Pros: Easy to follow, plenty to eat, food preparation is easy and hassle-free
Cons: Some of the food is low-quality, plan is expensive, counselors are frequently not helpful
About 12 years ago a friend and I joined NutriSystem - it was back in the days when you went to the center (usually space in a strip mall) each week, attended a short class, weighed in with your counselor and picked and paid for your food for the next week. I was 22 at the time and had about 50 extra pounds that I had gained immediately upon quitting smoking. I lost that weight quickly and easily and enjoyed the NutriSystem plan at that time.
Several months ago, the same friend, who has since moved to North Carolina, emailed me and told me that she was thinking about trying the NutriSystem plan again, and mentioned that the centers had closed and everything was now being done online (ordering of food, etc.). I gave it some thought and decided that I would check out the diet plan. That same 50 pounds has slowly found its way back onto my body and I needed to lose it.
After researching the diet online, I decided to give it a try.
The Diet In A Nutshell:
The concept behind NutriSystem is calorie-controlled, portion-controlled eating. The diet consists of already-prepared food portions that are supplemented with fresh fruits, vegetables and dairy. Depending on how much you want to lose, you decide on a 1,000, 1,200 or 1,500 calories-per-day plan. You will then be allowed one breakfast meal, one lunch meal and one dinner meal. Depending on which calorie plan you are on, you will then also consume several portions per day of dairy (milk or yogurt), fruits and vegetables. For example, the person who is on the 1,500 calorie plan will consume more dairy, fruits and vegetables than the person who is on the 1,000 calorie plan - but no matter what calorie plan you are on, you will still eat just one breakfast, lunch and dinner meal. It is also recommended that you also eat an unlimited-in-size salad (with unlimited amounts of lettuce, spinach, hot peppers, green onions, mushrooms, celery and cucumbers) with both your lunch and dinner meal.
NutriSystem may be a good diet plan for you if you:
*Are single and don't like to cook for just yourself.
*Don't want a carbohydrate-restrictive diet.
*Have problems with portion control.
*Don't like diets that require you to count carbs, points and calories.
*Don't like to plan and shop for low-calorie meals.
*Don't have a lot of time to cook and/or eat.
*Don't like diet plans where attending weekly meetings is required (Weight Watchers, etc.)
NutriSystem may not be a good diet plan for you if you :
*Don't like prepared foods.
*Have a family to cook for.
*Are on a budget.
*Need or want a sodium-restrictive or carbohydrate-restrictive diet.
*Need or want the support that comes with attending weekly meetings.
How To Get Started:
There are two ways to start the NutriSystem plan. The first is to sign up at and custom-order your food from Nutrisystem.com. The second is to purchase a one, two, or four week plan from QVC, the home shopping channel. Purchasing from QVC does not allow you to choose your own meals - they will select them for you. You will also have to pay shipping charges. Purchasing from Nutrisystem.com has its advantages - not only are you able to select each meal and snack, but if you purchase a four-week plan, you will receive free shipping on that order. If you sign up with the "Auto Ship" program (which is free), you will get 10% off each four-week plan for your first three months, and then 15% off all future orders starting with your fourth month, as long as you stay on the "Auto-Ship" program.
You will need a credit card to purchase your food from Nutrisystem.com or from QVC. QVC will also allow you to pay by personal check.
When You Join NutriSystem:
Signing up at Nutrisystem.com is free. You should receive regular contact from the trained counselor to which you are assigned. He or she should answer any questions you may have and should provide support and encouragement.
You will have the opportunity to update your weight in your online personal profile as you lose. You can also update your goal, your diet start date, and other details of your diet.
As you reach each 10-pound milestone along the way to your goal, NutriSystem will send you a free NutriBear. These are like Beanie Babies, but each 10-pound milestone bear is a different color and has its goal embroidered on its chest (10, 20, 30, etc.).
With Each Shipment From NutriSystem, You Will Receive:
*Your food, with each meal and snack individually packaged.
*A checkbook-type monthly planner that allows you to check off each meal, snack, etc. as you consume them, and also has a section for you to make notes for each day.
*A list of each calorie plan (1,000, 1,200, and 1,500) and what meals and snacks are required for each plan.
*A list of "Grocery Food Additions". These are the items that you will need to purchase from your grocery store to supplement your prepared meals from NutriSystem (fruits, vegetables, dairy foods, salad dressings, etc.). This listing tells you how much of each food constitutes one serving, and explains the difference between vegetables and starchy vegetables.
*A catalog with pictures and descriptions of each NutriSystem meal and snack. This is helpful for planning your next month's meals.
All of the NutriSystem food is individually packaged, shelf-stable and requires no refrigeration or freezing. Some of the breakfast meals (pancake mix, muffins, granola bars, several varieties of cereal, etc.) are ready to eat - simply unwrap it and eat it. In the case of the pancake mix, just mix it with milk and cook them on the griddle. The breakfast meals, in my opinion, are flawless - the food is good quality, tastes great and is plentiful.
There is a wide variety of lunch meals to choose from - hot dogs and buns, turkey italian sausage and buns, soup, mix-with-water-and-microwave pasta, etc. One of the problems I ran into was that I was really hungry at lunch time, and one hot dog on a small bun was not enough. Eating fruit, salad and vegetables with it helped, but it was just simply not enough food for me. It was a struggle for me, on a daily basis, to not want to grab pretzels or something else from the snack machines at work to supplement my meal.
The dinner meals are plentiful and there is a dish for every palette. There are plenty to choose from here - beef tacos, thick crust plain pizza, salisbury steak, cheese ravioli, pot roast and potatoes, turkey breast and mashed potatoes, etc.
The main problem I ran into with the dinner meals was that nearly every time I opened up a meal (which mainly look like Lean Cuisine frozen dinners but are not frozen) that contained beef, I was faced with low-quality beef. How did I know it was low quality? Because there was connective tissue, veins, gristle, etc. in every bite. Not only was this extremely unappetizing, but it's hard to pick through the beef to rid it of the veins, gristle, etc. - more often than not, I would not eat one bite of beef and it would be in the trash.
Another problem with the dinner meals is that they don't always look appetizing. The companies like Stouffers and Healthy Choice can cook and then freeze their entrees while the food still looks good. NutriSystem does not enjoy this benefit and after their food is cooked, it is sealed to be shelf-stable - allowing the gravy to soak into the potatoes, etc. I like for my meals to look appetizing - and at times, the food can look very un-appetizing.
Snacks are plentiful on the NutriSystem plan. I was on the 1,200 calorie plan and was allowed one NutriSystem snack per day. The snacks are great and I always looked forward to them. Examples of these are: Brownies, Chocolate Decadence Bars (which taste like fudge, dipped in dark chocolate!), Cheese Curls (which taste like the full-fat junk food!), BBQ Fries (which are like Andy Capp Cheddar Fries!), Lemon Crisps, Pretzels, Microwave Popcorn, etc.
Because there are several servings of dairy, fruits and vegetables per day, I snacked in the morning, afternoon and evening - saving at least one serving of my dairy, fruit and vegetables for each snack.
For those who are lactose-intolerant or do not like milk or yogurt, NutriSystem also offers pre-made dairy substitute snacks for about 79 cents per portion. There are four choices here: BBQ Soy Chips, Chewy Fudge Bars, Chocolate Shakes and Hot Cocoa. You can also substitute small portions of chicken, steak, tuna, shrimp, as well as other seafoods, for your dairy. However, these are not included with the NutriSystem plan and must be purchased fresh at your supermarket.
NutriSystem also sells low-calorie gelatins, drinks and salad dressings, as well as vitamins, calcium and herbal supplements. These can be found online or in your food catalog included with your first order.
More On My Experience With NutriSystem:
I lost 25 pounds in the first two months that I was on the plan. This is not surprising, considering the fact that I had very bad eating habits. Because I'm single and live alone, it was very common for me to eat fast foods and convenience foods several nights per week. I was also a major snacker - I could easily eat a whole large bag of potato chips in two nights, and a box of cookies in two or three days. My boyfriend and I also went out to eat once per week or two weeks, and that wasn't helping. I also found myself eating very few fruits and vegetables.
I am no longer on the NutriSystem plan. There are three main reasons: The first is that I found myself growing very tired of the lunch and dinner meals. After experimenting with several of the lunch and dinner meals, I found that there were only about five or six of each that I ended up liking. In the second month, I relied heavily on these same items, and grew tired of them quickly. There came a time at the end of my time on the plan that I dreaded eating the food - and found myself eating a Lean Cuisine or Healthy Choice frozen entree instead.
The second reason is that I was having a hard time with the quality of some of the dinner meals (see my reference to the beef entrees earlier in this review).
The third reason is that this diet is expensive. My NutriSystem meals were about $180 per month, including the free shipping and 10% Auto-Ship discount. On top of that, I was spending another $25 minimum per week on fruits, vegetables, salad dressing, yogurt, milk, diet beverages and bottled water. This diet was costing me, on average, about $75 per week. That is way too much for one person to eat!
I had trouble getting in touch with my counselor. I emailed her once and never received a reply. I also heard from her only once - and that was when I first joined up with the plan.
I have also not received either of my NutriBears for my 10-pound and my 20-pound milestones. While NutriSystem claims that they will still provide support, counseling and your NutriBears even if you do not purchase their food, I have noticed that I have not heard one word from them since I called them to cancel my Auto-Ship order. I at least expected my counselor to call or email me to find out why I cancelled my future orders!
This diet is really a good choice if you meet several of the criteria I mentioned early in this review. I am a very picky eater and do not like many of the foods contained in the meals. This will not be the case for you if you like broccoli, seafood, and other foods that I don't like. :)
If you have any questions about the diet or the food, please feel free to email me or leave a comment - I will do my best to answer all questions.