Diet plans can work wonders for your health, giving you tools and information to kick start positive habits, rework your relationship with food, and ultimately help you live a longer, healthier and more nutritious life.
However, the size of the diet industry is enormous, and, like every success story, there are a few bad apples thrown in with the rest.
Today we'll look at some of the reasons people end up paying more than they'd expected for a diet plan and the indicators that a service isn't perhaps as great value for money as you might believe.
First, we'll look at some of the red flags that a diet plan, nutrition service or weight loss group is probably going to cost you a lot more than you've bargained for!
One of our biggest bugbears is when a diet plan sounds amazing, informative, educational and supportive - but the contract, sign-up period or subscription is non-negotiable.
Of course, there's usually a minimum period, or you might decide to pay a certain amount per month for a diet app. Still, if you determine a diet plan isn't for you, there should be a reasonably straightforward way to cancel, even if you have to give a little notice.
Yearlong upfront subscriptions don't bode well and mean you're stuck with the cost, whether or not you find the plan compatible with your lifestyle.
We'd all love to be master chefs, but unfortunately, the daily stress of school runs, commutes, dog walks, laundry and fitting in a few hours of work somewhere or other means it's pretty impossible to whip up a gourmet meal every evening.
Meal kit deliveries are different from a diet plan, but you do get a few diet plan providers who offer a delivery service or more often provide you with recipe cards.
Now, a few things to highlight here:
· Some of the biggest diet plan companies have own-branded products in stores. They might be marked with the number of points, but the ingredients won't be anything different you can't buy from an own-brand range.
· Exotic ingredients are very expensive, indeed. You should be able to fit a diet plan into your busy life without tripling your grocery shopping bill.
· Complicated recipes don't work. Unless you have ample free time on your hands, spending money on costly ingredients is always short-lived and will ultimately make you feel disappointed with your results.
The best diet plans are uncomplicated, inexpensive, and designed for modern lives, so avoid anything that seems to give you an extra hoop to jump through!
Sure, there are some 'wonder ingredients' that might make a massive difference to your wellbeing, cognitive state, waistline or fitness - but they're few and far between!
Some diet plans put a big emphasis on supplements, which is normally a false economy. Worst-case scenario, it's designed to get you to fork out for tablets, gummies or smoothie powders at triple the cost you could pay in a supermarket.
In very many cases, a diet plan that stipulates you need to use a specific supplement only available from the brand isn't being entirely truthful. You'd be far better off aiming for a balanced, healthy diet with tons of fruit, veg and unprocessed ingredients - and it'll be kinder on your wallet!
If you do need a specific supplement, perhaps because of food intolerance, it's a lot cheaper to pick up that mineral or vitamin at a supermarket or whole foods shop.
Put it this way:
· Nurofen Express 256 mg tablets: £3.80 for a 16 pack, or £0.24 per tablet
· Store-brand 200 mg ibuprofen tablets: £0.39 for a 16 pack, or £0.02 per tablet.
The active ingredient in both? 200 mg ibuprofen. Basic, perhaps, but it illustrates the point - don't pay for a brand; pay for the actual thing that works!
Finally, let's talk about workouts. Acknowledging that many diet plans focus solely on nutrition, this may not be a feature included within your subscription or membership.
However, if it is, make sure that the fitness schedule, routine or movements are all genuinely accessible and things you can do at home.
If you need to buy a gym membership, invest in a special yoga mat or order online resistance bands, you might be better off with gentle walking, jogging or stretching if you're keen on keeping your outgoings to a minimum.
Let's get out of the negativity and look at some excellent features that make our recommended diet plans the best in class!
There are as many fantastic diet plans that have been created by doctors, scientists, dieticians and nutritionists who have their own struggles with health and body image and move heaven and earth to help you succeed.
Here are some things to look out for.
Some of the best free trials allow you to sample a diet plan at your leisure - without spending a penny! Some of our favourites include:
· Three months free trial from WW
· Free seven-day programme from Slimming World (code TOGETHER2021)
If you can bag a cost-free trial, it's well worth using, as you can often try a few different services risk-free and see which feels like the best fit.
No free trial? Look for an intro offer instead! If you're keen to get trim but need to keep an eye on your budget, you can shop around for offers designed to incentivise new customers to join.
It's then up to you whether you continue with your subscription or find that a short-term motivation boost was all you needed to up your healthy eating game!
Jane Plan offers a £100 discount on a four-month plan, and Noom gives you 26% off a two-month app subscription, so you can save a fair bit on the normal price.
Diet plans often have a few categories to choose from, so you might need to specify whether you're:
· Looking to lose weight in general
· Addressing a specific diet deficiency
· Catering to a new food intolerance
· Wanting to eat better for your heart
· Trying a diet such as keto, vegan or FODMAP
Some diet plans give you the option to customise your schedule and adjust your nutrition goals based on several variables. For example, if I'm a 70 kg, 40-year-old woman, and I'd like to lose a little belly, the nutrition I might need will differ from a 20-year-old, 120 kg man wanting to get fit.
Personalised goals are a great way to tailor your diet to your age, health, fitness level, underlying conditions and gender, and mean you're far more likely to hit your target.
There are tons of free food tracker apps, but the issue is that they're often a little unreliable, inaccurate, or don't align with the points systems some diet plans use.
Food trackers can provide insights into what you're eating, where excess calories are coming from, which meals tend to tip your macros over the edge, or just how many midnight snacks you're really consuming!
A premium food tracker can cost anything from £5 to £20 a month, so this is a nice added bonus that will help you succeed with your diet plan.
Whether you're a social butterfly who loves nothing more than to chat about the highs and lows of diet life or prefer to follow your plan in the privacy of your home, community support can go a long way.
There are all sorts of options to socialise, communicate or simply share your challenges with others, and it can help massively to know you're not alone.
Diet plan brands often host live events, fitness workshops, meet and greets, social activities or online discussion groups - it can make it much easier to feel motivated and accountable when you are surrounded by like-minded people on the same journey.
Healthy eating and exercise go hand in hand, but it's sometimes pretty difficult to juggle workouts and intense regimes when you're also working your way around a new nutrition schedule.
Activity plans are a freebie that's actually very valuable - imagine you’re hiring a personal trainer to work out a daily routine or a progressive workout schedule, and how much that might cost!
Diet plans that combine exercise, mindful movement, and heart-healthy activities are an all-around benefit and provide great value for money when you compare the cost of paying for both services individually.
We hope our above lists give you some insights into the kind of added extras or hidden costs you should be mindful of when you're picking a diet plan - and some of those perks that are seriously worth having!
If you're after more ideas about recommended diet plans or the variety of services on offer, please head over to the Best10 diet plan pages, where you'll find detailed reviews, rankings and a full set of discount codes.