Spring is one of the most popular dieting seasons to get fit and healthy and shed winter weight in time for summer. But when it comes to choosing a fad diet, Mozo’s money gurus are advising weight loss seekers to do the sums on meal plan costs (as well as weight loss targets), as some of Australia’s most popular diets skyrocket over $500 a month to follow.
Mozo calculated the cost of sticking to 5 of the most popular diets (Atkins, Paleo, Weight Watchers, CSIRO, 5:2 Diet) weekly meal plans and found that there was $20 difference between the cheapest and the most expensive when buying fresh and general grocery items. This cost ballooned once the initial set up costs and diet-branded snack foods (sweet bars, shakes, rice crackers) were taken into consideration, with the Atkins diet reaching $557 in the first month.
Here’s a closer look at how the diets compare on cost (infographic version see here):
Atkins otherwise known as Atkins Nutritional Approach is a low carb, high protein diet endorsed by celebrities everywhere from Australian radio host Fifi Box to American actress Jennifer Aniston.
Set up cost*: $39
Weekly grocery cost: $104
Weekly snack cost: $25.60
First monthly total: $557
Ongoing monthly total: $518
*Atkins for Life ($18.99) and Dr Atkins’ New Diet Cookbook ($19.99) by Robert C Atkins
This fad diet is all about discovering your inner cave(wo)man and eating like your ancestors. So lean meats, eggs and veggies get the big tick of approval, whilst dairy, grains and processed foods top the list of foods to avoid.
Set up cost*: $43
Weekly grocery cost: $90
Weekly snack cost: $32.90
First monthly total: $535
Ongoing monthly total: $492
*The Paleo Diet ($17.99) and The Paleo Diet Cookbook ($24.99) by Loren Cordain
Weight Watchers has been around for 50 years and relies heavily on point counting and food moderation, meaning no major food groups are cut out.
Set up cost*: $128
Weekly grocery cost: $84
Weekly snack cost: $10.60
First monthly total: $506
Ongoing monthly total: $378
*Weight Watchers Online 3-month plan and The Weight Watchers Complete Meal Cookbook ($29.95) by Weight Watchers International
The CSIRO Total Wellbeing diet uses scientific evidence from clinical trials to create scheduled eating patterns focused on high protein and low fat.
Set up cost*: $70
Weekly grocery cost: $85
Weekly snack cost: NA
First monthly total: $410
Ongoing monthly total: $340
*The CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet ($34.95) by Manny Noakes & The CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet Fast & Fresh Recipes ($35.00) by Alan Benson
As the name suggests, the 5:2 Diet is split between 5 days of normal eating and 2 days of restricted eating in a week. In the 2 “fasting” days the advised calorie intake is 500 for women and 600 for men.
Set up cost: $45
Weekly grocery cost: $89
Weekly snack cost: NA
First monthly total: $401
Ongoing monthly total: $356
*The Fast Diet ($19.99) by Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer & The Fast Diet Recipe Book ($24.99) by Mimi Spencer
While the results from the fad diet comparison showed only a $20 difference between the cheapest and most expensive weekly meal plans. Once you factor in all the pricey weekly snacks the difference can bulge to $178 a month and $2136 over a year (excluding the set up fee) between the least and most expensive diets. Enough to pay for a yearly gym membership! And that’s without all the other fad diet accessories like magazine subscriptions and deluxe juicers.
We found the best way to be frugal whilst following any of the above fad diets is by sticking to the weekly meal plan but giving yourself the flexibility to purchase non-diet branded products, which are generally far cheaper than the diet-branded alternative.
For example, bacon from Weight Watchers costs a hefty $53 per kilo, compared to bacon from the supermarket deli that only costs $20 per kilo. Although it may be leaner, is it really worth the hefty price difference?
So if you want to trim your waist but not your wallet, weigh up your options and don’t fall into the trap of sticking religiously to one particular diet and its products. Ask yourself whether you really need to choose the diet-branded food, especially snacks, by looking at a nutritional guide to see if there's a real difference in calories or if it's just a marketing ploy.
For tips on how to save on your weekly meals, check out Mozo’s 8 ways to save at the checkout article.
* Weekly grocery and snack costs have been multiplied by four and added to the set up cost to give a monthly total. Grocery items were priced from Woolworths online between 15 Aug and 20 Aug. Snack prices were derived from relevant diet websites where not available from Woolworths.