The plan boils down to a time-tested strategy: Move more and eat less. Dieters eat one balanced meal a day and use Slim-Fast products-shakes, bars, soups, frozen pasta entrees-to replace two other meals. For snacks, you can choose conventional food or 130-calorie Slim-Fast snack bars (lighter than the meal-replacement bars, which pack 220 calories each). To get moving, you walk, jog, or do yard work for at least 30 minutes a day.
How the diet works:
This is a low-cal diet-obviously, meal replacements contain fewer calories than the average foods most folks eat. First, you purchase Slim-Fast products at the supermarket and use them for two meals a day and snacks. Then you eat one regular meal (600 to 700 calories) for breakfast, lunch, or dinner-your choice. An Easy Options Plan, outlined on product labels, provides more details. For further guidance, the company's Web site offers tips on everything from training for a 5K race to gaining the emotional support of family and friends.
What you can eat:
Slim-Fast shakes. Slim-Fast meal bars. Slim-Fast microwavable soups. Slim-Fast pasta entrees. And one meal a day that includes lean meat, starch, vegetables, and fruit. (Low-carb dieters can skip the starch and eat more veggies.) Between meals, you can choose from snack bars or healthful alternatives such as fruit, veggies, fat-free yogurt, nuts, pretzels, and air-popped popcorn. Fruit is the top choice for dessert, but you can occasionally substitute sugar-free puddings or sorbets.
Does the diet take and keep weight off?
Yes. Slim-Fast is one of the few diet companies to back up its products with the gold standard in diet research: controlled clinical trials. The latest findings, presented at the North American Association for the Study of Obesity in October 2003, show that people who used Slim-Fast on and off for 10 years to maintain their weight were on average 33 pounds lighter than a similar group who went without the meal replacements.
Is the diet healthy?
Yes. As long as you eat a balanced meal and snack on fruits, veggies, and other nutritious choices, the plan is sound. The Slim-Fast Web site urges dieters to consume at least 1,200 calories a day and lose no more than 2 pounds a week.
What do the experts say?
"I'm a very big advocate of meal replacements like Slim-Fast for weight control," says registered dietitian Dawn Jackson, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association and a dietitian at Northwestern Memorial Wellness Institute in Chicago. Jackson has clients who've lost weight successfully with the plan, and she thinks meal-replacement products in general are a good way to learn about realistic portion sizes.
Who should consider the diet?
Anyone who needs a lot of structure and prefers that someone else fix the meals. Folks who love to cook and enjoy fresh foods, though, may be turned off by the convenience-style products.
Like other low-calorie, nutrient-dense eating plans, meal-replacement diets like Slim-Fast do have a good track record of helping people shed weight and keep it off. Keep in mind, though, that bars and shakes don't provide all the benefits of real food-so use caution when thinking long-term.