Nutrisystem Diet Review and Analysis
Nutrisystem, Inc. is a commercial diet program that’s been around for more than 40 years. After having been at the forefront of healthy weight loss for so long, Nutrisystem still ranks among the leading commercial weight management programs that helps millions of people lose weight.
Nutrisystem makes all the food you need for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks and delivers them right to your doorstep every four weeks. You may order the meals pre-made and frozen or shelf-stable. Either way, the meals come perfectly portioned according to your needs so you don’t have to think about counting calories or struggle to prepare your own balanced meals.
How does Nutrisystem work?
Nutrisystem says that it works by balancing three aspects of eating. One is portion control. You can still eat a lot of foods but the portions are carefully controlled and they make certain you don’t overconsume on the calorie front. Although you have smaller portions, because you have more frequent meals, discussed below, you don’t feel hungry and you have enough energy for daily activity.
The next is a claim of balanced nutrition. The idea is to make sure you get enough of the right nutrients to keep your strength up and to keep you feeling like you are satisfied and don’t need to raid the fridge all the time. Having said that, the Nutrisystem meals are pre-packaged and reportedly contain preservatives. Its up to you to decide how you feel about this.
And finally, and it sounds a little odd but it works, frequent meals. The Nutrisystem encourages six meals a day to give you the energy to keep going and to fight off hunger pangs. And you need energy to lose weight. If you don’t have the energy to move, you cant lose the weight. That is why eating a poor quality diet both increases your fat tissue and stops you moving around. The energy is just not released sustainably so you end up sitting in front of the computer or the TV all the time. To lose weight you have to expend more energy than you put in your body, but you also have to have enough energy to be able to move around and burn it up, and burn up the latent energy stored in your fat cells. This is one of the reasons that Nutrisystem works so well.
Obesity currently affects 93.3 million Americans and costs the US economy 147 billion dollars each year. It’s a burgeoning epidemic, not only in the first world, but in developing countries as well, as fast food and processed foods become more widely available and physical activity becomes a choice that is rarely made.
In the first world, though, the problem is basically calorie excess; we just eat too much. So, barring any significant medical reason for the weight gain, weight loss should be a simple matter of consuming fewer calories than you burn over a given period of time.
But equally important is the body’s glycemic response to certain foods. Glycemic response refers to the rise and fall of glucose levels following a meal. How much glucose levels rise depends on several factors, but perhaps the most important is the type of carbohydrate you ingest.
For example, foods rich in simple carbs are known to cause sudden spikes in blood glucose levels, which floods the body with hormones that store fat. More problematic is that these hormones also stimulate hunger.
The key to the Nutrisystem program is not only portion control, but the use of foods that keep blood sugar levels stable. Nutrisystem’s low-glycemic, low-fat approach provides 50% of calories from complex carbohydrates like vegetables and whole grains, 25% from protein and 25% from fat.
On the program, men get three meals and two snacks per day, while women get three meals plus one snack. By eating the right nutrients at little portions in frequent intervals, you will feel satisfied (and not “hangry”) and less likely to binge on foods that make you feel like eating more than you actually need.
Getting Started on the Nutrisystem Weight Loss Program
The first thing you need to do is go to their website and choose a plan that works for you.
Each plan offers a different level of service and a specific gender track.
- The Basic Plan starts below $10.18 per day and gives you 4 weeks’ worth of pre-selected shelf-stable meals. Add $1 and you can choose your own meals.
- The Core Plan runs a little over $11 per day and lets you choose from over 100 delicious meals and snacks.
- For $12.50 per day, you can enjoy the top-rated Uniquely Yours Plan with unlimited frozen and un-frozen meal choices from over 160 choices.
- Enjoy the best of the best with Uniquely Yours Plus Plan for under $14 per day. Choose from top-rated 160+ frozen or unfrozen meals plus 4 weeks of probiotic shakes.
Whether you’re diabetic, hypertensive or vegan, Nutrisystem offers plans for your specific requirements. However, if you’re following a keto diet, are pregnant, allergic to gluten, soy or nuts, Nutrisystem is not for you.
If you want to select your own meals, you will be taken to the website’s menu where you can see meals and snacks with their respective ratings/reviews from other members.
If you choose the Chef’s choice rather than customizing your meals and sign up for auto-delivery, you will be paying less.
You can also order by pack just to try out individual food items before jumping into the 4-week plans.
Prices, however, do not include the additional cost for fresh fruits and vegetables (grocery list is provided) you’ll be supplementing your diet with.
How much will you eat on the Nutrisystem program?
Each Nutrisystem plan starts with the new comprehensive program FreshStart™. On FreshStart™ you will get approximately 1000 calories per day on your first week on the program. This is supposed to help jumpstart your weight loss. Whether or not this method works is still debatable, but some studies have indicated that fast initial weight loss offers greater weight reduction and long-term maintenance.
After the first week, men and women will get 1500 calories and 1200 calories per day respectively. If you have 100 pounds or more to lose, you can adjust your meal plan to include 200 more calories.
The typical Nutrisystem participant can lose up to 2 pounds per week. You can stay on the program for as long as you need to hit your target weight.
Upsides and unique features of the Nutrisystem Weight Loss Program
Purchase Nutrisystem online.
You can access the full spectrum of Nutrisystem’s services online, which is great news for busy people. This means that you can order the diet plans sitting at home in just a few clicks and have your meals delivered right to your doorstep.
No hassle auto-delivery.
Nutrisystem also offers the option to have your meals shipped out automatically with no further actions on your part.
You don’t need to sign any membership contracts to avail of Nutrisystem’s services, so you can quit anytime you choose.
Whatever your budget, Nutrisystem has a plan for you.
Extensive customizable menu.
Besides offering different plans specific to men, women, vegans, diabetics and senior citizens, Nutrisystem also offers the ability to customize meal plans according to your requirements. Adolescents from 14-17 years, nursing mothers and those who weigh more than 400 pounds can customize their Nutrisystem plans (following their physician’s approval).
With more than 150 items on the menu to choose from, you’ll have no trouble finding your current favorites and exploring some foods you absolutely didn’t expect to be eating on a diet.
Online reviews shared by users over the years indicate that Nutrisystem’s dishes taste at least as good as the Jenny Craig program.
Support and counseling.
Nutrisystem has an entire team of certified weight loss counsellors to help you. On the Core, Uniquely Yours and Uniquely Yours Plus plans, dieters have direct phone access to the counsellors for real time, round-the-clock support.
Resources and tools.
You will get access to the NuMi tracking app to help you track your progress.
Risk-free money back guarantee.
Nutrisystem has a 30-day money back guarantee for unopened, non-frozen food items. Frozen food items are non-refundable once your has been shipped.
Free shipping of the Nutrisystem Weight Loss Meals.
Shipping is free for one-time 4-week plan orders and auto-delivery orders.
Comprehensive maintenance plan
To make sure you maintain your weight, Nutrisystem developed the transition and maintenance program called Nutrisystem Success.
Drawbacks of the Nutrisystem Weight Loss Program
Food taste and quality not for everyone on Nutrisystem.
Obviously, food is highly subjective. And like all other foods out there, Nutrisystem’s meals are hit and miss. Objectively speaking, and judging from customer reports and reviews by nutritionists, Nutrisystem’s food items are in fact heavily processed. While Nutrisystem foods are low in sugar, the company uses a long list of ingredients in their foods (which is a bad a sign), and include a lot of artificial nutrients, preservatives (they use salt) and trans fats.
Although Nutrisystem promotes portion control, they don’t necessarily promote long-term healthy food choices. Aside from the above, eating microwaved foods off a cardboard box can get old and unpalatable for some people really fast.
Dieters are not made accountable on Nutrisystem.
With easy refund policy, no contract, no obligation and no structure, it’s easy for dieters to fall back into old bad eating habits. This is where if you are the sort of person who needs a support structure around them this diet plan might not be for you. Are you strong enough to take this on and stick to it?
Eating out can be difficult while sticking to the Nutrisystem Weight Control Diet.
Although not prohibited, eating out while on the program requires dieters to make smart choices and limit portion sizes. This can become an expensive process then, because the restraunts where good food is served in small portions are the ones which cost the most money. But at least eating out is not prohibited.
Nutrisystem is not for people with certain conditions.
People who are pregnant, are allergic to soy, nuts, gluten and latex, have eating disorders or chronic kidney disease can’t be on the Nutrisystem program.
When you’re almost at your target weight, you can opt to start Nutrisystem Success to help you transition off Nutrisystem and make it easier to maintain your weight independently.
On Nutrisystem Success, you can choose plans that work best for your current weight with the freedom and flexibility to balance your favourite Nutrisystem meals and foods that you prepare.
Time out from the Program
You are able to take time out from the Nutrisystem diet program. They offer different options and these are reflected in the cost. You can, for instance prepare your own dinners – they still provide the meals for the rest of the day. You can have weekends off. You can go for their three day plan option, where they provide all the meals for three days and you look after yourself for the other four days.
The best thing about Nutrisystem Success, though is that you’ll learn to prepare your own healthy meals using the portion control techniques that Nutrisystem employs. When you sign up for Nutrisystem Success, you will get a start-up guide that will show you exactly what foods to eat and how many portions to have each day.
What Does Science Say About the Nutrisystem Weight Loss Program?
Every so often, a new diet program surfaces from the bowels of the earth with the same rehashed promises and long-winded tales of how other programs are just crap and downright scams out to take your money.
Unlike many other programs though, Nutrisystem has been shown to produce modest weight reduction. Note that some of these studies are funded by Nutrisystem and must be taken with a grain of salt.
A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2015 found that dieters on Nutrisystem lost 3.8 percent more weight than the group who received counselling.
In a company-funded study published in the journal Postgraduate Medicine, 69 obese type 2 diabetics lost an average of 18 pounds after just three months and 24 pounds after six months on Nutrisystem’s diabetic plan. They also had significant reductions in HbA1c. On the other hand, the group who received only counselling lost 1 pound.
In another unpublished Nutrisystem-funded study, data of more than 100, 000 Nutrisystem customers between 2008 and 2010 showed that 79% lost at least 5% of their weight and 33% lost more than 10% of their initial weight.
In a study published in Nutrition & Diabetes, dieters on portion-controlled diets like Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem lost 16 pounds and 0.7% on their HbA1c. Meanwhile, participants who only received diabetes education lost just 4 pounds and 0.4% on their HbA1c.
Nutrisystem no doubt has one of the best, longest-running track records in the weight loss industry. They offer convenience, flexibility, customizable and extensive menu options and evidence-based claims (although some of these studies are self-funded and may be biased). If you don’t mind processed foods and eating microwaved foods for months on end, you might want to try Nutrisystem.
Everything considered, we confidently give Nutrisystem a solid 4 out of 5 stars.
Efficacy of commercial weight loss programs: an updated systematic review Ann Intern Med. 2015 Apr 7; 162(7): 501–512.
A randomized comparison of a commercially available portion-controlled weight-loss intervention with a diabetes self-management education program, G D Foster,1,* et al. Nutr Diabetes. 2013 Mar; 3(3): e63. Published online 2013 Mar 18. doi: 10.1038/nutd.2013.3
The Association Between Rate of Initial Weight Loss and Long-Term Success in Obesity Treatment: Does Slow and Steady Win the Race? Int J Behav Med. 2010 Sep; 17(3): 161–167.