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Candy bars and Jenny Craig

Posted on 02/6/2009

Let’s get right down to it.  What is the primary difference between Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating and Jenny Craig?   

Be careful, you say?  Don’t rouse the multi-national corporate giant?  Well, that’s just the point.  Jenny Craig is part of a huge business conglomerate. To them, replacement meals represent nothing more than market share.  They spend almost $100 million a year in advertising.  The company that owns them is Nestlé, which also makes and markets candy bars and other forms of chocolate. Nestlé owns 480 factories and has 276,000 employees.  It is based in Vevey, Switzerland.

I like chocolate, just as do most of you.  But that’s not enough to convince me to overlook the conflict of interest between empty calories and healthy eating.  The whole point is that Jenny Craig—no matter how it started—is now part of a huge, huge company dominated by the need to mass market their various products and generate ever-increasing profits.  The corporate bulldog must be fed…and it’s not interested in going on a diet.  Not with all those candy bars in the building.

Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating is a small company headquartered in Ottawa, Illinois, owned and managed by former nurses, whose mission is to help people eat healthy and learn to eat wisely.  We need profit to stay in business, but profit is not the point of our business.   It’s fair and honest to say we represent small-town values.

Back to Jenny Craig.  Perhaps because they are part of a huge industrial hierarchy, they seem to have decided against straight talk and honest information.  Their customer response system is poor, beginning with an inadequate phone system, and—if the customer is extraordinarily patient and doesn’t hang up in frustration—continuing with evasive, ambiguous, scripted responses.

It doesn’t seem honest to me.  Frankly, I believe they do it on purpose, so that basic questions aren’t answered, and the inquiring caller cannot make an informed decision.  Everything is driven by marketing.  The product is just an afterthought.  The customer is manipulated.

Is Jenny Craig healthy eating?  On a mass basis, to an extent, but insufficiently when measured against Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating.   Let’s look at a few basic and pertinent facts.

Jenny Craig’s food is frozen or vacuum-sealed, which means their meals are prepared weeks before they reach the customers.  Plus they ship two to four weeks worth of meals at one time.  So their shipping costs go down, but so does any claim of “freshly prepared.”

We at Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating, on the other hand, freshly prepare our meals and deliver them to our customers twice-weekly.  You have to agree that’s quite a difference.

As for sodium content, watch your blood pressure.  Jenny Craig contains between 2,000 and 4,000 milligrams of sodium each day, depending on the meal selection.  Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating provides 1,355 milligrams in the 1,200 calorie plan, and 2,149 milligrams in the 2,000 calorie plan. 

Jenny Craig pays their celebrity spokespersons for positive testimonials.  At Seattle Sutton’s, we never remunerate anyone for their support.  I believe paying someone to tell other people how much they like you is deceitful and dishonest.

Now let’s talk about ingredients.  Jenny Craig’s meals contain high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils (which is trans-fat), artificial flavors, and MSG.  That’s just the ones we have been able to discover so far!    Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating, as you well know, contains none of these ingredients.  Why?  Because then we wouldn’t deserve to be called “Healthy Eating.”

A quick review of the ingredient facts makes me think that using Jenny Craig is a mistake for diabetics and cardiac patients.  No worries.  Those in need can look to us.

As for weight loss, Jenny Craig doesn’t seem to provide the public any information about “typical” results.  Many reviewers cite Jenny Craig’s weight loss as “slow.” In fact, all their ads feature “testimonials” spiked with an asterisk disclaimer that “Results not typical.” From big business, that’s typical. 

Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating customers who are faithful to the program lose somewhere between two to three pounds a week on the average.  We have thousands of examples.   This rate encourages continuation of the diet, and is consistent with a more reliable and enduring weight loss.  And, of course, Seattle Sutton’s customers are eating what they can and should eat for the rest of their life.

It’s very hard to get a handle on cost, but Jenny Craig requires its customer to pay an “entry fee” to participate, and an additional fee for the meals.  It is fair to say that in total Jenny Craig and Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating seem to be about equal in price, somewhere between $130 and $150 per week.  Some of Jenny Craig’s plans cost less, some more.  However, Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating includes fresh vegetables and fruits.  If you want these necessities on Jenny Craig’s, you have to take the extra time to shop and spend the extra money to buy.

Jenny Craig has “counselors” who work with their customers once a week, although billing someone as a “counselor” is not the same as having trained and proficient people in place.  They have been criticized for the inadequacy of their advice.   Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating has distributors—who are not counselors—and who usually visit with (and encourage) their clients twice a week.

In the briefness required by blogging etiquette, that’s my quick review of Jenny Craig.  Next: Weight Watchers.

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Seattle Sutton, BSN, RN

She made healthy eating her mission in life long before anyone else did, in hopes of helping her own obese father. A registered nurse by training and entrepreneur at heart, she lives, eats and breathes everything about healthy eating and helping to improve people’s eating habits and overall health. She enjoys never having to bother with grocery shopping, cooking and counting calories. Her favorite SSHE meal, although it’s hard to pick just one, is the Potato Gnocchi with Basil Pesto Sauce.

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