Medifast is a line of weight-loss products designed to help promote weight loss. The plan is often doctor-recommended with most seeing results. One concern some have is the use of pre-packaged foods instead of eating whole foods.
Eating whole foods also tends to be cost-effective. To find out the benefits of Medifast, our research team turned their attention to the Medifast foods, meal plans and how it works. Then, we compiled the facts to give you the bottom line.
Medifast is one of the most popular diet systems of all time. Not many other diets can make the claims that this weight loss program can – it’s been recommended by over 20,000 doctors and has been helping people lose weight for nearly four decades!
That’s something that made me sit up and take notice, and you should give it some serious consideration too.
The Medifast program and meal-replacement products have been clinically proven to promote significant weight loss and to help with weight maintenance.
Dr. William Vitale created the Medifast diet. You are expected to eat specific food portions.
Meals are delivered to your home on a regular basis. The menu consists of soups, entrees, bars, sides, shakes and high-protein foods.
According to the official website, there are three primary plans available:
Achieve Weight Loss Plan
Thrive Healthy Living Plan
Medifast for Special Diets
Each day you can have four meals, one healthy snack and two lean and green meals. There are more than 70 different choices from which to select.
Scroll below for one of the best products we’ve seen over the last year.
What Can You Eat on the Medifast Diet?
You won’t be starving or anything like that on the Medifast diet; in fact, the diet plans require you to have a snack or two every day to curb food cravings. Along with your daily meal-replacing bars and shakes, you’ll be eating plenty of real foods like these:
Does It Work?
Does Medifast Work, and How?
Medifast does work – that’s why it’s been around for almost 40 years and is still going strong. Like all effective weight loss plans, this one is going to require some effort and self-discipline. You’ll need to phase out your junk foods and change your eating habits.
Medifast “works by encouraging the body to enter a fat-burning mode, which is accomplished by consuming specially-prepared meal replacements, and other approved foods.”
You’ll need to prepare some healthy foods or pay someone else to do it at a restaurant. But if you just follow the plan, research (International Journal of Obesity) shows that you’ll lose weight.
Medifast follows basic, proven principles of weight loss. You eat a reduced-calorie diet that is nutritionally balanced and includes plenty of low-glycemic carbs, lean proteins and modest amounts of healthy fats.
The meal-replacement bars and shakes offer similar caloric and nutritional profiles, so they are interchangeable. That’s a big selling point for me right there because sometimes you feel like a shake, and sometimes you don’t!
According to WebMD, “Daily exercise is encouraged, but the program doesn’t offer a specific workout. Make your workouts half as long and half as intense while your body adjusts to getting fewer calories.”
But, the problem with any weight loss plan is that people tend to regain those lost pounds once they stop the diet because they simply return to their old eating habits which made them gain weight in the first place.
If you want to achieve permanent weight loss, you need to change your lifestyle – especially your eating behaviors.
Benefits of the Medifast Diet
Since the Medifast diet has you eating wholesome, nutritious foods at every meal, that’s going to have a positive impact on your health in some ways.
In fact, research showed Medifast benefits include not only weight loss, but a reduction in inflammation and oxidative stress as well, as these are two of the primary causes of chronic illness.
But, of all the Medifast benefits, the main one you’re interested in is weight loss. Research published in Nutrition Journal and customer reviews both say that this diet delivers.
Another good thing about Medifast is that it’s a proven system with actual research to support its claims, unlike some new miracle diet pills out there that lack actual testing and scientific support.
It’s a solid, nutrient-dense plan packed with vitamins based on durable principles of nutrition and weight loss – and it’s backed by studies to show that it can help you lose weight.
Medifast Diet Foods
Medifast diet food isn’t just all about diet shakes and low-calorie candy bars.
Yes, those meal-replacement supplements are in there as a foundation of the program.
But, you’re filling in all the gaps with real food – lean meats and fresh vegetables.
You do not have to feel hungry on this diet – ever! You’ll be given lists of low-glycemic carbs and lean proteins to round out your diet.
Stock up on them and you’ll do just fine.
The plan also allows food substitutions for those of you who are transitioning away from meat, eggs and dairy.
There is a variety of seafood options like tuna, cod, salmon and shrimp.
Eggs are also on the menu. For vegans, there’s tofu instead of meat and eggs.
So there is quite a bit of flexibility with this diet plan.
Below we’ve listed all the different types of products and plans you have access to through the Medifast diet:
Shakes & Bars
Thrive by Medifast (Medifast Shakes and Bars)
Medifast shakes and Medifast Bars are available through the official website.
Peanut butter chocolate chip
Medifast Weight-Loss Plans
Medifast GO! 30-Day Kit
This kit contains a whole month of meals – 154 Medifast Meals to be exact – as well as a wide variety of quick options, and just-add-water low-fuss microwave meals. The kit also contains a Welcome Kit, which includes a starting-up guide, a plan guide and a monthly food journal.
Some of the meals that the Medifast GO! 30-Day Kit contains are:
Brownie Soft Bakes
Chicken Flavored Noodle Soup
Chocolate Chip Soft Bakes
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Medifast Flex 30-Day Select Kit
The Medifast Flex™ 30-Day Select Kit is the perfect blend of Medifast on-the-go favorites.
The 30-Day Select Kit contains a total of 126 meals or 18 Medifast boxes.
It also comes with the:
Welcome Kit (Start-Up Guide, Plan Guide and 30-Day Food Journal)
Flavors of Home Lean and Green Meals (9)
Flavors of Home Meals (3)
Bonus Item Details:
9 Flavors of Home (2 Chicken Cacciatore, 2 Beef Stew, 3 Chicken with Rice and Vegetables and 2 Turkey Meatball Marinara)
3 Additional Flavors of Home* (1 Turkey Meatball Marinara*, 1 Beef Stew* and 1 Chicken Cacciatore*)
Medifast Flex™ Welcome Kit, including Start-Up Guide*, 30-Day Food Journal and Plan Guide*
Medifast Dining Out Guide*
Healthy Living Workbook*
Medifast Blender Bottle*
*Only included with the first Medifast Advantage order.
Medifast Flex 30-Day Complete Kit
The largest and most expensive monthly kit includes 18 boxes of customer favorites – a total of 126 meals, or 138 servings.
The Complete Kit also comes packed with several extras like Flavors of Home Lean and Green Meals (13) and a Welcome Kit.
Bonus Item Details:
13 Flavors of Home (3 Chicken Cacciatore, 2 Beef Stew, 2 Chicken with Rice and Vegetables, 2 Turkey Meatball Marinara, 2 Chili Lime Chicken, and 2 Ginger Lemongrass Chicken)
1 ⁄2 cup: Broccoli, red cabbage, collard or mustard greens (cooked), green or wax beans, kohlrabi, okra, peppers (any color), scallions (raw), summer squash (crookneck or straightneck), tomatoes (red, ripe), turnips, spaghetti squash, hearts of palm, jicama (cooked), Swiss chard (cooked)
The Medifast website provides some healthy alternatives to alcohol as well as healthier drink ideas.
Use low- or no-calorie mixers such as club soda or diet soda
The fewer ingredients – the better!
Avoid using flavored vodkas or spiced rums because they tend to contain extra sugar
Choose drinks with no added sugar or salt (even on the rim!)
Avoid juice mixers
The beer with the lowest calorie count is Michelob Ultra with 64 calories
Tips for Medifast Recipes
Dozens of Medifast recipes are also available in a cookbook sold by the company.
You don’t have to follow their recipes though, as long as the macronutrient proportions and serving sizes remain consistent with the program requirements.
You can combine your choice of one item from your lean protein list with three items from the veggie list and add whatever calorie-free seasonings your palette desires.
Buffalo Chicken Macaroni & Cheese
1 packet Medifast Macaroni & Cheese
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
1 3 oz can chicken breast, packed in water, drained
2 queso fresco chipotle spreadable cheese wedges
1/2 tsp hot sauce
1 tbsp chopped scallions (optional)
Empty Medifast Macaroni & Cheese contents into a microwave-safe bowl.
Add chicken broth; stir well.
Microwave on high for 11/2 minutes; stir, and then let stand one minute.
Microwave 45 to 60 seconds on high (watch carefully to prevent overflowing).
Stir in cheese wedges until melted, and then the chicken (shred with a fork as needed).
Wait for 3 to 4 minutes for sauce to thicken and pasta to finish cooking. Drizzle with hot sauce, and garnish with scallions if desired.
Baked “Ziti” Zucchini Zoodles
2 Medium Zucchinis
1 cup Canned Tomatoes
3 Tablespoons Low Fat Ricotta Cheese
3 Tablespoons Low Fat Mozzarella Cheese
1 Pound Ground Turkey
A Teaspoon Minced Garlic
1 Teaspoon Olive Oil
Hot Chile Pepper (optional but awesome!)
Use spiralizer to make zucchini noodles, drain and set aside.
Preheat oven to 400 F.
With a large ovenproof frying pan or medium dutch oven, cook the turkey and olive oil on medium heat for about 15 – 20 minutes.
Push turkey to the edges to create a well in the middle, add garlic and canned tomatoes.
Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook on lowest setting covered for 30 minutes.
Uncover and reduce sauce to just slightly thicker than a normal tomato sauce, the zucchini will give off liquid to thin to the right consistency.
Place zucchini in, and stir to combine everything together.
Top first with ricotta in teaspoon allotments and distribute mozzarella over top evenly.
Cook in the oven at 400 uncovered for 15-20 minutes until zoodles are tender.
Before serving, let rest for 10 minutes.
Spinach, Tomato & Turkey Pizza
1 cup cauliflower florets
5 ounces of 95-97% lean ground turkey
A cup part-skim shredded mozzarella
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ tsp Italian seasonings— or about 1/8 tsp each of basil and oregano
¾ cup thinly sliced mushrooms
¾ cup halved grape tomatoes
1 cup fresh baby spinach
Preheat oven to 450° F.
Steam cauliflower till tender, then mash.
Cook ground turkey in a non-stick pan until done. Set aside and keep warm.
To make the crust, combine the egg, ½ cup cheese, mashed cauliflower, garlic, and Italian seasonings in a medium mixing bowl.
Spread mixture evenly on a non-stick, 9-inch round pizza pan or baking sheet.
Bake for 20 minutes and remove from oven. Switch oven to a low broil setting.
Top crust with tomatoes, remaining mozzarella, spinach, and cooked turkey.
Return pizza to oven and broil until crust and cheese have slightly browned – about 10 minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool two to three minutes before cutting and serving.
Is There a Medifast Alternative That Works?
Medifast is a meal-replacement diet centered around nutritionally-fortified shakes and snack bars, and there are a number of similar products on the market that make use of these types of food products for weight reduction.
A popular Medifast alternative. Slimfast offers weight loss shakes and snack bars that are also fortified with vitamins and minerals to support your nutritional needs while following a reduced-calorie diet.
The shakes and bars are available in the health and diet-food sections of most supermarkets. You can also purchase these online and, like Medifast, Slimfast products are available without a doctor’s prescription.
Slimgenix Pro is a dietary supplement whose ingredients include raspberry ketone and green coffee bean extract. It meant to amp up metabolism, lower cholesterol levels, reduce appetite, boost energy and help with digestion.
Where are Medifast Locations?
If you’re looking to connect with weight loss coaches and fellow dieters for some moral support, in-person accountability and a sense of community, you’ll be happy to know that there are Medifast locations – dubbed Medifast Weight Loss Centers – in two states:
Their trained staff are available for one-on-one consultations and can help you track your weight, waistline and body part measurements along with changes in your body composition.
They can help you identify unhealthy eating habits that contribute to weight gain and give you strategies to overcome those challenges.
You can search the official website for specific locations in your state or call Medifast toll-free at 1-888-523-8746.
The Medifast nutrition plan helps you lose weight effectively by controlling your macronutrient combinations and lowering calories while keeping hunger and food cravings in check through frequent meal-replacement shakes and snack bars along with real food.
Total calories are around 800-1,000 per day, creating a caloric deficit that pushes your body weight down.
It’s not as low-carb as the ketogenic diet or the paleo diet since some starchy carbs are allowed.
But, carbs are reduced enough so that your body will shift toward burning body fat for energy within the first few days on a diet.
The meals are also very low in fat and moderately high in protein.
The Medifast website contains extensive information about its nutrient-dense plans and meals.
Livestrong has a breakdown of the different ingredients that are used in Medifast meals.
Fats, Proteins and Carbohydrates
They note that some shakes are sources of unhealthy trans fats, but that most Medifast meals are protein-heavy, from “soy protein isolate, milk protein isolate and egg whites.” They also note that some products get their carbs from “wheat flour, although other products are gluten-free for people who are sensitive to gluten, a protein in wheat. Sugars in Medifast include corn syrup and fructose. Inulin and gum arabic are ingredients that add dietary fiber.”
Vitamins, Minerals and Flavorings
Each serving provides about 20 percent of the daily value for most vitamins and minerals, so if you eat the five Medifast meals that the Five and One Plan recommends, you will probably meet your needs.
However, they also note that many Medifast meals contain salt and sugar substitutes (“erythritol, a sugar alcohol, and sucralose and acesulfame potassium, two artificial sugar substitutes that do not have calories or carbohydrates”) as flavor enhancers.
How Do Medifast Meals Taste?
Medifast diet meals are tasty, according to some dieters. The shakes and dessert bars are popular favorites, and the packaged snacks taste good too.
They even have microwavable entrees that you can use in place of your lean and green, homemade meals.
Medifast has a board responsible for taste-testing and developing new food products, so they are constantly checking feedback from customers and dropping foods that aren’t well received.
As for the home-made meals, those can be as tasty or as bland as you choose to make them.
Certain condiments are limited for caloric purposes, but most herbs and seasonings are allowed to improve flavor and satiety without adding calories.
Medifast “also markets specific plans for diabetics, seniors, teens, vegetarians, nursing mothers, those with gout, those who will or have had gastric banding surgery, those who have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, and those taking anticoagulants”, writes the U.S. News & World Report.
Has Anyone Spoken About Medifast Diet Side Effects?
There aren’t a whole lot of negative Medifast side effects to speak of, though researchers from Johns Hopkins Medicine have cautioned that very low-calorie diets can increase the risk of gallstones.
Consult your physician to see if a low-calorie diet presents any specific health concerns for you.
How Much Does Medifast Cost?
Medifast cost was difficult to track down since the company does not prominently post prices on its website. U.S. News & World Report reviewed Medifast and found program prices in the $300-$400 range for 30 days of Medifast meals.
WebMD also reports that a “seven-pack of any meal replacement (smoothies, oatmeal bars, shakes, or other foods) costs $16.95.”
You can find some Medifast meal products like the shakes and bars for sale on Amazon, with shakes and bars selling for about $31 for seven servings each.
Medifast has a 30-day full refund guarantee in case a customer is not 100% happy with their purchase.
A loyalty program is on offer that allows customers to earn rewards and shipping discounts with each order.
From the Medifast Advantagepage: “You’ll earn a reward of between 5-10%* toward your next order that your program order processes. Plus, you’ll get immediate savings on your current order with $5 Flat Rate or Free Shipping!
How to Enroll:
Place an order of $149 or more—if you want to earn reward and shipping discounts. (Orders under $149 don’t qualify for savings, but will still ship automatically.)
Select “Automatic Meal Delivery” as your Purchase Option at checkout.
According to the Kushi Institute, a number of studies have shown Medifast to be a capable and safe dieting program:
A clinical study at the Johns Hopkins University showed that the Medifast diet results in substantial weight loss. When on the diet, adult men could shed, on average, 67 pounds; women can lose up to an average of 56.
A clinical study from 2015 that was published in Internal Medicine looked at 45 weight-loss programs, including Medifast. Using low-calorie diet programs like Medifast led to significantly larger weight loss compared to counseling.
Another clinical trial said that the meal replacement programs that Medifast was offering were better than many recommended for obesity drug treatment. The study also stated that Medifast had a better retention rate of customers than most other programs.
Another 2015 clinical study in the Nutrition Journal looked at the charts of more than 300 Medifast clients. All of them were either obese or overweight and followed the program’s Achieve Plan. It found that those who stuck with the plan shed, on average, 24 pounds in 3 months, and an average of 35 in 6 months. Each participant, regardless of their age and gender, lost higher percentages of fat than muscle.
Medifast’s MLM Opportunity
Medifast offers its customers an opportunity to lose weight and earn money at the same time through their MLM (Multi-Level Marketing) opportunity.
The company has enjoyed much success throughout the years and had a market capitalization of over 400 million. Medifast products have sold through their website, distribution channels, weight loss clinics and directly from medical doctors to patients.
With the great sales success of their products, the company began selling their products through MLM, sometimes called network marketing, and the company has significantly prospered.
By selling their products through MLM marketing, customers of Medifast products not only can enjoy a healthier lifestyle, but they are also able to earn a steady income.
What is MLM? Through MLM, an individual earns a residual income by recruiting new members.
When those new members recruit others, the individual will also earn money off of those recruits.
This is what is called a downline, and the goal is to grow your downline for higher earnings.
An individual that joins the Medifast MLM plan will become what is called a health coach.
The compensation plan will reward a health coach for being a user of their products. They will also be rewarded for recruiting and retaining other clients.
To succeed, they will even need to mentor and build teams of other health coaches.
Medifast and the Federal Trade Commission
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) settled with a subsidiary of Medifast, Jason Pharmaceuticals, for deceptive marketing practices and misleading health claims. The company paid $37 million to settle the suit.
What Users Are Saying
“I like the OPTavia ones better but these were cheaper and tasted good as well. Does the trick.”
“Very tasty but way too expensive.”
“The taste is horrific!!!”
The Bottom Line on Medifast
The bottom line is that Medifast has been shown to be effective for weight loss. Several studies cited above showed that people who stuck to their Medifast plan lost more weight than people who followed food-based plans. However, the key to any diet plan is to not only lose the weight but to keep it off. That part is completely up to you.
What will happen when you reach your weight loss goal and stop dieting? You must figure out how to build healthy eating habits into your life to maintain your weight loss. That’s why it is important to choose a clinically-tested program.
Among the best ones we’ve seen this year is one called Noom. This weight management system provides its users with personalized meal plans, human coaching, and customized health information based on your eating habits. Plus, it’s all available in an easy-to-use app.
Also, the team behind Noom offers Dietspotlight readers a 14-day trial, which is a positive sign.
Medifast side effects reported by customers include upset stomach, nausea, headache and irregular bowel movement.
What are the ingredients in Medifast?
Medifast ingredients vary, based on the meal plan selected. You can choose from breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.
Does Medifast work?
There are studies from the Medifast company highlighting the benefits, but not that it helps with weight-loss. What we found was the research related to the Medifast 5 & 1 Plan, not the other programs.
How much does Medifast cost?
The cost of Medifast starts at $149 for the two-week trial and the 30-day plan is $299.
How should I follow Medifast?
You should follow Medifast based on the plan selected. The majority of the programs run for 30 days.
Women who are pregnant or nursing, those with health conditions, anyone taking prescription medications or under 18 years of age should contact a healthcare professional prior to starting a diet plan of any kind, including Medifast.
How many meals will I eat on Medifast?
You will eat four portion controlled meals on Medifast, as well as two green and lean meals and a healthy snack.
How many calories will I eat daily on Medifast?
Depending on your plan, you will eat between 1,000 and 1,300 calories on Medifast.
Is Medifast plans covered by insurance?
Plans like Medifast may not be covered by insurance. Contact your provider for additional details regarding coverage.
Does Medifast come with a guarantee?
Medifast comes with a 30-day guarantee.
How does the Medifast diet work?
The Medifast diet consists of having five Medifast meal replacement products and one regular meal per day. According to Medifast, during the first two weeks people can lose from 2 to 5 pounds. After that, it’s typical to lose 1 to 2 pounds each week. Once the weight loss goal is met, calories are gradually added over six weeks until you have transitioned back to regular meals.
How many carbs do you get on Medifast a day? A: With the Medifast Optimal Weight 5&1 Plan, you'll have around 80 to 100 grams per day of carbohydrates from a daily calorie count of around 800 to 1,000. Is Medifast gluten free?
If you suffer from gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, the good news is that Medifast clinical nutrition manager Jennifer Christman, a registered dietitian, says this plan can work for you because carbohydrate consumption is not encouraged. In addition to the five meal replacements, those following the Medifast plan have a single “lean and green” meal each day.