Based on over 40 years of science, the Nutrisystem Advanced diet is a meal delivery plan that provides portion-controlled, pre-packaged meals, which can be customized to fit individual needs. Plans are gender-specific and can be tailored for adults, seniors, diabetics, and vegetarians. Nutrisystem claims their meals follow the nutritional guidelines set forth by national health organizations like the USDA, National Institute of Health and the American Diabetes Association. They are low in sodium, saturated and trans-fats, and promote protein and carbohydrates with a low glycemic index. NutriSystem actually shifted their ready-made meal plan in 2008 to take foods' glycemic index into account. Many diets incorporate the glycemic index as part of their diet plan to evaluate carbs because of the negative impact high GI carbs can have on body weight and overall health. Carbs with a low GI are ideal because they are digested slowly, keeping you fuller for longer, and they stabilize your blood sugar levels and metabolic state. NutriSystem Advanced meals also contain soluble fiber and omega-3 fatty acids to promote heart health and feelings of fullness.
You can purchase 4 weeks worth of food at Nutrisystem.com. Prices vary depending on the plan that you choose, but, to give an example, the Core 4 week program costs $357.48 (including shipping). You can save 20% and shipping costs by signing up for their automatic re-order plan. Along with the food, you will get free access to registered dieticians and weight loss counselors, as well as online support tools to track weight loss, a member's community, discussion boards, articles and blogs.
Product Report Card Grade
We give Nutrisystem a B+ because diet programs that offer prepackaged meals are a convenient and quick way to lose weight. You don’t have to think about preparing a balanced meal or about portion-control, so it is great for busy dieters. We had to deduct points however because Nutrisystem only offers online support services, which we don’t feel provides enough education around how to maintain a healthy lifestyle once you stop eating the prepackaged meals. While it is cheaper than Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem is still relatively expensive since your prepackaged meals are only meant to be 60% of your daily food intake. The other 40% is Nutrisystem-approved foods (ie. fruits, veggies, protein and dairy) from your local grocery store. Finally, you are discouraged from eating in restaurants, which may be difficult for some people.
Ready-made meals delivered straight to your doorstep are hassle-free and take the guesswork out of a balanced diet and portion control; separate meal plans tailored for older people, diabetics and vegetarians; website features how customers rate individual meal choices; free online support with unlimited counseling and support services; offers 2-week trial period
Can customize diet plan to fit almost any person and lifestyle (vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, etc.); teaching nutrition and portion-control from the beginning can make the plan easier to maintain in the long-term; allows for occasional splurges; in-person and online support available; offers pre-made snacks and meals so you can stick to the plan even if you are pressed for time; offers exercise incentives
Convenience of prepackaged, microwavable meals that control portions; lots of support for members with the Jenny consultants, a 24/7 support telephone line and multiple online tools; tailored diet plans; winner of Consumer Reports taste test for prepackaged diet meals
Expensive (cheaper than Jenny Craig though); calorie intake is severely restricted; pre-packaged meals good for short term weight loss but may be hard for some to maintain; not a good plan for vegans, people with celiac disease or people with mild or severe peanut allergies; eating out is discouraged; if you choose the Select plan (fresh frozen meals), you need a lot of freezer space; some reports of persistent gas and diarrhea
Flexibility of plan may not work for the undisciplined; counting points can be tedious; have to maintain membership which can be costly
Most of the complaints are about how expensive the plan is; relies heavily on prepackaged meals, so its difficult to go out for dinner; Jenny consultants are not dieticians/nutritionists by profession; not appropriate for vegans or people with food allergies (gluten, peanuts, etc.)
Food and membership costs vary. Currently, it is $30 to sign up, $19/month for online access and $43/month for unlimited meetings.
Food and membership costs vary. It can range between $0-$25 to sign up, $25-$38 in monthly membership fees and about $400 in monthly food costs.
Low-Calorie, Low-Fat, Balanced
Weight Loss and General Health
The idea behind Nutrisystem is that prepackaged meals are the easiest way to lose weight since you don't have to worry about balancing nutrition or portion control.
The idea behind the Weight Watchers Program is that you'll eat less and won't feel as hungry if you make healthier food choices that fill you up for longer.
The idea behind the Jenny Craig program is that you can lose weight and maintain that weight loss when you combine balanced nutrition and portion control with an improved attitude toward food and exercise.
How It Works
Nutrisystem offers gender-specific plans for adults (Core), diabetics (Nutrisystem D), seniors (Silver) and vegetarians (Vegetarian). You will purchase food shipments in 28-day supplies and can choose from pre-selected menus or pick out specific meals you'd like from more than 130 choices. The prepackaged meals are low in sodium, saturated and trans-fats, and they promote protein and low-GI carbohydrates. They are frozen or shelf-stable and will provide about 60% of your daily calorie intake. The other 40% will come from Nutrisystem-approved foods (i.e. fruits, veggies, protein and dairy) from your local grocery store. Once you've reached your goal weight, you can chat with a Nutrisystem counselor online or by phone if you want help/tips for transitioning away from prepackaged meals and back into the kitchen.
Weight Watchers uses a PointsPlus system to help dieters measure daily food intake and to encourage them to make healthier choices. The PointsPlus system assigns a point value to different foods, which is calculated by its protein, carbohydrate, fat, fiber and calorie content, as well as by how difficult it is for the body to work it off. Each dieter is given a unique PointsPlus target according to their gender, height, weight and weight loss goals. You can basically eat whatever you want on the Weight Watchers program, as long as you stay within your daily PointsPlus target, but you are encouraged to eat more "Power Foods," which are considered the healthiest and most filling. "Power Foods" include whole grains, lean meats, low-fat dairy and (unlimited quantities of) fresh fruit and non-starchy veggies.
The Jenny Craig program assigns each dieter a personal Jenny consultant who will customize their weight loss plan and meet with them during weekly one-on-one sessions to help guide them through the program's 3 stages - food, body and mind. To educate you on nutrition and portion control, the program initially provides frozen or shelf-stable prepackaged meals that are high in fiber and low in fat/cholesterol. You will supplement these meals with 2-3 servings of fresh fruits, vegetables, or non-fat dairy products bought at a local grocery store. Halfway from your goal weight, you will slowly transition to cooking your own meals (using Jenny recipes) until you have reached your goal weight and are only cooking your own food. Meanwhile, your Jenny consultant will help devise a workout program based on your current activity level with the ultimate goal eventually being 60 minutes of advanced physical activity a day (Pilates, running or weight training). Your Jenny consultant will also help you better understand how your existing relationship with food, life experiences and social environment have impacted your health and weight, and how you can build the necessary skills to change your previous mind-set and maintain the good habits that you have acquired during the program.
Women's plans average 1250 calories a day, and men's plans average 1500 calories a day (spread across 5-6 meals).
Since Weight Watchers uses the PointsPlus system, there isn't a focus on calories, but, no matter what, you will be getting at least 1200 calories a day.
Calorie intake can range from 1,200 - 2,300 calories per day depending on the plan you come up with your Jenny consultant, which will be based on your age, height, current weight, gender, your activity level, etc.
When you sign up with Nutrisystem, you will get free access to registered dieticians and weight loss counselors, as well as to online support tools to track weight loss, a member's community, discussion boards, articles and blogs. In addition, you'll also receive the 13-week Mindset Makeover behavioral guide. This plan will help you better understand your relationship to food and provide the necessary steps for taking control of your eating habits.
You can sign up to attend group meetings at your local Weight Watchers branch or you can just sign up for the online program. To keep track of the points you are consuming, Weight Watchers also offers a pocket guide, pocket calculator, an online database of 40,000 foods and a mobile app with the database for additional convenience. Weight Watchers also offers recipes that show the PointsPlus value or, if you are making your own dish, you can use the company's online tools to calculate points ingredient by ingredient.
You can participate in the program by attending weekly sessions at a local Jenny Craig center or you can also participate from the comfort of your own home. Either way, you will have access to a Jenny consultant for one-on-one weekly meetings and to Jenny's 24/7 telephone line to get information or support whenever you need it. The program also offers online support, including peer-support discussion groups and progress tracking tools.
While exercise is encouraged on the Nutrisystem program, it is not required. That said, Nutrisystem does suggest a range of exercises and stretches on their website (ex. aerobics, yoga and resistance training) to help you get active no matter what your current fitness level is.
Physical activity is encouraged, and Weight Watchers assigns different activities a PointsPlus value in order to incentivize dieters. Whether it is an hour of running, dancing or doing laundry, you'll receive extra food points when you exercise to allow for the occasional splurge.
30 - 60 minutes of physical activity is encouraged, and your Jenny consultant will help you determine your fitness goals/routine. Usually, Jenny consultants will try to incorporate exercise into your daily life (ex. walking, taking the stairs, doing laundry, etc.), but they may suggest that already active dieters add more rigorous exercise (ex. Pilates, weight training, etc.).
Examples of available books include: NutriSystem Nourish: The Revolutionary New Weight-Loss Program, Simple Success: The Nutrisystem Guide to Healthy Eating, The Low GI Cookbook: 90 Simple, Delicious Good-Carb Recipes to Complement the Nutrisystem Program
Examples of available books include: Weight Watchers All-Time Favorites: Over 200 Best-Ever Recipes from the Weight Watchers Test Kitchens, Weight Watchers In 20 Minutes, Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook.
Examples of available books include: Jenny Craig No Diet Required, The Jenny Craig Cookbook: Cutting Through the Fat, Simple Pleasures: Recipes to Nourish Body and Soul.
ProductReportCard Editors' In-Depth Review
Pros And Cons
- Ready-made meals delivered straight to your doorstep are hassle-free and take the guesswork out of a balanced diet and portion control
- Separate meal plans tailored for older people, diabetics and vegetarians
- Website features how customers rate individual meal choices
- Free online support with unlimited counseling and support services
- Offer two week trial period
- Expensive (cheaper than Jenny Craig though)
- Calorie intake is severely restricted
- Pre-packaged meals good for short term weight loss but may be hard for some to maintain
- Not a good plan for vegans, people with celiac disease or people with mild or severe peanut allergies
- Eating out is discouraged
- If you choose the Select plan (fresh frozen meals), be prepared to completely clear out your freezer to make room for all of the meals
- Some reports of persistent gas and diarrhea
Low calorie, but provides generally acceptable amounts of protein, carbs, fat, and other nutrients
Women's plans average 1250 calories a day, and men's plan average 1500 calories a day (spread across 5-6 meals). Calorie intake, along with exercise, supports 1-2lbs of weight loss per week
How it works
The Nutrisystem guide will then tell you what and when to eat. You purchase food shipments in 28 day supplies and can choose from pre-selected menus or pick out which foods you'd like from more than 130 choices. Meals are frozen or shelf-stable and provide about 60% of your daily calorie intake. You will supplement the other 40% with Nutrisystem-approved foods (ie. fruits, veggies, protein and dairy) from your local grocery.
Gender-specific plan for adults (Core), diabetics (Nutrisystem D), seniors (Silver) and vegetarians (Vegetarian)
Physical activity is encouraged on the plan but not required. Nutrisystem has a range of exercises and stretches detailed on their website (ex. aerobics, yoga and resistance training) to help you get active no matter what your current fitness level is.
In addition to the online support mentioned above, you'll also receive the Mindset Makeover behavioral guide. This is a 13 week plan to help you better understand your relationship to food and to provide steps for taking control of your eating habits.
Yes, the plan recommends a multivitamin for all dieters, and omega-3 supplements are a standard part of the senior plans.
Long term maintenance
While you are on the prepackaged meal plan, the idea is to help you better understand portion control and healthy (low GI) eating. Once you stop the meal plan, Nutrisystem will allow you to select partial programs (e.g., exclude pre-packaged dinners from their orders) as you begin to cook for yourself. They also offer portion-control tools and recipes online to help with the transition.
When you are trying to lose weight, it doesn't get much easier than having nutritional, portion-controlled meals delivered straight to your doorstep, especially if you don't have a lot of free time. Nutrisystem Advanced meal plans are incredibly convenient and provide a short term solution to weight loss. If you are disciplined enough to maintain the same balanced diet once you stop the prepackaged meals, this could be a good plan for you. Otherwise, it will probably be a huge adjustment for you at the end of the program and you likely won't be able to maintain your weight. In a US News poll, 32% of dieters (518/1620) said the plan worked for them and they ranked it #5 among the Best Commercial Diets. Just be careful if you decide to sign up for auto-delivery to get 20% off your monthly shipments because you can incur substantial cancellation fees if you decide you don't like the food and want to stop the program.
Customer Responses, Reviews, or Complaints
a mistake I made years ago
Review submitted: 2015-01-20
The idea wasn't to lose weight, but to maintain it at my current musculature without consuming massive amounts of high protein foods and working like a plow horse. Honestly, I was looking for something that still doesn't yet exist, lol. Some sort of 'Freeze frame! Aaaand hold!" kind of program. If you don't put the work in you lose the muscle mass. I was trying to find a way to keep them and yet exercise more lightly. Of course Nutrisystem claimed that I would "maintain a healthy weight" by staying on their program.... but their index indicated I was overweight! I tried to cheat and consume more of their meals and shakes and whatnot, and work enough to compensate. Didn't work, I lost weight via decreasing muscle mass.
Scott Depot, WV
Review submitted: 2014-01-10
I was on the nutrisystem diet for 2 years. I started out great with my weight lose loosing roughly around 80lbs in the two year program. they coaching was great, someone would call me every week and tell me what to expect and what I would have to do to work at losing more weight and how much it would help me in the long run. I knew I had to support to do the Nutri-system weight loss program. the little things that they give you to get to your goal were great motivation.
the food is pretty good overall some things you have to put a little extra flavor to it. I am very pleased with the outcome of the food and the amount of food that you get.
Review submitted: 2014-01-08
Oh I could write a book about this weight loss program! I've been on this program three times in the last 3 years and it's simply the best one out there! It's all about the right food and consistency every day. And you eat great food, all your favorites, all the time! I wasn't used to eating so much at every meal and also having snacks in addition to that but got used to it really quick! The only problem is that you MUST plan ahead and stock up on a lot of vegetables or you could find yourself in a bad position by not having it on hand when the next meal comes. This disruption can eventually cause you to stray off your diet and reach for the bad foods. The only complaint I have is that, even though they have a large variety of food to chose from, and if your on this program for more than 2 months, you will get really tired of the same food! They need more items for sure! But it works for sure!
NutriSystem Diet Plan
Review submitted: 2013-11-10
Nutrisystem is a very good diet program. The meals taste good and it is reasonable priced. I lost 40 lbs on NutriSystem. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to lose weight and can afford to pay for the food plus all the extra veggies, fruits, breads, etc that you must buy when on NutriSystem. I think adding the frozen foods is a good thing that Nutrisystem has recently done. This is the easiest diet I've even tried. I would have stayed on it but I can't afford it any more since my financial situation has changed.
Weight Loss Program
Review submitted: 2013-09-20
I love the organized, meal plan weight loss programs. Everything is spelled out for you and they have great foods/menu to choose from. The support groups are great and the counseling is very good. Most of the time the food is good, but sometimes it is lacking in taste, especially the snacks. I like that its structured and monitored. The price can be a little expensive but if you're serious about losing weight its a good investment and you will see results. I just don't like the exercising. The meals are also great because you can take them to work or wherever you go.
El Sobrante, CA
My thoughts on Nutrisystem
Review submitted: 2013-08-12
I have always been overweight from when I was a teenager. I have never wanted to be rail-thin skinny just at a healthy bmi. So when I tried Nutrisystem I ended up very close to my goal weight. If I had exercised it would have helped me improve my weight loss. I liked Nutrisystem because the food actually tasted good, and not like cardboard filler. The food made me satisfied but not too full. The portions were just right and easy to store or take with me on outings. The only thing I disliked about Nutrisystem was the fact that my first package from them arrived two weeks later than expected. Other than that, it is a viable, cost efficient way to assist with losing weight. Better customer service is one suggestion for Nurtisystem as the person I spoke with was not helpful.
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