Have you heard of the Optavia food program? This popular diet program combines pre-packaged Optavia Fuelings and Lean and Green meals.
A few of my clients are drawn to Optavia because of its convenience and quick weight loss results. But what are Optavia Lean and Green meals, and are they truly good for weight loss?
Let’s dive into the criteria for Lean and Green meals, how to make them, and how they stack up in terms of nutrition.
What is Optavia?
The Optavia food program for weight loss is a diet based on meal replacements called Optavia Fuelings, in addition to Lean and Green meals and optional snacks. Optavia offers 3 diet plans: 2 for weight loss and 1 for weight maintenance.
Optavia claims to support sustainable weight loss, but the program is highly restrictive. Its parent company, Medifast Inc., has also been criticized for its unsupported weight-loss claims.
As a sustainable weight loss dietitian, I typically would not recommend Optavia to my clients.
What are Optavia Lean and Green Meals?
Optavia Lean and Green meals are whole food-based “real meals” that complement the Optavia food plan. They are low in carbohydrates and consist of lean protein, non-starchy vegetables, and healthy fats.
Depending on your Optavia weight loss plan, you can have anywhere from one to three meals a day. You can have your meal any time of day, ideally 2-3 hours apart to curb hunger.
Here is a specific breakdown of what Lean and Green meals should entail:
1. Lean proteins – 5 to 7 ounces (about a palm size or so)
Optavia recommends choosing lean protein sources and using healthy preparation methods such as grilling, baking, broiling, and poaching instead of frying. The program also recommends at least two servings of fish per week for essential omega-3 fatty acids.
Optavia breaks your protein options down into 3 categories – leanest, leaner, and lean.
- Leanest: tuna, light turkey meat, egg whites, 1% cottage cheese, non-fat Greek yogurt
- Leaner: swordfish, chicken breast, pork chop, 2% cottage cheese, low-fat Greek yogurt
- Lean: salmon, steak, dark chicken or turkey meat, reduced-fat cheese, tempeh
The leaner the protein source, the more you can eat of it. You’ll also be allowed more healthy fats when you choose leaner proteins. For example, you can add 2 servings of healthy fats to 7 ounces of tuna, but 0 servings of healthy fats to 5 ounces of salmon.
2. Non-starchy vegetables – 3 servings
Non-starchy vegetables are the “green” of Optavia Lean and Green meals. A serving is anywhere from ½ cup to 1 cup, depending on the vegetable.
Optavia breaks down your non-starchy vegetable options into lower, moderate, and higher carbohydrate levels.
- Lower: leafy greens, celery, cucumbers, mushrooms, and radishes
- Moderate: asparagus, cauliflower, eggplant, kale, and zucchini
- Higher: broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, turnips, and green beans
Optavia’s weight loss plans do not allow higher carbohydrate vegetables such as carrots, corn, and potatoes. However, on the weight maintenance plan, all vegetables are allowed.
3. Healthy fats – up to 2 servings
Optavia recommends choosing healthy fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and limiting saturated fats. A serving of fat has 5 grams of fat and 5 grams of carbohydrates.
Recommended fat options include:
- 8 almonds
- 1 teaspoon of olive oil
- 5 to 10 olives
- 1 tablespoon of chia seeds
Less recommended fat options include:
- ½ tablespoon of butter
- 1.5 tablespoons of shredded coconut
- 2 tablespoons of sour cream
For reference, Optavia also provides a list of popular salad dressings and their recommended serving sizes. One example is 1 tablespoon of Newman’s Own balsamic vinaigrette or 2 tablespoons of Hidden Valley’s light buttermilk ranch.
You can add up to three condiment servings per Lean and Green meal. Condiments should have no more than 1 gram of carbohydrates per serving.
Examples of condiments include:
- ¼ cup of fresh parsley
- ½ teaspoon of barbecue sauce
- 1 tablespoon of parmesan cheese
- 1 bouillon cube
Optavia Lean and Green Meals Nutrition Quality
Lean and Green meals add variety to the Optavia plan, allowing you to include whole foods like fresh produce and lean proteins to your diet to fill nutritional gaps.
These meals are low in calories and in carbohydrates and high in protein. A meal averages around 300 calories, 25 grams of protein, 15 grams of carbohydrates, and 15 grams of fat which helps your body absorb certain fat-soluble vitamins.
Bottom line, the meals are relatively balanced and will likely support weight loss. But because of their strict nutritional guidelines, I question how sustainable this diet plan is for most. I especially think the strict limits on condiments are drastic, and putting a limit on something like parsley is just not necessary.
There are limited reviews for Lean and Green meals, but you can find feedback on Optavia’s Instagram. People are generally pleased with the recipes, praising Optavia’s creative and delicious food combinations like cauliflower grilled cheese, pork tacos, and lobster rolls.
Like any diet plan, your tastebuds and hunger levels may need time to adjust, especially if you are not used to following a low-carbohydrate diet. The meals are also pretty low in calories, so portions have left my clients who have tried the program wanting more.
Pros and cons
If you’re thinking of trying Optavia Lean and Green meals, consider these pros and cons.
- Add flexibility and variety to the Optavia program
- Fill in nutritional gaps from Optavia Fuelings, like fiber and phytonutrients (i.e., beneficial plant chemicals)
- Available pre-made or can be made from scratch
- Allow you to enjoy whole foods you like in moderation to complement Optavia’s meal replacements
- Require extra shopping and cooking (when prepared from scratch)
- Tedious and restrictive nutritional guidelines
- Cost more money in addition to already pricey Optavia products
- Narrow plant-based lean protein options
- Limited flavor and satisfaction with restrictions on calories, carbohydrates, fat, and condiments
To sum up, Lean and Green meals add more flexibility to the Optavia Food Program. These whole food-based meals supplement Optavia Fuelings, filling potential nutrient gaps and letting you enjoy foods you like in moderation.
While following Optavia (or any diet program), it’s essential to work with a dietitian. A dietitian will ensure you follow the plan safely and prevent weight gain once you transition off the program to achieve permanent weight loss. Need more support in following a healthy weight loss program and keeping the weight off? Book a free introductory call to see if my sustainable weight loss program is a good fit for you.