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Nutrition for Weight Loss

Low carbohydrate, high protein, low fat, no sugar -- which works best for weight loss? To answer that question, let’s start with some fast facts on the major nutrition players -- carbohydrates, protein and fat.


● Four calories per gram

● Major source of energy for the body

● Fuels basic body functions like breathing, as well as strenuous activities like running.

Carbohydrates can be categorized into three types: sugars, starches and fiber. When you eat carbohydrates, your body breaks the sugars and starches down into glucose, which your body uses for energy. Fiber, on the other hand, is not digested nor absorbed by the body like other carbohydrates.


Sugars are easy to digest because they are made of only one sugar unit (monosaccharide) or two sugar units linked together (disaccharides). This makes them a quick energy source. Dietary sources include fruit, milk, honey, yogurt, brown sugar, syrup, table sugar and molasses. Some grocery foods on your Jenny Craig Menu, such as fruit, milk and yogurt, contain natural sugars and you will find added sugars in some of the Jenny Craig foods. Based on the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, added sugars are considered discretionary calories, which are allowable extras to be added for taste and flavor after your nutritional needs have been met. Your Jenny Craig Menu is designed to show you how to enjoy foods that include discretionary calories.


Starches are made up of many sugar units linked together (polysaccharides), which is why they are slower to digest and provide sustained energy. Dietary sources of starch include starchy vegetables (potatoes, peas, corn), bread, cereal, grains, rice, pasta and beans and lentils.


Fiber is the part of plant foods that cannot be fully digested or absorbed by the body. So, high-fiber foods provide fewer calories than other carbohydrate-rich ones. Fiber gives bulk and texture to foods, which helps you feel more satisfied. Because it passes unchanged through the digestive tract, fiber also promotes healthy bowel function. Dietary sources include fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

What About Whole Grains?

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise that half of the grains you eat should be whole. You will find that many Jenny Craig items include whole grains like brown rice, whole wheat and oats. Whole grains are different from refined grains because they contain the entire grain kernel, including bran, germ and endosperm. Refined grains are processed to remove the bran and germ, giving the grain a finer texture and a longer shelf life. This process removes some dietary fiber, iron and B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid), and hundreds of phytonutrients. Some of the nutrients (B vitamins and iron) are replaced as part of the enrichment process.

The Role of Carbohydrates in Weight Loss

If there’s a secret to weight loss in carbohydrates, it’s found wrapped around the seed and lining the cell walls of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. It’s good, old-fashioned fiber. You will find fiber on your Jenny meal plan (link)in added foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole-wheat breads as well as in your Jenny’s Cuisine entrées and snacks (link).


● Four calories per gram

● Maintains muscle, heart, kidneys and lungs

● Helps form red blood cells

● Helps create antibodies that fight infection

A protein’s structure is like a string of pearls, each pearl representing a single building-block (amino acid). There are 20 different amino acids. Nine of those are dubbed “essential”, as the body can’t make them and they must be obtained by food. Your body can synthesize the other nonessential amino acids.

The quality of a protein source is determined by how many of the essential amino acids it includes. The typical American diet, which contains sources of high quality protein, such as eggs, meat, milk and fish, provides more than adequate amounts of essential amino acids to meet all of your body’s needs. Even if you do not eat meat or fish, you can easily achieve your protein needs with a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet, which typically includes high quality protein such as eggs (ovo) and milk (lacto). If you are interested in a meatless meal plan, you can create one using the Let Me Plan It menu, and choose the Jenny’s Cuisine meatless items (link) which are noted with a “carrot” symbol.

The Role of Protein in Weight Loss

Protein takes longer than carbohydrates to digest. For that reason, it provides more satisfaction. Including lean protein sources with each meal is a great way to help you feel satisfied longer. In addition, your body burns more calories digesting and processing protein for use and storage than for either carbs or fat. Although the calorie burn is minimal, it may still help you reach your goal.

Make it Lean to Avoid Excess Calories

Keep in mind that some sources of protein can provide excess calories if they are high in fat. Choose lean cuts of meat, skinless chicken, fish and other sources of lean protein to minimize calories.

Examples of Lean Protein Sources Examples of Higher-fat Protein Sources
Lean beef (USDA Select or Choice grades, trimmed of fat) Beef (Prime grades, trimmed of fat)
Ground beef (≥90% lean); Ground turkey (≥93% lean); Ground chicken Ground beef/turkey (≤85% lean)
Lean pork (chop, ham tenderloin) Pork (cutlet, ground, shoulder roast, spareribs)
Fat-free/low-fat cheese BBBB Cheese (regular)td>
Egg whites; egg substitute Whole eggs
Poultry (skinless) Poultry (with skin or fried)
Fish/seafood Fish (fried)
Nonfat/low-fat/1% milk and other dairy products Higher-fat/reduced-fat/2%/whole milk and other dairy products


● Nine calories per gram

● A source of long-lasting energy for the body

● Transports fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K through the blood

● Carries flavor and gives texture to foods

Fat is the main storage form of energy in the body. Our bodies have several weeks’ worth of energy stored in fat cells. Fat also helps preserve body heat. They are categorized as saturated, trans or unsaturated.

Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and can contribute to raising blood cholesterol.

Dietary sources include higher fat meats (organ meat meats, sausage, spareribs), whole milk, cream, creamy salad dressing, full-fat ice cream, full-fat cheese, butter, lard and some plant sources like coconut/palm kernel oil (cookies, crackers, chips, candy).

Trans fats are solid at room temperature and can contribute to raising blood cholesterol. Trans fats are made from liquid oils, which are chemically processed to make the oil solid/semi-solid at room temperature. Dietary sources include foods that are prepared with partially hydrogenated oils (unless otherwise noted on the food label) such as cookies, crackers, cakes, French fries, donuts, margarine, and shortening.

Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and may help to reduce blood cholesterol. Unsaturated fats are either polyunsaturated or monounsaturated and are considered “heart healthy” because they may help to increase your good cholesterol when eaten in place of saturated fats in your diet.

● Dietary sources of polyunsaturated fats are safflower, sesame, sunflower, soybean and corn oil as well as trans fat-free margarine.

● Dietary sources of monounsaturated fats are olives, avocados, almonds, walnuts as well as olive, canola and peanut oils.

Role of Fat in Weight Loss

A high fat intake, of even the heart-healthy kind, can provide excess calories and lead to weight gain, because fat is higher in calories compared to carbohydrates and protein. Although health experts typically recommend that approximately 20-35% of your calories come from fat, Americans consume approximately 40% of their calories from fat. Research from the National Weight Control Registry shows that individuals who successfully maintain their weight loss have an average dietary intake of approximately 29% calories from fat.1 The Jenny Craig Menu provides 20-30% of calories from fat.

Remember, nutrition matters. The best way to lose weight is to follow a balanced diet that includes carbohydrates, protein and fat and, of course, to burn more calories than you eat. With the flexibility of Jenny’s personalized menus, you can select the foods you prefer and be assured that you’re following a healthy diet plan that will work for you long term.


1. Phelan S, et al. Obesity. 2006;14:710-716.