Cooking Light Diet's lead dietitian explains how our customized daily meal plans work for weight loss. 
Credit: Cooking Light Diet

What’s the secret behind our customized diet plan, Cooking Light Diet? How is it different from other diets, and how are members able to eat meals they love and still lose weight?  

I’ve been asked these questions numerous times since Cooking Light Diet launched in 2015, and my answer continues to be the same: The secret is our unique formula that looks at all factors impacting your weight loss success

The Story Behind Cooking Light Diet

In 2014, I got a call that I’ll never forget: Cooking Light’s executive editor asked if I would serve as lead dietitian for a new online diet program featuring custom meal plans. Working with the development team, I knew we needed to create a program with individualized menus for weight loss, but Cooking Light Diet also needed to represent the magazine’s approach to eating delicious and healthy food. 

Credit: Cooking Light Diet

We started by identifying the factors for successful weight loss and maintenance, then we incorporated those findings into a weight loss formula for all body types, ages, and lifestyles. After several months of testing, we landed on the formula that has since produced hundreds of Cooking Light Diet success stories!

Why is this formula so effective? Because it isn’t solely based on calories and macronutrients. 

While calories and macros are part of the framework of Cooking Light Diet, our formula also considers additional factors that research suggests are key for long-term weight loss success—from specific dietary needs like avoiding gluten, dairy, or certain allergens to food preferences and lifestyle needs. 

The Cooking Light Diet Formula for Weight Loss

There are four key components that go into developing your weight loss program with Cooking Light Diet. 

  • Nutrition
  • Dietary Needs 
  • Food Preferences 
  • Lifestyle & Adaptability

Nutrition: To determine your calories and macros.
This component incorporates body size, age, activity, and weight goals to produce your daily calorie range, macro breakdown, and food group distribution. Because all entrees and side dishes meet Cooking Light’s nutrition guidelines, saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars are kept in check at each meal. The program also tries to pair entrees with a variety of side dishes to meet nutrient needs. 

Dietary Needs: To suit your body. 
This is where specific dietary needs can be accommodated. You can choose for your meal plans to be gluten- and/or dairy-free. Additionally, you can choose to have them avoid specific allergens like eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, or shellfish. 

Credit: Cooking Light Diet

Food Preferences: To curate your perfect meal matches. 
You have the ability to customize your menus to suit your lifestyle, whether you opt for vegan, vegetarian, vegetarian with seafood, or our SmartCarb plan. The latter offers meal plans with low to moderate carbohydrates from whole food sources that are rich in fiber, have no added sugars, and sit low on the glycemic index. 

Lifestyle & Adaptability: To help you stay on track. 
Research suggests weight loss is most successful when you’re able to maintain healthy eating habits long-term. There are two things that help facilitate this: enjoying the foods you eat and making sure the time spent in the kitchen works for your lifestyle. We’ve got the first part covered by using some of the magazine’s most popular recipes, and for the second, we offer recipes that require 30 minutes of work or less. You can also search for recipes that are kid-friendly, require no cooking at all, or take less than 15 minutes and save them to your favorites. By default, Cooking Light Diet’s menu plans are designed to serve four to six people, but you have the flexibility to opt for menus that just serve one or two. 

The combination of these four factors is the secret behind all of Cooking Light Diet’s success stories. And it’s what makes people want to continue the program even after reaching their goals. 

Want to see people who’ve lost weight with Cooking Light Diet?
Read our success stories.

Ready to give it a try? 
CIick here to start using Cooking Light Diet.


Carolyn Williams, PhD, RD, is author to the new cookbook, Meals That Heal: 100+ Everyday Anti-Inflammatory Recipes in 30 Minutes or Less, and a culinary nutrition expert known for ability to simplify food and nutrition information. She received a 2017 James Beard Journalism award, and her work is regularly featured in or on respective websites for Cooking Light, RealSimple, Parents, Health, EatingWell, Allrecipes, My Fitness Pal, eMeals, Rally Health, and the American Heart Association. You can follower on Instagram @realfoodreallife_rd or on