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Nutrisystem: How the Diet Program Works

What to Expect on the Nutrisystem Plan


Updated March 24, 2014

Nutrisystem: How the Diet Program Works
Nutrisystem: How the Diet Program Works
Nutrisystem: How the Diet Program Works

Nutrisystem has been helping people lose weight for 40 years. The company sells portion-controlled, low-calorie foods to clients and provides online support to help them lose weight. With many different plans to choose from, Nutrisystem is a popular choice for many dieters. But is it the right plan for you?

Finding the best weight-loss program for you requires that you ask yourself key questions about your health, your budget and your dieting history.

By taking the time to evaluate the answers to these questions, you'll be able to define your own specific needs as a dieter. Then, evaluate Nutrisystem to see if this weight-loss program is right for you.

How the Nutrisystem Program Works

Nutrisystem provides a wide range of programs tailored to meet different clients' needs. There are separate programs for men and women, as well as options for vegetarians. The Silver Program focuses specifically on heart health. For clients who have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes there is a Nutrisystem D program.

The Nutrisystem plan consists of three components.

  • Nutrition: Clients choose from pre-packaged foods to achieve a low glycemic-index diet of about 1,200-1,500 calories per day on the basic plan. They receive monthly shipments of food that are chosen based on the level of membership they've purchased.
  • Activity: People who are on Nutrisystem are encouraged to exercise at least three times per day for at least 10 minutes per session. Clients can log their activity and get ideas for exercise on the Nutrisystem community website.
  • Transition: During the last part of the program, people learn to move from the weight-loss stage to the weight-maintenance stage. The At Home Tool Kit helps clients continue to monitor portion control and smart eating.

For clients who are working with a physician, the Nutrisystem program provides downloadable information for your doctor. There is also a section of the website specifically dedicated to providing information for healthcare providers.

Nutrisystem Costs

The cost of Nutrisystem depends on which plan you choose. Plans are purchased in monthly increments and include the cost of food, protein shakes and access to online support and tools. Some plans include the price of shipping. Heart-healthy Silver plans also include supplements. Prices for the various plans range from approximately $230 to $410 per month.

Plans designed for men and type 2 diabetics are generally more expensive options. In all categories, the plans that include Chef's Table entrees, which are Nutrisystem's gourmet cuisine, are on the higher end of the price scale. Choosing a month-to-month option will also cost more. Nutrisystem Auto-Delivery programs have built in monthly shipments of food and cost slightly less.

If you are considering purchasing a Nutrisystem plan, visit the website for current pricing. The company provides promotional offers that may affect the price. You might also want to check out Costco and QVC. Those vendors often sell discounted Nutrisystem gift cards and plans.

Nutrisystem Food

Nutrisystem provides fresh-frozen or shelf-stable entrées and snacks. Clients supplement those selections with their own vegetables, fruit and low-fat dairy products to provide total nutrition. Because the diet is based primarily on pre-packaged foods, this is a good program for people who don't have time to shop and prepare many weight-loss recipes.

Nutrisystem meal plans are low in calories, low fat, low glycemic index and consistent with national guidelines for general nutrition. Women on the basic plan try to reach a target intake of 1,200 calories, while men on the basic plan target an intake of 1,500 calories per day. Although some of the foods are relatively high in sodium, customers with specific health needs, such as sodium restriction, can work with a trained Nutrisystem counselor to customize their meal plans accordingly.

Food on the Nutrisystem plans include a wide variety of choices, including:

For breakfast:

  • Breakfast Vegetable Scramble
  • Sweetened O's Cereal
  • Apple Strudel Bar

For lunch:

  • Cheese Tortellini
  • Three Cheese Pasta with Chicken
  • Steak and Cheese Melt

For dinner:

  • Flatbread Pizza
  • Meat Lasagna
  • Chicken Alfredo

Protein drinks:

  • Sweet Strawberry
  • Smooth Vanilla
  • Refreshing Coffee
  • Creamy Chocolate

Nutrisystem Support

All Nutrisystem weight-loss plans give customers access to a variety of printed, online and mobile resources, as well as email and telephone counseling. The company recently revamped its online support community to make it more accessible and easier to navigate. Clients can connect with other dieters, log activities, find recipes or contact a counselor on the site.

Nutrisystem no longer maintains traditional brick-and-mortar locations. Although live support is available online and over the phone, this may not be the best program for dieters who are looking for face-to-face support or group meetings. But for people who are comfortable using online tools, Nutrisystem may be a good plan to consider.

Pros and Cons of Nutrisystem

Several reputable sources have reviewed Nutrisystem, including Consumer Reports, US News and World Report, and ConsumerSearch.com. There are consistencies in these reviews about some pros and cons of the program.


  • Ease and convenience. Nutrisystem is easy and convenient. Most of the work related to food choice and preparation is eliminated. Ordering food and contacting a weight loss consultant can be done conveniently online. US News and World Report ranked Nutrisystem as the sixth easiest diet to follow and the fifth best commercial diet plan.
  • Cost. The Nutrisystem plan can cost less than its most closely paired competitor, Jenny Craig. However, the cost of the program depends on which plan you choose and on the delivery option you sign up for.


  • Taste. In a Consumer Reports examination of both Nutrisystem and Jenny Craig foods, Jenny Craig edged out Nutrisystem in terms of taste, but only by a small margin. According to the source, the food on both plans lacked taste.
  • Tricky Transition. Since dieters don't learn many food preparation and food selection skills during the weight loss phase on the Nutrisystem plan, transitioning to the weight management phase can be tricky. Nutrisystem does offer a tool kit, but clients will be faced with learning new a new set of skills in order to keep the weight off.

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