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You’ve likely noticed the Nutrisystem diet advertised on television. If it’s piqued your curiosity, you may have wondered exactly what it offers, how the system works and whether or not it can really deliver the results it claims.
To find out if the Nutrisystem meal plan is possibly right for you, keep reading our comprehensive review.
What is the Nutrisystem Diet?
The Nutrisystem diet is more of a program than an actual “diet.”
You’re mostly not grocery shopping on your own or having to follow strict, written dietary guidelines that are difficult for the average home cook to interpret. For some, this is perfect.
The program ships prepackaged food boxes straight to your door, with controlled portions that are intended to curb your eating habits. The program does request that you supplement the prepackaged foods with recommended items from the grocery store, including low-fat dairy products and fruits and veggies.
The History of Nutrisystem
If you think Nutrisystem has been around for a long, long time, you’d be right.
The diet was first created in the 1970s, but at that time, the focus was on liquid protein meal replacements, not the prepackaged meals you see today. Those didn’t come along until the 90s.
Nutrisystem also at one time hosted physical diet centers that you would go into in order to buy your products; now, the physical diet centers are no more and the business is almost entirely online.
The whole idea of Nutrisystem is that, if you don’t have to cook, count calories or go to the grocery store on a regular basis, you’ll be more likely to stick to a diet that works and you’ll be less likely to cheat on that diet.
How Does the Nutrisystem Meal Plan Work?
The Nutrisystem meal plan puts lean protein and carbs at the forefront. Think whole grains and veggies. Ingredients that will keep you fuller, longer are often the star of your meals.
Technically, the Nutrisystem diet is a low-glycemic diet, meaning that dieters receive 50 percent of their calories from carbs, 25 percent from fat and 25 percent from protein. The diet also cuts out a lot of salt.
There are several different meal plan options available within the Nutrisystem program. There are different programs for not only men and women, but also seniors and those with special dietary restrictions such as diabetes, and vegetarians. The meals in your program will change according to your gender and age.
Each meal program option comes with your three daily meals, plus snacks (amount of snacks per day can differ according to which program you pick). You can pick the meals you want, or rely on Nutrisystem to pick the meals you’ll receive.
Within the different Nutrisystem programs that are available, there are also different plans that are available. All plans include the Turbo 13 mini-plan, which is the first month of meals that are intended to help you lose 13 pounds and seven inches in your first month (How is this possible? You’re only eating 1,000 calories per day for the first week, for starters.). After the first month of the Turbo 13 mini-plan, you can switch to either the basic, core or “Uniquely Yours” plan.
The basic plan gives you all meals and online resources. The core plan gives you the meals, online resources and access to diet counselors. The “Uniquely Yours” plan gives you all this, plus more (and supposedly better) food options.
With all the programs, meals are delivered to your door every four weeks.
Nutrisystem for Men vs. Women
Two of the most popular Nutrisystem programs are the Nutrisystem for Men and Nutrisystem for Women programs.
The Nutrisystem for Men program tells men to eat six times daily. All the food is provided, including daily protein shakes. The food items and ingredients included are intended to help men lose weight while retaining muscle.
The Nutrisystem for Women program, regardless of the plan chosen, will be cheaper than the Nutrisystem for Men program, because it includes less food. The Nutrisystem for Women program is not designed to retain muscle. Daily protein shakes are included, though, with six items (a meal or a snack) to eat daily.
What Foods Can You Eat with the Nutrisystem Meal Plan?
There are a few foods that you can eat, no questions asked, on the Nutrisystem Meal Plan.
These include the Nutrisystem-branded prepackaged meals and snacks, as well as fresh and frozen vegetables and lean proteins.
What Foods Can You Not Eat with the Nutrisystem Meal Plan?
Nutrisystem does not guarantee the results that it typically promises if you eat standard restaurant meals while on any of its programs, or store-bought food other than items that a meal plan specifically lists as okay. You also can’t eat any sugary, processed items unless they’re a Nutrisystem-branded prepackaged meal or snack. Alcoholic beverages are likewise not recommended.
However, do note that there are sometimes “flex” meals within plans, and those flex meals are up to you. You’ll need to make smart choices, though, and eat low-glycemic meals made at home.
Are there considerations for special diets and allergies?
The only two special diets the Nutrisystem program accounts for are diabetic diets and vegetarian diets. If you’re living gluten-free or with allergies, you probably won’t find enough food within the Nutrisystem program’s offerings to create a well-rounded diet.
Additionally, Nutrisystem is not recommended for those who are pregnant, those with chronic kidney disease or children under 14. Nutrisystem does offer a separate, different program for children above the age of 14.
Nutrisystem Meal Plan Menus
All the Nutrisystem meals are reheat-able and/or shelf-stable. Users say that the best food, though, is only available if you’re on the more expensive, “Uniquely Yours” plan.
If you like to avoid processed foods, this is not a diet plan for you, as all the Nutrisystem meals are heavily processed. Overall, portions are small, but they are tasty — or at least as tasty as you might expect from a prepackaged hamburger and similar items.
Many of the Nutrisystem food items are meant to mimic the food items you likely already enjoy, with many meals that would traditionally be considered unhealthy.
Breakfast items include carb-heavy options such as waffles or bagels; lunch might be a protein bar or sandwich; and then dinner might be a lean protein or even pizza (you might be asked to supplement that lean protein with some veggies you purchased separately at the grocery store). Snacks are usually something sugary that you might already want to eat, such as ice cream or cake. Savory snacks include cheesy popcorn and a Cheetos knock-off.
Nutrisystem offers more than 160 items on its menu.
How much effort will be needed on my part to create these menus?
Pretty much none. Most of the Nutrisystem food is shelf-stable, meaning you won’t even need to freeze it, just microwave or reheat it when you’re ready to eat. Any extra food items you eat along with your dinners (so like vegetable side dishes) will be food you have to prepare on your own, so you can determine the amount of effort you want to put in (so you can make it as easy as popping open a can of green beans if you want).
How Much Does the Nutrisystem Meal Plan Cost?
The Nutrisystem meal plan can cost up to $600 a month, if you choose the priciest plan available. The cheapest option can be about half that, though. Just remember that you will be purchasing additional items, including vegetables, fruits and any flex meal ingredients, at the store separately.
If you don’t want to purchase a full plan via Nutrisystem directly, you can find some stand-alone Nutrisystem products through retailers such as Costco, Wal-Mart and Bed Bath & Beyond. This includes the Nutrisystem Success 5-Day Weight Loss Kit, which offers five days of breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks.
How Much Will I Need to Exercise to See Results on the Nutrisystem Meal Plan?
Most diets do require some sort of exercise component. However, if you really dislike exercising, you’ll be glad to know that Nutrisystem’s exercise recommendations are really the bare minimum recommended by the United States government. If you’re looking for a diet that will allow you to skip all exercise altogether, look elsewhere.
So, what can you expect? Nutrisystem recommends 150 minutes of moderate activity each week, or 30 minutes of activity each weekday.
If you don’t have 30 minutes at one time, you can break that exercise time into three, 10-minute exercise sessions. Nutrisystem recommends a combination of aerobic and strength training.
Pros & Cons of the Nutrisystem Meal Plan
There are many pros to the Nutrisystem program, but there are also many cons.
One of the longest-lasting diet programs on the market, Nutrisystem works well for many people, helping them to lose weight successfully. For those who dislike cooking and need convenience, the Nutrisystem program delivers.
There’s no (or very little) cooking required, which can be a pro or a con, depending on who you are. There’s also very little shopping required, so you can cut down your trips to the grocery store.
This is part of what makes the Nutrisystem program effective — there’s little to do, so it’s easier to stick with.
Unfortunately, the Nutrisystem program is on the pricier side. It can cost easily $600 a month, before you even purchase any supplementary items from the grocery store. However, keep in mind that you won’t be eating out at any restaurant if you follow the Nutrisystem program to the letter, so that’s a cost saved.
The Nutrisystem diet is full of processed foods, so you’re not going to be doing any clean eating. Additionally, the Nutrisystem program isn’t a good fit for those with more specialized diets, such as those on a gluten-free or allergen-friendly diet.
Even if you’re not trying to eat clean, the prepackaged food and its general taste can get a bit old. Sometimes you just need a little freshness in your diet!
Portion sizes are also small, to keep your calorie count low, so you may get hungry, even if you’re eating six times per day.
On top of all this, a lot of experts do warn that Nutrisystem does not promote an overall healthy lifestyle once you decide to go off the Nutrisystem program. Since most of the prepackaged meals are sugary or carb-heavy items that would normally be very unhealthy and calorie-laden, once you’re eating normal foods and not Nutrisystem foods, it’s easy to fall back on those unhealthy items. Thus, you could end up gaining any lost weight back, plus more, once off the diet.
Nutrisystem Meal Plan Competitors and How They Stack Up
Nutrisystem has a few different competitors.
Jenny Craig also offers delivered, prepackaged meals. All Jenny Craig meals are frozen and require reheating. The main difference between Nutrisystem and Jenny Craig is cost. Jenny Craig is significantly more expensive than Nutrisystem.
The Slimfast diet is also pricey, but there’s no delivery required. You can simply pick up your Slimfast items at your local grocery store. Some like the Slimfast diet because you can keep much of your normal diet the same, but just replace two meals per day with Slimfast products.
The Nutrisystem Meal Plan: The Final Word
Is the Nutrisystem meal plan right for you?
Most diets do offer some benefits. Nutrisystem is proven to help you lose weight fast, with little extra effort on your part. Unfortunately, Nutrisystem won’t help you develop a healthy lifestyle and it can be very easy to gain back any lost weight once you stop following the diet.
Additionally, Nutrisystem isn’t very friendly to those on special diets or to foodies who enjoy cooking and meal prepping.
You might also be interested in: The Beginner’s Guide to Keto