The Price of 10 Popular Diet Programs

FT Contributor  | 

Whether you want to lose weight for health reasons or you simply want to feel better about your physical appearance, there are a variety of reasons people choose to participate in a diet program. In fact, according to the Boston Medical Center, 45 million Americans go on diets each year, spending a total of $33 billion on weight-loss products.

With so many types of diets available, going on a diet can mean a number of things. From calorie deficits to only eating a specific type of food to cutting out certain foods altogether, there is a range of diet programs out there. These programs vary in approach and style, but these diets vary in cost as well.

If you’re looking to try a diet but concerned about its impact on your budget, this guide will explain some of the most popular diets on the market, what they entail, and how much they’ll total in cost.

1. Atkins

Atkins is a famous low-carb diet, which sells branded food products. It was created by cardiologist Dr. Atkins, who originally started recommending that his patients limit their sugar and carbohydrate intake to lose weight and maintain their weight loss. Human metabolism requires fuel to function, which can either be sugar or fat.

Traditional diets that cut calories typically force the metabolism to run on sugar, but the Atkins diet asks that carbs and sugar (which the body converts into energy) be limited so that the body burns fat instead.

Someone who is looking to lose weight and maintain their weight loss might benefit from the Atkins diet.

There is no cost to sign up for Atkins or to use the tools that they offer, including meal plans, recipes, carb counters, their mobile app, and access to support groups. Your cost depends on what you spend at the grocery store on Atkins products and other low-carb foods.

You may still participate in an Atkins-inspired diet by limiting your carbohydrate intake and monitoring how much sugar you consume. Doing so could save you some money on the cost of this program while still allowing you to reap the weight loss results.

2. Health Dare

The Health Dare program is a 90-day challenge customized for the individual by Health Dare employees. This consulting-based program is rooted in the idea that “toxins are clogging up our cells.”

Using three phases, this diet seeks to eliminate the foods that are causing your symptoms, replacing those foods with proper nutrition, and finally investigating the other aspects in your life — such as work, relationships, and finances — that are directly related to your specific health issue.

Health Dare’s pricing depends on how long you want to work with a coach, as well as the cost of your grocery bills. If you want to participate in this diet without signing up for a coach, you could start by eliminating certain types of foods to see what causes flare-ups. For example, if you cut sugar, dairy, and alcohol out of your diet for 30 days and then slowly start to work those foods back into your diet while monitoring how you feel, you might see similar results.

If you are someone who struggles with high blood sugar, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, you may benefit from this weight loss program.

3. Jenny Craig

Jenny Craig is a diet program based on pre-packaged meal plans and personal consulting. Participants are provided with coaching, support, and six low-calorie meals a day — the diet requires that you eat something every two to three hours.

According to Consumer Affairs, the cost of Jenny Craig can be:

  1. Weekly: $112.50.
  2. Monthly: $450.
  3. Yearly: $5,400.

Consumer Affairs also notes that there is a $99 enrollment fee to get started with Jenny Craig, as well as a $19 monthly subscription cost.

To combat the cost of the Jenny Craig program, you can simply consume more meals a day that are lower in calories. If you’re missing out on the support, there are a number of diet forums out there that may be able to provide guidance.

4. Keto

The Keto diet focuses on cutting carbs and increasing proteins and fats so that the body can burn fat more effectively. In this way, you’re retraining your metabolism and forcing it into a state of ketosis.

As with many diets, the cost of Keto comes down to how much you spend on groceries. This diet asks that you consume a lot of protein and fats, so it depends on the type of protein and fats that you buy. For instance, filet mignon is going to cost more than a skirt steak almost all of the time.

If you want to save on the costs of the Keto diet, you can opt for more affordable fats and proteins. Shop grocery sales and check circulars for coupons to save money on the foods that are going to allow you to remain in ketosis.

This diet was originally created to address disorders such as epilepsy and type 2 diabetes. If either is something that you struggle with, this may be a diet to try, but it’s also effective for weight loss.

5. Mediterranean

Mediterranean countries are known for the health of their cuisine. In the 1960s, medical professionals found that coronary heart disease caused very few deaths in the Mediterranean. Therefore, this diet seeks to emulate Mediterranean-style meals.

More specifically, the diet asks you to eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats daily, as well as plenty of fish, poultry, legumes, and eggs. Dairy and red meat are limited in the Mediterranean diet.

Once again, the cost of the Mediterranean diet depends on the types of groceries you buy. To save on the costs of groceries, opt for the store brand or the more affordable fresh catch that week.

If you are someone with a history of heart problems, this diet may be a good option, but it’s also a viable option for those looking to lose weight.

6. Nutrisystem

Nutrisystem focuses on a meal plan that mainly consists of pre-packaged foods delivered directly to your door. The program offers healthier versions of foods such as burgers, macaroni and cheese, and lasagna. Through portion control, many people have seen success with this system.

Nutrisystem often runs specials on their plans, such as buy one, get one free. The fees are set up by month, so each month you are charged for the meals that you order. There are three plans Nutrisystem offers:

  1. Basic — Prepared meals and snacks for five days a week at $8.21 a day.
  2. Uniquely Yours — Frozen and prepared meals and snacks for five days a week at $10 a day.
  3. Uniquely Yours Ultimate — Frozen and prepared meals and snacks for 7 days a week at $12.14 a day.

The cost of the Nutrisystem diet depends on the plan you choose. To cut back on the cost of the Nutrisystem diet, you can utilize the resources they provide that list acceptable foods to eat outside of the program.

Anyone looking to get their weight under control or kick start a diet might benefit from the Nutrisystem program.

7. Optavia

The Optavia program involves eating a combination of pre-packaged nutrient-dense meals and homemade Optavia-approved recipes. By partnering with coaches and consuming their food, this program seeks to encourage healthy habits.

The total cost of the Optavia program depends on how long you want to participate. There are several plans available in the Optavia diet that range in price:

  1. Optimal Weight 5&1 Plan — Five meals daily.
    1. Essential Optimal Kit — $414.60 a month.
    2. Essential On the Go Kit — $414.60 a month.
    3. Select Favorites Kit — $448.60 a month.
  2. Optimal Health 3&3 Plan — Three meals and three green meals.  
    1. Optimal Health Kit — $333 a month.
  3. Optimal Weight 4&2&1 Plan — Four meals, two green meals, and one healthy snack.
    1. Essential Optimal Plan — $408 a month.

There are also plans designed to address specific health needs such as diabetes and gout, as well as plans for specific demographics such as nursing moms, seniors, and teens. To save money on the Optavia diet, you can give the program a shot for a month, then base your future meals on the ones included in your package.

This program may be ideal for someone looking to lose weight or maintain the weight that they have lost, as well as anyone with the health needs mentioned above.

8. Paleo

This diet is meant to emulate that of hunter-gatherers. It involves high protein intake and avoidance of processed products, or in other words, the foods that were available to the cavemen, including whole foods such as berries, nuts, and meats. There are a number of Paleo diet guides online that you can base your decisions on.

There’s no one way to follow the Paleo diet, which means the cost may vary. It depends on the types of meats and produce you purchase. If you want to eat healthy on a budget and save on the costs of the Paleo diet, opt for foods that are on sale or clip coupons to cut back on the price of expensive proteins.

If you have heart disease, diabetes, or are considered obese, this diet may be right for you.

9. South Beach Diet

This is a low-carb diet that purports to focus on heart health. Pre-packaged meals high in protein and healthy fats are sent to your door based on the plan you choose. You can also mix in approved grocery items low in sugar and carbohydrates.

The cost of the South Beach Diet depends on the plan you sign up for:

  1. One Week Body Reboot Kit — $99.
  2. Silver Plan — $9.56 a day.
  3. Gold Plan — $10.88 a day.
  4. Platinum Plan — $11.87 a day.

To save on the cost of the South Beach Diet, mimic the recipes in sample meal plans and aim to have the same number of low-calorie, high protein meals each day.

If you are someone with heart disease or heart-related issues, ask your doctor if you would benefit from the South Beach Diet.

10. Weight Watchers

Weight Watchers is a customized diet based on a point system. Every food has a point value and you are allowed a certain number of points each day. This process is similar to counting calories.

After a personal assessment, you are placed in a program that will help you to reach your weight loss goals. The program also uses tools such as food and activity trackers and support groups to help you succeed.

The price of Weight Watchers depends on the plan you choose:

  1. Digital — $3.22 a week.
  2. Workshop and Digital — $8.46 a week.
  3. Personal Coaching and Digital — $12.69 a week.

Additionally, how much Weight Watchers brand food you purchase and how you shop at the grocery store will also impact your total cost. To save on Weight Watchers, you can use their sample list of foods and avoid those that are higher in point value.

There are a plethora of options for losing weight or getting healthier outside of resorting to fad diets. It’s best to consult your doctor before starting on any kind of weight loss plan.


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