Nutrisystem Diet Review: Are the Benefits Worth the Price Tag? (2022)

Nutrisystem has been in the weight loss game since the early 70s. The company founder, Harold J. Katz, was one of the first to create a company dedicated to pre-packaged diet meals.

Today, Nutrisystem is still helping people lose weight with its frozen and non-perishable meals, snacks, shakes and desserts.

I subscribed to Nutrisystem to test its products, applications and resources. Here is what I found.

What is Nutrisystem?

Nutrisystem is a popular weight loss diet catering to adults with busy schedules. The program's flash-frozen and non-perishable meals only require a few minutes in the microwave to prepare. Later in the program, clients can add their own homecooked meals and healthy side dishes.

The Nutrisystem diet allows lean protein, healthy fats, low-fat dairy products, non-starchy vegetables, certain fruits and whole-wheat carbohydrates. The program doesn't encourage sugary desserts, high-calorie meals, deep-fried foods, butter, starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, and sugary drinks.

Nutrisystem claims that within the first month, women can lose up to 13 lbs, seven inches overall and average one to two lbs a week after that. Men can lose up to 15 lbs and seven inches overall and average one to two lbs a week thereafter.

How does Nutrisystem work?

Nutrisystem delivers pre-packaged meals with daily recommended portions of fats, carbs, fiber and protein. The program includes eating the foods they provide and also making your own foods in the hope that you switch off of Nutrisystem after hitting your goal weight. Each meal is designed to keep you feeling full.

During week one you will:

  • Drink 8 cups of water a day (this includes black coffee, unsweetened tea and seltzers)
  • Consume at least 4 servings of non-starchy vegetables daily during meals or as snacks
  • Eat three daily pre-packaged meals and two daily pre-packaged snacks (one of which is a shake)

During week two and beyond you will:

  • Continue with goals of week one
  • Have unlimited access to foods under 10 calories (pepper, salsa, hot sauce)
  • Enjoy up to three "extra" foods a day that contain 11 to 35 calories (popcorn, ketchup)
  • Eat three daily meals and three daily snacks
  • Have the option of eating a pre-packaged Nutrisystem entree and a side of a vegetable or a lean protein or a healthy portion-controlled "Flex" meal from home

Nutrisystem meal plans

Before choosing a meal plan that works best with your palate and wallet, you will need to choose one of six categories to best represents you: Women's (for women), Men's (for men), Partner (for couples), Complete (for maximum weight loss), Diabetes (for diabetics) and Vegetarian (for vegetarians). Unfortunately, you can't choose more than one category. For example, if you and your partner are vegetarian, you will have to either choose the vegetarian option separately or the partner plan together.

Under each category, there are three meal plans to choose from:

Basic

  • Fully prepared food for five days a week
  • Access to the NuMi app
  • Access to coaching
  • More than 100 menu choices
  • Essential non-perishable meals and snacks
  • Shipments every four weeks with free shipping

Uniquely Yours

  • Fully prepared food for five days a week
  • Access to the NuMi app
  • Access to coaching
  • More than 150 menu choices
  • Frozen meals and snacks, including a standard variety of meals inspired by restaurant favorites
  • Essential non-perishable meals and snacks
  • Shipments every four weeks with free shipping

Uniquely Yours Max plus

  • Fully prepared food for five or seven days a week
  • Access to the NuMi app
  • Access to coaching
  • More than 160 menu choices
  • Frozen meals and snacks, including a premium variety of meals inspired by restaurant favorites
  • Hearty inspired meals that don't require added sides
  • Personalized nutrition tool within the NuMi app
  • Essential non-perishable meals and snacks
  • Shipments every four weeks with free shipping

Coaching

Clients have three options when it comes to contacting Nutrisystem coaches.

  • Chat: a live chat box available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. EST
  • Email: get answers via email within 24 hours
  • Phone: talk one-on-one to a coach available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. EST

Unlike other popular weight loss programs like WW, Nutrisystem doesn't pair you with a personal coach.

NuMi: Nutrisystem's app

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NuMi has mixed reviews on both the App Store and Google Play store.

4.6 out of 5 stars on App Store

3.5 out of 5 stars on Google Play store

However, I found the app easy to use and navigate. It is a great tool in aid of your weight loss journey.

On NuMi you can:

  • Review your grocery guides
  • Join weight loss challenges
  • Log your food and activity
  • Find plenty of healthy recipes
  • Track water intake

Is Nutrisystem food any good?

I received both frozen and non-perishable meals in two shipments, a week apart. The two packages contained enough food for four weeks (three meals and three snacks a day, five days a week). My meal plan was Women's Uniquely Yours.

I'm not a professional food critic, but I put myself in the shoes of someone on the Nutrisystem diet. I made sure to pay special attention to taste, texture, nutritional value, portion sizes and the effort it took to prepare the meals.

Breakfast

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I received 14 non-perishable and eight frozen breakfast items. Of the shelf products, there were bars, cereal, granola, oatmeal, a muffin and pancake mix. I first tried the energy bars. The harvest nut oat bar is similar to a sticky, chewy granola bar. It contains 160 calories, 7 g of protein, 8 g of sugar and consists mostly of soy protein. The peanut butter oat bar was by far my favorite. That flavor contains 160 calories, 6 g of protein and 7 g of sugar. The blueberry muffin is a good portion size but tastes a little processed. It is 150 calories, 6 g protein, 2 g "sugar alcohol" (which explains the processed flavor) and 8 g sugar. The cereal, however, tasted fine and similar to Special K. A serving is only 130 calories.

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As for the frozen meals, I wasn't impressed. Unlike the non-perishable items, there wasn't much selection. I was given waffles, pancakes, a cinnamon roll, a bagel and a turkey bacon, egg and cheese muffin --a lot of carbohydrates. I found the pancakes dry, tasteless and its protein powder taste was very apparent. The pancakes contain 150 calories, 7 g of sugar and 6 g of protein. The buttermilk waffles were better and flakey, golden brown. There is still a taste of protein in there, but it is milder than the pancakes. It is not recommended to add butter or syrup, but I would. Two waffles are 160 calories, 7 g sugar and 5 g protein.

Lunch

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For lunch, my meal plan included 14 non-perishable and eight frozen meals. Of the first 14, it was hard for me to find something I wanted to eat. The white cheddar mac and cheese had easy instructions, exactly the same as Kraft Easy Mac. I expected the taste to be similar, but the Nutrisystem mac and cheese had an overwhelming processed flavor. If you are looking for easy mac and cheese, I would choose Kraft instead. Kraft Easy Mac has the same amount of calories, sodium and sugar. The only difference is that the Nutrisystem mac and cheese has three more grams of protein. As for other lunch items, the chocolate caramel bar and chewy trail mix bar were edible but still had that processed, artificial flavor. I don't think I would be full after a lunch of a granola bar and a side vegetable.

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The frozen lunch items were a tad tastier. The hamburger contains 240 calories, 8 g fat, 14 g protein, 540 mg sodium and 5 g sugar. Yet, it was a little smaller than my fist. The texture was a little rubbery, but it tasted like a frozen hamburger. I also tried the spinach and cheese pretzel melt containing 230 calories, 12 g protein, 3 g sugar, 350 mg sodium and 6 g total fat. It had little filling and a light flavor. It tasted like a pretzel more than anything. That item would be filling for lunch.

Dinner

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Like the two meals before, I received 14 non-perishable and seven frozen dinner items. The shelf meals were very similar to lunch -- easy to prepare and very low in calories. The bean bolognese came in a bag and only required a few minutes in the microwave. It contains 200 calories, 5 g total fat, 11g protein, 3 g sugar and 460 mg sodium. It tasted similar to canned Campbell's soup with less broth; not the tastiest but a good meatless option. The harvest grain bowl also came in a bag and was meant to be heated up. This dish contains 240 calories, 8 g total fat, 10 g protein, 3 g sugar and 540 mg sodium. It was savory and a favorite of the dinners. It was filling and something I would find at the store and buy myself.

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Again, I wasn't impressed by the frozen meals. The cheddar mac and cheese should have been an easy meal to make tasty, but it was not good. Whey protein is in the cheese sauce, as well as lots of ingredients that are hard to pronounce. The sauce was chunky, but the pasta was good. Again, I would eat Kraft instead. I also tried the Italian sausage and turkey pepperoni pizza. It is about the size of my hand and contains 260 calories, 8 g fat, 15 g protein, 4 g sugar and 590 mg sodium. This item tasted similar to other frozen pizzas, and I liked it. It didn't contain any whey protein.

Snacks and dessert

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Lastly, I received 14 non-perishable and seven frozen snacks and desserts. Of all the categories, I was most disappointed by the shelf snacks. I expected the white cheddar popcorn to be as good as other popcorn from popular diet food companies. The cheese flavor was noticeably fake, and I found it almost inedible. Again, one of the main ingredients is whey protein. The cheese puffs did not taste much better and are not made with real cheese, only "cheddar cheese seasoning." It also contained added protein.

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However, the frozen snacks and desserts were redeemable. The chocolate cupcake tasted very similar to any other chocolate cupcake. I couldn't taste the added protein powder. It contains 140 calories, 9 g sugar, 5 g protein and 5 g total fat. The vanilla ice cream sandwich was also very good. It only has 130 calories and contains (real) low-fat ice cream. It only has 2 g of total fat, 5 g of protein and 12 g of sugar.

Shakes

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In addition to my meal plan, I added a shipment of shakes. One serving of a shake is considered one PowerFuel and can be added to a Flex breakfast, Flex lunch, Flex dinner, morning snack, afternoon snack or a Flex evening snack.

I received a box of seven packets of Pro Sync chocolate fudge shake mix and two containers of 14 servings of 1.6 oz vanilla and chocolate shakes. Each serving contains 120 calories, 15 g of protein, 5g sugar, 2 g total fat and 14 added vitamins and minerals.

Each flavor or shake had a strong taste of sweetener. The consistency was smooth, not too clumpy and similar to other protein shakes I've had. However, I found the processed sugar taste to be too strong.

A day on Nutrisystem

Here is an example of a day of meals during week two or beyond on Nutrisystem. Each day consists of three meals and three snacks.

For each daily meal, you have the option of choosing a Nutrisystem entree and a side of one PowerFuel (lean proteins and healthy fats) or one to two vegetables, or a "Flex" meal that you can make at home with your own groceries. Each "Flex" meal must include one SmartCarb (high-fiber, lower-glycemic carbohydrates) and one to two vegetables.

The day is as follows:

  • Nutrisystem breakfast: Canadian style turkey, bacon and egg cheese muffin and a cup of low-fat yogurt
  • Morning Flex snack: One cup of low-fat cottage cheese and sliced cucumber or bell pepper
  • Flex lunch: Grilled chicken (two oz.) with strawberry (one cup) spinach salad
  • Afternoon Flex snack: Avocado toast on whole-wheat bread
  • Nutrisystem dinner: Meatloaf sandwich with steamed green beans and broccoli
  • Evening Nutrisystem snack: Ice cream sandwich

Pricing

You can cancel your order within 14 days for your money-back guarantee. Each delivery contains enough meals for four weeks on Nutrisystem. Despite the category you choose, each meal plan is priced the same.

  • Basic: $9.99 per day ($279.79 total for one month)
  • Uniquely Yours: $11.79 per day ($329.99 total for one month)
  • Uniquely Yours Max Plus: $13.21 per day ($369.99 total for one month)

Although you can get your money back if you cancel within 14 days, if you cancel after the 14 days, but before the 28th day of your bill, you will still be charged a $125 auto-delivery early cancelation fee.

What do nutritionists say?

I spoke to two specialists with experience in both areas of nutrition and weight loss. They reviewed Nutrisystem and similar programs in order to determine the safety and legitimacy of their weight loss claims.

Dr. Melina B. Jampolis, a physician nutrition specialist and host of the podcast, Practically Healthy by Dr. Melina, points to a study that evaluated popular diet companies and their ability to help clients lose weight after one year.

She says, "According to research, Jenny Craig is slightly more effective and can lead to a nearly 5% weight loss after one year, which is considered clinically meaningful in terms of reducing your risk of diseases associated with carrying extra weight, including high blood pressure and diabetes. Nutrisystem shows about a 3.8% loss."

However, the study states that the results were based on short-term results, and there needs to be more research into the long-term effects. Jampolis agrees that while programs like Nutrisystem may jump-start your weight loss, it is not guaranteed long-term.

Professor of Medicine at UCLA, Dr. Zhaoping Li, MD, weighs in on the little to short-hand results of these weight loss programs. She states, "We used to think controlling calories was the key to go. Now we know we need a deviation to lose weight." She continues, "We are all metabolically different."

Li is referring to metabolism and how our bodies convert what we consume (food and drink) into energy. Depending on factors such as sex, age, body size composition, physical activity and digestion, our basal metabolism is going to differ. Due to this, weight loss needs to be individualized.

"[Diet] programs are not quite there yet," says Li. "We need to go further; each individual needs specialized guidance. We need to move away from one-plan-fits-all. It prevents us from making a dent in the problem."

Benefits of Nutrisystem

  • Specific meal plans to choose from if you are diabetic, vegetarian or trying to lose weight with a partner
  • Access to an app that allows you to easily track your meals, activity, water intake and weight goals
  • Convenient pre-made meals that require little to no time to prepare
  • Flex meals teach portion control and healthy cooking, skills that transcend the program

Potential drawbacks

  • The program is expensive, considering you are also paying for your own groceries on top of it
  • Coaching is not personal, and you can only contact coaches during certain times of the day
  • Pre-packaged meals are highly processed and often contain high amounts of sodium and sugar
  • The most common customer complaints on Better Business Bureau include billing and cancellation issues (note: I found it difficult to cancel my subscription), delivery delays and lack of support from the company

Is Nutrisystem for you?

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Diet and weight loss programs are never one-size-fits-all. Finding the right program, exercise regimen and diet takes time. Nutrisystem is no exception. Just like any other low-calorie diet program, Nutrisystem's calorie restriction can lead to short-term weight loss for some. If you are looking to jumpstart your weight loss journey, then Nutrisystem may be for you.

You should try Nutrisystem if:

  • You don't mind the combination of the price tag and a grocery store bill
  • Your busy schedule doesn't allow time to cook healthy meals every day
  • You are looking to lose weight with a partner or need a vegetarian meal plan

You should seek other weight loss options if:

  • You are looking for fresh meals with whole ingredients
  • You require support from a personal, professionally-trained coach
  • You have tried low-calorie diets before and have not been successful

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

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