There is no expiration date on weight loss. At least, that’s what the experts over at SparkPeople believe. Weight loss that lasts doesn’t happen overnight. There are no magic pills that make extra pounds disappear or food groups that force your body to hold onto body fat. Weight loss is a process — and a healthy diet, plus exercise, is the only way to make it work.
Let’s take a closer look at what makes the SparkPeople diet program one of the most evidence-based, effective weight loss diets available for free — for anyone who wants to try it.
SparkPeople Diet Review
The SparkPeople diet plan is a program that aims to help individuals lose weight healthfully and safely. It is not a fad diet or a diet that encourages extreme calorie restriction. In fact, the program’s philosophy revolves around the idea that, for most people, eating everything in moderation is often the key to successful long-term weight loss.
SparkPeople employs a team of experts, including both a registered dietitian and medical professional, to provide safe and evidence-based advice and strategies for those who are members of the SparkPeople program. This is to ensure that members are given the information they need to lose weight successfully.
Certified personal trainers also design workouts for the fitness component of the diet program, to ensure that members can engage in safe exercises that actually help them reach their weight loss goals over time.
SparkPeople Diet Plan Basics and Rules
Unlike many other diets out there, the SparkPeople program does not offer long lists of acceptable and forbidden foods. It does not break up weight loss phases in intervals of time or require you to work out for a certain amount of time every day.
Instead, the SparkPeople diet plan is based on guidelines that promote sustainable weight loss, healthy and moderate consumption of all foods, a variety of different types of exercise, and positive attitudes and behaviors toward weight loss as a healthy lifestyle choice.
Gradual Weight Loss
Rapid weight loss — more than 2 pounds per week — makes a person less likely to maintain their weight loss for a long period of time. This diet promotes sustainable weight loss, encouraging members to lose no more than 2 pounds per week while following the diet. This makes long-term weight management possible for everyone.
Promoting a Safe, Healthy Way of Eating
The SparkPeople diet plan does not support the use of fad diets, starvation diets, diet pills, weight loss supplements, or the elimination of any one or more food group(s). The diet also does not promise or encourage the loss of more than 2 pounds per week while in process of following the guidelines.
All Foods Allowed
Those who follow the SparkPeople diet plan don’t have to worry about what’s off-limits in the grocery store aisles.
Food tracking, journaling, and calorie counting are all recommended SparkPeople practices for encouraging people to lose weight by self-monitoring their calorie and food intake throughout the day.
All Kinds of Exercise
Performing the same type of exercise over and over does not produce results, especially when it comes to losing weight. The SparkPeople diet recommends regular exercise involving cardio, strength, and flexibility training.
Fruits and Vegetables
On the SparkPeople diet, you can expect to eat a total of five servings of fruits and five servings of vegetables per day.
Say No to the Scale
Constantly weighing yourself to measure progress creates the illusion that you will, and should, start losing large amounts of weight immediately after making a series of healthy lifestyle changes. The SparkPeople diet plan encourages members to step away from the scale and rely on other methods to keep track of weight loss.
In addition to eating a healthy diet, it is also safe and encouraged to take a daily multivitamin to make sure members are getting all the nutrition they need to lose weight and stay healthy, especially if they are eating fewer calories to promote gradual weight loss.
Setting Realistic Expectations
The SparkPeople diet encourages members to set realistic weight loss goals and focus on implementing healthy lifestyle habits into their routines. Gradual weight loss, a balanced diet, and safe calorie intake are all part of this diet’s philosophy as a means of keeping members on track to reach their goals at their own pace.
You don’t have to embark on a weight loss journey alone. Along with its team of trained experts, SparkPeople uses its community of members to help and support each other through the ups and downs of gradual weight loss.
All these guidelines combined are meant to help anyone and everyone ease into a healthy lifestyle they might not be used to. While fitness is an important part of weight loss, let’s focus on how to incorporate healthy eating into a weight loss plan, based on SparkPeople’s diet program framework.
Menu and Meal Planning
SparkPeople’s healthy eating recommendations are based on guidelines and evidence from the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. This is to provide members with their suggested daily intake of carbohydrates, protein, fat, and fiber — all important components of a healthy weight loss diet.
Eating too much or too little of an essential nutrient can leave you feeling hungry and halt your weight loss progress. Sticking to a balanced ratio of carbs, protein, and fat will help fill you up and reduce your intake of empty calories. Approximately 50 percent of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates, 20 percent of your calories should come from protein, and 30 percent of your total calories should come from fat.
Eat Fat, Lose Weight
The SparkPeople diet program recommends consuming healthy fats, such as those found in fish and seafood, nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil, and more, as an essential part of daily food intake. Based on recent dietary guidelines, no more than 10 percent of daily calories should come from saturated fats. Members should also consume approximately 20 percent of calories from unsaturated (“healthy”) fats — 10 percent monounsaturated fats, and 10 percent polyunsaturated fats.
Vitamins and Minerals
In addition to recommending a daily multivitamin, SparkPeople suggests members aim for consuming approximately 20 grams of daily fiber for optimal digestion. Also recommended: consuming no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium, which supports heart health as well as encouraging members to eat fewer processed foods loaded with sodium.
Staying hydrated is an essential part of staying healthy in a number of ways. However, sugar-sweetened beverages such as juice and soft drinks provide unhealthy amounts of added sugars, and often, artificial sweeteners. SparkPeople recommends drinking as much water as possible throughout the day — eight 8 ounce cups is ideal.
There’s plenty of misinformation out there when it comes to healthy shopping, cooking, and eating. As part of their diet program, SparkPeople offers nutrition education to teach members not only the healthiest food choices they can make, but how to incorporate those concepts into their daily lives.
Below is a sample menu that incorporates these healthy eating guidelines, including suggestions for healthy, high protein snacks to eat between meals to keep you feeling full and curb cravings for junk food.
- 2 cups steel-cut oatmeal
- 1 scrambled egg with peppers, onions, and cheese
- 2 servings of fruit (one banana and ½ cup of chopped berries)
- Grilled ham, cheese, and tomato sandwich
- 1 cup tomato soup
- Salad (1 cup spinach, tomatoes, onions, cheese, light salad dressing)
- 3 oz. grilled salmon
- 1 cup wild rice
- 1 cup broccoli
- ½ bagel with almond butter
- ½ whole wheat toast with avocado
- Greek yogurt
- Carrots with homemade ranch or hummus dip
- Homemade granola
- Trail mix with nuts and chocolate chips
Grocery Shopping List
The SparkPeople diet program provides recipe suggestions and cooking tips, but does not offer any food samples or meal deliveries as some other diet plans do. Therefore, it is up to members to use what they have learned from SparkPeople’s online resources to shop for their own foods to supplement a healthy diet that also promotes weight loss.
- Fruits, such as apples, bananas, berries, grapes, citrus fruits, avocados, tomatoes, and melons
- Vegetables, such as dark leafy veggies (spinach, kale, broccoli), starchy vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, as well as carrots, celery, onions
- Whole grain breads, pastas, bagels, and whole wheat flours
- Plant-based proteins, such as nuts, seeds, quinoa, lentils, beans
- Animal proteins, such as eggs, beef, chicken, ham, turkey
- Dairy products such as milk, cheese, butter, Greek yogurt
- Dairy alternatives (if needed) such as almond or other nut milks
Baked goods and sweets are fine in moderation, but many of the packaged, pre-prepared items in grocery store aisles are heavily processed, high in sodium and added sugars. It is recommended that people following this diet prepare as many of these types of food items themselves to maintain a healthy weight over time.
Does the SparkPeople Diet Work?
Reviews and Weight Loss Success Stories
“I have been on SP for a number of years. From July 2009 until early 2014 I lost 92 lbs while using SP. I did it on my own with tracking everything I ate, and exercising each day. I did not eat any special foods. Then, as many things in my life started to change.. my classroom closed, divorce and all the joy that comes with it, my mother had a heart attack and open heart surgery.. I just couldn’t handle all of the stress and stopped tracking, stopped exercising as much, and just about all of the weight came back on. I had made the choice to not work at it, and it showed.
In November of 2016 I had weight loss surgery, the vertical sleeve gastrectomy. I started back on SP within a few weeks. As of March 31, 2017, I have lost 55 pounds. I track what I eat and have my fitbit connected to my SP account and it updates automatically.
The SP app is awesome and has helped me so much! I use the app several times a day to plug in my calories. I am not someone who plans what I’m going to eat ahead of time, so SP helps me out so much- showing me what I’ve eaten, how much I’ve exercised, and how many calories I could still consume if needed. I don’t think I’ll ever stop using SP, they have made it so easy to stay on track. SP has made me realize I just need to take things one day at a time, and it has also helped me realize I no longer feel the need to jump around to different diets. As long as I stay within my goals, they weight will eventually come off.”
“I have been using Spark People since March 2016, so 13 months. Since the day I started, I’ve lost 135lbs.
Spark People has an incredible amount of resources to help people lose weight. It has helped me with setting nutrition goals via the food tracker; monitoring my nutrition via reports; nutrition and fitness education via their articles and guides. I’ve also used their fitness videos that met my needs when I had limited mobility, all the way until now. The resources offered — all for free — have been immeasurably helpful.
Aside from the bountiful resources, trackers, reports, etc. has been the invaluable support from the Spark People community! The people are supportive, encouraging, and authentic. I have never felt alone on this journey for one moment.
Connecting with these wonderful people could not be easier. Spark People offers chat options, message boards, teams. Whatever means one prefers, there’s an option available.
I use their mobile app on a daily basis to track food, connect with the community, etc.
I’ve said many times that I do not believe I would have made it this far in my journey without Spark People and its amazing community.
I still have 100lbs to lose and plan to spend every minute it takes to lose those pounds — and maintain that loss — with Spark People. Spark People has become part of my new healthy lifestyle.
The easiest part of using Spark People is probably the availability of the mobile app. I have all the resources at my disposal 24/7. I don’t have to use a computer. It makes it very easy to log food, connect with the community, get information, whenever I need it.
I also like that it communicates with my Fitbit app, making it a seemless process of sharing data between them.
The best part of all is that everything I need to be successful is free!”