessons are blog-style articles in an online library rather than a structured step-by-step course.

Food tracking and the point system

With WW, all foods have an assigned number of points, and you’ll log your meals to make sure you stay within your weekly points range. WW also provides you with a personalized list of zero-point foods (foods with fewer calories and more health benefits like fruit, vegetables, and brown rice) you can eat without restriction.

Coaching and community

You’ll have the built-in support of your group if you choose to go to weekly meetings in person. WW also has an active online community.

1:1 coaching only comes with the higher-cost WW plans. On the lower-tier plans, you can reach out to one of their coaches any time for advice, but you may not talk to the same person each time.

Exercise

You’re encouraged to exercise on the WW program—you can even add more points to your weekly budget with physical activity. The WW app also includes on-demand workouts.

Recipes and meal planning

You’ll find thousands of recipes in the WW app, along with a weekly planning template that allows you to search and plug in recipes from the database. WW also has a “What’s in Your Fridge” feature where you can search the database for recipes that include foods you already have at home.

What happens when you hit your goal weight?

When you reach your desired weight, you can choose to stay on the program with an increased weekly points budget to support maintenance.

Cost

WW subscriptions range from $19.95 to $54.95 per month.

Ready to make a lasting change?

A healthier you, wherever you are.

Nutrisystem

With Nutrisystem, you lose weight by following a meal plan with the company’s prepackaged foods. The meals focus on high-protein, low-glycemic index foods to keep your blood sugar stable and control hunger.

Food and meal planning

Nutrisystem sends frozen and shelf-stable pre-portioned foods straight to your door, and you’re encouraged to supplement your diet with fresh fruit and vegetables.

With Nutrisystem, there’s no real meal planning, no calorie counting, and very little cooking and prepping time. You just order your meals and wait for them to arrive, so it’s a convenient option for busy people.

But that also means you won’t be eating the same foods as your family, which can make sticking to the plan difficult—especially if you don’t like the food. With its limited meal options, Nutrisystem may be a challenge for people with certain food allergies.

Coaching and support

You can call Nutrisystem counselors for guidance and motivation, but you might not get the same one twice.

Exercise

You’re encouraged to exercise on Nutrisystem, but it’s not required.

What happens when you hit your goal weight?

Nutrisystem offers transition and maintenance plans that are less structured than the weight-loss system but still require you to buy their prepackaged food.

Cost

Nutrisystem costs from $279 to $379 per month. This includes food for 7 days the first week, and 5 days worth if meals for each week after that. Nutrisystem often runs promotions that enable you to sign up for less.

It’s also worth noting that men’s plans cost more, since they include more food.


Jenny Craig

With the Jenny Craig weight loss diet, you follow a meal plan made up of the company’s prepackaged foods. 

The most notable difference between Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem is that you get a 1:1 coach.

Food and meal planning

Jenny Craig sends frozen and shelf-stable pre-portioned foods straight to your door. You’ll also supplement your meals with fresh fruit and vegetables.

There’s no real meal planning, very little cooking and prepping time, and no food logging. Like Nutrisystem, the prepackaged meals aren’t well-suited people with certain food allergies.

Coaching and support

With Jenny Craig, you’ll have a 1:1 coach for the course of your program. You can meet with them in person or by phone.

Exercise

The Jenny Craig program encourages its clients to exercise, but it’s not required. The premium package also comes with a personalized activity plan.

What happens when you hit your goal weight?

Like Nutrisystem, Jenny Craig offers a maintenance program that increases your daily caloric intake, but still requires you to buy their food.

Cost

Jenny Craig’s plans range from $390 to $666 per month. 

The plans go from including 2 meals per day to 3 meals + snacks and coaching.


OPTAVIA

OPTAVIA clients lose weight by reducing their intake of calories and carbohydrates. You’ll eat a combination of the company’s prepackaged foods and low-calorie home-cooked “Lean and Green” meals.

The food

The OPTAVIA program delivers their prepackaged and pre-portioned meals and snacks, called Fuelings, to your door. The Lean and Green meals you make for yourself include 5–7 ounces of lean protein, 3 servings of non-starchy vegetables, and up to 2 servings of healthy fats.

The program restricts some foods, such as grains, dairy, and alcohol. Milk is an ingredient in many of their Fuelings, so OPTAVIA might be a challenge for people who are following a vegan diet or have dairy allergies.

Coaching and support

You’ll meet regularly with your personal consultant on the OPTAVIA plan.

Exercise

The program recommends (but doesn’t require) 30 minutes of daily exercise.

Maintenance

After you reach your goal weight, you’ll enter a 6-week transition phase that gradually increases your daily calorie budget and incorporates more foods—such as starchy vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy. After those 6 weeks, it’s recommended to downgrade to one of OPTAVIA’s lower-tier programs to continue receiving their Fuelings and meeting with your coach.

Cost

OPTAVIA plans range from $20.75 to $472.95 per month, depending on how many Fuelings you purchase.


FAQ

What is the best weight loss program for women?

Women face a number of unique circumstances (like breastfeeding, menopause, or dealing with PCOS) that make weight loss challenging. 

Stress, emotional eating, and all-or-nothing thinking can quickly derail your progress.

The best weight loss program for women won’t make you feel like a failure for treating yourself now and then. 

Instead, the program should guide you to mindfully choose nutrient-dense yet satisfying foods. 

Most importantly, it should help you understand why you eat what you eat so you can identify your triggers and develop sustainable healthy habits.

Noom’s food tracker and 3-color system keep you accountable to your goals. 

They encourage you to eat more nutritionally rewarding foods, so there’s room for the occasional dessert. 

And the daily lessons within the app teach you—in less than 15 minutes per session—how to recognize unhealthy behaviors and make positive changes.

What is the best weight loss program for men?

You may be used to overeating—many times to the point of being stuffed. Or it might seem like there’s never enough time to work exercise into your day. 

And many times, you just don’t know where to start and feel overwhelmed.

The best weight loss program for men accounts for these challenges. It gives you room to indulge in the foods you love to eat occasionally—whether it’s pizza or pad thai—in the right portions so you can stay on track. 

At the same time, it should help you discover new favorite foods that enable you to feel satisfied, not deprived, while you lose weight.

Finally, it should empower you to create healthy habits for the long term—like building exercise into your routine gradually—so you’re more likely to maintain your weight loss and make long-term improvements to your overall health.

Noom does this with food tracking and a 3-color system that makes it easy to choose nutrient-dense foods. 

And with daily lessons, it helps you understand why you make certain choices about food so you can take control of what—and how much—you eat. (And they’re only 5 to 15 minutes long.)

What is the best weight loss program for seniors?

It’s no secret that losing weight becomes more difficult as we age and our muscle mass decreases and metabolism slows down. 

A weight loss plan can help you shed excess pounds so you can stay well and continue doing the things you love.

The best weight loss program for seniors emphasizes healthy eating rather than forcing you to go keto or stick to some other restrictive diet plan. 

Noom’s green-yellow-red color system guides you to choose nutrient-dense foods that give you energy and help you feel full on fewer calories, so you can lose weight and still enjoy an after-dinner treat.

And with daily lessons—which are right in the app where you’ll log your food—you’ll learn how to eat mindfully and build sustainable habits that can help protect your health for the long term.

What is the best weight loss program for diabetics?

People with diabetes have a lot to juggle—like watching their blood sugar, monitoring their diet, and taking their medications. Add losing weight to the list, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

The best weight loss program for diabetics makes it easy to stay in control of your health. 

It should include food logging to keep you accountable for your eating habits but be flexible enough to accommodate life’s ups and downs. 

It should also help you identify situations that trigger you to consume too much sugar and steer you to make healthy choices.

Noom helps you through its food tracker and coaching.

The app will prompt you to log your meals—and you can log your daily glucose levels, water intake, blood pressure, and weight as well. 

Your coach will review this information to help you figure out the best weight-loss strategies.

Say your glucose levels are especially high. Your coach might check your meal tracker to see what foods you ate and suggest a few nutrient-dense alternatives.

And Noom’s daily lessons help you make positive changes to your mindset and eating habits that you can keep up for the long run.

Ultimately, the best weight loss program is one you’ll stick with

We know how challenging losing weight can be. It’s frustrating to put so much hard work into a weight loss program that isn’t sustainable, only to feel hungry or deprived.

Noom helps you create long-term habits to lose weight and improve your overall health—whether you follow the keto diet, do intermittent fasting, or eat a plant-based or vegan diet.

Ready to learn how to make lasting changes? Get started with Noom here.