Jump to content

Eat Well ·

What Are “Free” Foods and Can They Hinder Weight Loss?

By Elisa - Jenny Craig

Reviewed by Monica Ropar, Nutritionist

Expert Reviewed

Whether it’s giveaway swag at a sports event or complimentary samples while you’re grocery shopping, receiving something free feels good. But can too much of a free thing be bad?


When it comes to weight loss, eating an unlimited amount of certain foods, even if they are deemed healthy, may not be the best way to reach your goal. If you’ve ever participated in a weight loss program, you may have heard of the term “free” foods, meaning you can eat as much of something as you want without counting it toward your point or calorie goals. But there may be a cost to eating an endless amount of these foods and there are reasons why understanding the nutrient makeup of any meal is essential to reach your weight loss aspirations successfully.

What makes “free” food, “free”?

“Free” food is based on a “nutrient vs. calorie” scale, meaning foods that are higher in nutrient value and lower in calories make the list. Nutritious foods high in fiber, like non-starchy vegetables, are a great choice because they can keep you feeling full longer with less calories and more nutrients.

Why are certain foods considered  “free” foods?

Cookies next to cut fruit on woodCertain foods are considered “free” because they complement your weight loss goals. They allow you to get creative, especially in times of hunger, while minimizing excess calorie consumption without hindering your progress. Many times, you’ll see “free” foods consisting of primarily fruits and vegetables to pair with your main part of the meal, such as a protein. If a type of food is considered “free,” the idea is that you can have as much of it as you’d like.


It’s important to understand why not all “free” foods can be consumed without limit. Not all foods are created equal. While fruits and vegetables are healthy options, you’re paying a higher calorie cost for fruit than vegetables due to the sugar and carb content. A cup of pineapple is 80 calories and 17 grams of sugar and is comparable to starchier vegetables like corn (1 C. = 153 calories, 17g carb, 5g sugar) and has the same sugar content as a small handful (8 pieces) of jelly beans.1  If you were to have a cup of a non-starchy vegetable like broccoli, you'd consume 30 calories, 6g carbs and 1g of sugar.2 Based on the math, you could have three times the amount of broccoli instead of half a cup of pineapple for the same number of calories and considerably less sugar. Not only would the larger quantity of broccoli keep you full longer because of the fiber content, but it would also be void of the high sugar content that can lead to spikes and falls in blood sugar.3


Another example, fresh dates, while an excellent source of vitamins and fiber contain a high calorie content. Eating approximately four medium-sized dates can pack 277 calories – not exactly something you want to eat in excess. When reviewing a list of foods, whether they seem healthy or not, it’s important to examine the nutritional breakdown to ensure you’re making the best decision.

Chopped colorful vegetables on cutting boardWhy moderation is key, even when it comes to “free” foods

You can enjoy “free” foods, but it’s important to keep in mind that moderation is key to achieve optimal weight loss. Additionally, make sure to consider the type of foods you choose to add to your daily routine, as it can make a difference in reaching your goal.


Jenny Craig provides a delicious menu that supports optimal weight loss and is designed to be nutritionally balanced at each calorie level. Variety is the spice of life, so we provide a list of Fresh & Free Additions that provide members with options to incorporate additional foods into their menu while supporting weight loss. Our list has been scientifically designed to include nutritionally dense foods and highlights the differences between foods that are best consumed in moderation (our “limited” foods) versus foods that are “free” which won’t hinder weight loss (our “free” foods).


Jenny Craig offers a variety of chef-crafted menu plans created to support weight loss and fit your lifestyle. Find your menu plan today!






[1] Calorie content according to http://www.calorieking.com/

[2] Calorie content according to http://www.calorieking.com/

[3] https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/causes-blood-sugar-spikes#1

Elisa Hoffman

bio-photo-Elisa.jpgElisa is a content marketing manager for Jenny Craig with over ten years of experience working in the health and fitness industry. She loves sharing her passion for living a balanced and healthy lifestyle. A San Diego native and an endurance sports enthusiast, you can usually find her swimming, biking along the coast highway or running by the beach in her free time. Elisa holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University Chico.


Favorite healthy snack: mozzarella string cheese with a Pink Lady apple.



Reviewed by: Monica Ropar, Nutritionist

Monica Ropar, Nutritionist atJenny CraigMonica has over 15 years of experience with Jenny Craig, as an expert nutrition and program resource. She develops content, training, tools and strategies for the program to support clients throughout their weight loss journey, and offers inspiration, weight loss tips, lifestyle strategies and motivation. Monica holds a Bachelor of Science degree with a double major in Dietetics and Exercise, Fitness & Health from Purdue University and continues to stay current on weight management research, consumer trends and healthcare developments.


Favorite healthy snack: raw veggie sticks with homemade hummus.



This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and is written by experienced health and lifestyle contributors and fact-checked by Monica Ropar, Nutritionist at Jenny Craig.


Our goal at Jenny Craig is to provide the most up-to-date and objective information on health-related topics, so our readers can make informed decisions based on factual content. All articles undergo an extensive review process, and depending on topic, are reviewed by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) or Nutritionist, to ensure accuracy. 


All references are hyperlinked at the end of the article to take readers directly to the source. 



Edited by Elisa - Jenny Craig

Get Social

Read Next


Recommended Comments

7 hours ago, KarenKK said:

how much fruit am I able to consume daily on Jenny Craig?

Hi Karen,


Thank you for your comment. Depending on your plan, fruit intake may vary by week. However, most plans feature at least 1-2 servings of fruit (1/2 cup per serving) a day. Let us know if you have any other questions!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

5 hours ago, sonyac said:

Is salsa ok?

Yes! For store bough salsa, we recommend sticking to 1/2 cup per serving. However, if you're making it from scratch (fresh tomatoes, onions & spices), feel free to enjoy a bit more!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

20 hours ago, erica722 said:

How about dill pickles? Or any pickle? Can you have unlimited?

Hello Erica,


Yes, dill pickles are considered a “free food,” but with any food, we recommend enjoying it in the recommended serving size. Top your next Jenny Craig Cheeseburger with a slice or two of pickles or enjoy them as a snack with other vegetables such as cucumber, sliced carrots and bell peppers. Let us know if you have any other questions. Have a great day!

The Jenny Craig Team

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You are posting as a guest. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Add a comment...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Still Have Questions?

Reclaim a healthier, happier you.
Lose up to 18 pounds in your first 4 weeks!

View Plans
By texting the number indicated above, you authorize Jenny Craig to send informational and marketing calls or text messages to the phone number you text from. Standard message and data rates may apply. Messages may be send from an automated system. Consent is not required to receive any good or service. Text STOP to 760.239.0029 to opt out. View our privacy policy at www.jennycraig.com/privacy for more information.
  • Create New...