The best diet isn't a diet. It is a permanent lifestyle change that leads to slow and steady weight loss rather than yo-yo dieting. That's why we left food-included plans like Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem and Medifast out of our comparison of online dieting services; most dieters simply don't have the desire or the budget to send away for food for the rest of their lives. Finishing the plans can mean gaining the weight right back for many. There is no question they can help you lose weight. If you are eating only the food on the plan, you will very likely have success. But at some point you'll probably need to transition to cooking your own healthy meals. In case you want to give one of these plans a try, this quick synopsis can help you choose the best one for your situation.

Jenny Craig
There is really no question that you will lose weight with Jenny Craig, with its pre-packaged meals and individualized counseling, but this plan will be unsustainable for many, and not just because it requires you to buy food. It is also expensive. Jenny Craig invests some resources in teaching you how to eat on your own when you part with the program, but generally speaking it will be easier in the long run to learn to manage what you eat from the start. Jenny Craig incorporates a weekly one-on-one consultation, not with a dietitian, but with someone who has been trained by the Jenny Craig organization. Dietitians are on staff as well, though, to assist the counselors as needed. The Jenny Craig method will very likely lead you to reach your weight loss goals. The program offers healthy food, an excellent support system and lots of help to get you exercising. The problem may come when you are done and need to choose all your food and activities yourself.

The celebrity endorsements are right. Nutrisystem can help you lose weight   quickly and with relatively little effort. Once you start getting your pre-packaged Nutrisystem food, the pounds will melt away as long as you eat what is delivered, adding in healthy produce and dairy along the way. There is not much in the way of exercise support with this program, which is one reason is it unsustainable. The other reason is that you cannot have your food mailed to you forever, or at least most people cannot.

Medifast has a reputation for unappetizing food that is hard on people with sensitivity to soy protein, but it also has a reputation for success. This food-included diet has helped many people drop unwanted pounds and incorporates some non-program food each day. Medifast works in phases so you incrementally introduce more calories into your diet after a drastic initial reduction. There are not too many tools for fitness with Medifast. You pick your food (from a relatively limited selection) and are then largely on your own to follow the plan. There is some advice about exercise, but it can be difficult to find the energy for much physical activity on so few calories, especially at first.

The mathematics of losing weight is simple. If you burn more calories than you take in, you will slim down. Food-included plans like Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem and Medifast can help you do it. The problem is that those plans end and it can be hard to maintain your weight after. The plans are generally effective, though, and can offer a jump-start and motivation to help you reach long-term goals. If you go in with realistic expectations you will be pleased.

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