Nutrisystem is a popular weight loss program that offers specially formulated, prepackaged, low calorie meals.

Although many people report weight loss success from the program, Nutrisystem can be expensive, restrictive, and unsustainable over the long term.

This article reviews Nutrisystem, how to follow it, its benefits and downsides, and the foods you can and can’t eat on the diet.

DIET REVIEW SCORECARD
  • Overall score: 1.8
  • Weight loss: 2.5
  • Healthy eating: 1.0
  • Sustainability: 1.0
  • Whole body health: 2.5
  • Nutrition quality: 2
  • Evidence-based: 2.5

BOTTOM LINE: Nutrisystem will likely help you lose weight in the short term, but it’s expensive and restrictive. It also encourages a regular intake of highly processed foods. Plus, there’s little research on its long-term success.

Nutrisystem is a popular weight loss program that’s been around since the 1970s.

The premise of the diet is simple: Eat six small meals per day to help prevent hunger — theoretically making it easier to lose weight. By limiting the calories in your meals, you can lose weight via calorie restriction.

The program boasts that it can help women lose up to 13 pounds (6 kg) and men lose up to 18 pounds (8.2 kg) in the first month, and some people have reported weight loss success from the diet (1).

To make the calorie restriction process easier, Nutrisystem provides several of your meals for you. These meals are either frozen or shelf-stable, but fully cooked and only require reheating. Nutrisystem also provides shakes that you can use for snacks.

Example meals include:

  • Breakfast: multigrain cereal with skim milk, banana
  • Snack 1: protein shake made with skim milk
  • Lunch: turkey and cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread
  • Snack 2: whole grain crackers and cheese
  • Dinner: baked salmon, brown rice, salad with vinaigrette dressing
  • Snack 3: 2–4 squares of dark chocolate
Summary

Nutrisystem is a diet program that provides premade meals and snacks to help make it easier to lose weight through a calorie deficit.

Nutrisystem offers several plans, each of which varies in terms of price, menu choices, and the number of meals included. Here’s a closer look at the starting prices for each plan (2):

MenWomen
Basic Plan
Basic Diabetes Plan
$11.63/day$9.99/day
Uniquely Yours
Uniquely Yours Diabetes Plan
Vegetarian Plan
$12.87/day$11.57/day
Uniquely Yours MAX+• $14.28/day for 5 days of meals and snacks
• $16.48/day for 7 days of meals and snacks
• $12.98 for 5 days of meals and snacks
• $15.20/day for 7 days of meals and snacks
Uniquely Yours Ultimate Diabetes Plan$14.99/day$13.74/day
Complete Plan$6.14/day for 6 months of meals and snacks$5.82/day for 6 months of meals and snacks

Free shipping is included for all the plans listed above.

The company also sells protein shakes, which cost around $2.85 per serving. Other add-ons are available at an additional cost, including snack and side dish bundles.

Nutrisystem also offers a money-back guarantee for all new customers. According to its website, if you aren’t satisfied with your purchase, you can call a toll-free number and return any remaining food to receive a full refund, minus shipping.

Keep in mind that this only applies to your first order and is limited to first-time customers who purchase a new 4-week plan.

Summary

Nutrisystem offers many plans, which vary in price. It also has several add-ons available and provides a money-back guarantee for new customers.

Nutrisystem is a 4-week program. However, you can repeat the 4-week program as many times as you like.

On Nutrisystem, you should aim to eat six small meals per day, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, and three snacks.

Several of these will be frozen meals or shakes that are provided by Nutrisystem and designed to be nutritionally balanced, providing a combination of fiber, protein, and fats.

Week 1 is a bit different from the remainder of the program. During this week, you eat 3 meals, 1 snack, and 1 specially formulated Nutrisystem shake per day. According to the company, this regimen supposedly prepares your body for weight loss success.

However, during the remaining 3 weeks, you should aim to eat six times per day. For meals and snacks that are not provided by Nutrisystem, the company recommends choosing lean, low calorie, and low sodium options.

Each week, you’re also allowed a total of up to eight “Flex Meals” — 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 2 dinners, and 2 snacks — to account for meals that may not be ideal for weight loss but may be part of a holiday or special occasion.

You can also use the free NuMi app provided by Nutrisystem for meal planning guidance.

The NuMi app, which is available on both Google Play and the Apple App Store, offers several unique features, including:

  • tracking for both Nutrisystem meals and regular foods
  • weight logs to monitor your progress
  • daily reminders for water intake, exercise, and meal logging
  • free resources, including recipes, tips, and informational articles
  • challenges, contests, and special offers from Nutrisystem

Specialized programs

Nutrisystem offers several meal plans that cater to specific dietary needs. These meal plans feature the following pricing tiers:

  • Basic: least expensive and provides 5 days of food per week with 100+ menu choices
  • Uniquely Yours: most popular and provides 5 days of food per week with 150+ menu choices
  • Uniquely Yours Max+: most expensive and provides 5 or 7 days of food per week with 160+ menu choices and premium meals

You can also select your own meal plan. The meal plans offered by Nutrisystem include:

  • Standard. The standard Nutrisystem plan is targeted toward weight loss and contains a variety of popular meals and snacks.
  • Men’s Plans. The Men’s Plans from Nutrisystem are the same as the standard plans listed above but contain additional snacks each week.
  • Nutrisystem D. These plans are for people who have type 2 diabetes. These meals are high in protein and fiber, with a focus on foods that won’t cause rapid blood sugar spikes.
  • Vegetarian Plan. This meal plan contains no meat but features dairy products, so it’s not appropriate for people following a vegan diet.
  • Partner Plan. With this plan, you can order meals from the Uniquely Yours menu for two people.
Summary

Nutrisystem is a 4-week, low calorie, nutritionally balanced diet program. There are special menu options for women, men, people with diabetes, and people following a vegetarian diet.

Once you select which Nutrisystem plan you’d like to purchase, you’ll be asked to provide basic information to create an account, including your name, address, email, and phone number.

You can also input your sex, height, and current weight, which are used to provide recommendations for personalized plans on the NuMi app.

Next, you’ll be prompted to build your menu by choosing which items you’d like to receive. Items are sorted into categories by meal, and you can view the nutrition facts, ingredients, reviews, and preparation required for each dish.

If you chose Chef’s Choice, Nutrisystem will select an assortment of its highest rated meals and snacks for you.

Keep in mind that the number of menu selections available can vary depending on the plan that you select. For example, the Basic plan offers at least 100 items to choose from, while the Uniquely Yours Max+ provides over 160 options.

Once you’ve completed your purchase, your order can take up to 5 days for processing and delivery. After your first order, shipments are delivered every 4 weeks.

In addition to the provided meals, Nutrisystem also recommends adding varying amounts of certain grocery items to your weekly menu, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy products, and lean proteins.

Specific recommendations are available based on your personalized plan and can be found in the NuMi app.

Additionally, Nutrisystem encourages you to aim for 150 minutes of physical activity per week as part of the weight loss program. However, exercise is not required on any plan.

Summary

To get started with Nutrisystem, you should select a plan and choose items from their menu. Nutrisystem also provides guidance on physical activity and which foods you should add to your diet on their app.

Below are some guidelines regarding what you can and can’t eat while following Nutrisystem.

Foods to eat

While on Nutrisystem, the majority of your meals and snacks are provided for you.

You’ll receive four meals — breakfast, lunch, dinner, and one snack — for 5 or 7 days each week, depending on which plan you select. As such, you’d need to add two snacks each day for 5 days.

You’ll also need to provide all six meals for the remaining 2 days if you choose a plan that provides just 5 days of meals.

In addition to the prepackaged meals provided, here are the foods you can eat on Nutrisystem (3):

  • Proteins: lean meats, legumes, nuts, seeds, tofu, meat substitutes
  • Fruits: apples, oranges, bananas, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, tomatoes, avocados
  • Vegetables: salad greens, spinach, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, cabbage, asparagus, mushrooms, turnips, radishes, onions
  • Fats: cooking spray, plant-based (lower calorie) spreads or oils
  • Dairy: skim or low fat milk, low fat yogurts, reduced-fat cheeses
  • Carbs: whole grain breads, whole grain pastas, sweet potatoes, brown rice, oats

Foods to avoid

While no foods are strictly off-limits, Nutrisystem recommends choosing foods listed in its Grocery Guide. Foods not listed include mostly high calorie, high fat foods, such as (3):

  • Proteins: battered or fried proteins, fatty cuts of meat
  • Fruits: fruit-based desserts like pies and cobblers
  • Vegetables: fried vegetables
  • Fats: liquid oils, butter, lard
  • Dairy: ice cream, full fat milk, yogurt, or cheeses
  • Carbs: pastries, cakes, cookies, french fries, potato chips, refined breads and pastas (made with white flour)
Summary

Nutrisystem encourages lean, low calorie, and high fiber choices. Foods that are high in calories, fat, or both should be avoided on this diet.

Many Nutrisystem meals and snacks have mixed reviews from customers.

While some enjoy the wide selection of options and unique flavors available, others note that reheating certain frozen dishes can cause undesirable changes in taste or texture.

You can view reviews for specific items when building your menu. You can also sort items to view the top-rated dishes.

A few of the items with the highest ratings on the Nutrisystem menu include:

  • Classic Hamburger
  • Buttermilk Waffles
  • Artichoke and Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breast
  • Mushroom Parmesan Soup with Chicken
  • Cinnamon Roll
  • Italian Sausage and Turkey Pepperoni Pizza
Summary

While many enjoy the flavor of Nutrisystem meals and snacks, some note that reheating can alter the taste and texture. When placing your order, you can check the reviews for specific items on the menu.

This 2-day sample menu outlines what the “basic” Nutrisystem plan may be like.

Day 1

  • Breakfast: Nutrisystem Cranberry and Orange Muffin
  • Snack 1: strawberries and low fat yogurt
  • Lunch: Nutrisystem Hamburger
  • Snack 2: celery and almond butter
  • Dinner: Nutrisystem Chicken Pot Pie
  • Snack 3: Nutrisystem S’mores Pie

Day 2

  • Breakfast: Nutrisystem Biscotti Bites
  • Snack 1: apple and peanut butter
  • Lunch: Nutrisystem Spinach and Cheese Pretzel Melt
  • Snack 2: baby carrots and hummus
  • Dinner: Nutrisystem Cheesesteak Pizza
  • Snack 3: Nutrisystem Ice Cream Sandwich
Summary

This sample meal plan can be used to help you with meal planning on your Nutrisystem diet.

Nutrisystem — like most diet plans — may aid short-term weight loss.

If the diet is followed closely, you’ll consume an average of 1,200–1,500 calories per day — which, for most people, is a calorie deficit that will result in weight loss (4).

The Nutrisystem website states that you can expect to lose 1–2 pounds (0.5–1 kg) per week if you follow the diet, and that men can lose up to 18 pounds (2.25 kg) the first month (1).

This finding was based on the results of a study that was funded by Nutrisystem and not published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

In this study in 84 adults, those on Nutrisystem lost twice as much weight as people on the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet after 4 weeks (5).

The same study found that the average weight loss after 12 weeks on Nutrisystem was 18 pounds (8 kg) (5).

An older study in 69 adults with type 2 diabetes found that those following Nutrisystem lost significantly more weight in 3 months than those in a control group who received diabetes education but no specialized diet program (6).

Still, most of the studies involving Nutrisystem are older, and research on long-term weight maintenance after doing Nutrisystem is lacking.

Summary

Nutrisystem appears to be effective for short-term weight loss. However, little research has been conducted on its long-term effects.

Additional benefits of the Nutrisystem program include its convenience and potential to improve blood sugar control, especially in people with type 2 diabetes.

May improve blood sugar control

Nutrisystem foods are made with low glycemic index (GI) ingredients, meaning they affect your blood sugar less significantly than other foods.

The GI is a scale of 0–100 that ranks foods based on how quickly they increase your blood sugar levels. For example, glucose — the sugar your body uses for energy — has a GI of 100, while strawberries, which contain a little natural sugar, have a GI of 40 (7).

Nutrisystem meals are made with high fiber, high protein ingredients, which helps lower the GI of these foods. However, there’s no information online regarding the exact GI scores of Nutrisystem foods.

Moreover, there’s some debate about whether the GI is a valid system. It categorizes some less nutritious foods as low GI and some healthier choices as high GI. For example, ice cream has a lower GI score than pineapple (7, 8).

How quickly a food increases your blood sugar can also be affected by the other foods you eat with it. While GI can be a valuable tool, it has some limitations (7).

Still, Nutrisystem D — the high protein, low GI plan for people with diabetes — has been shown to improve blood sugar control significantly more than a diabetes education program without accompanying meals over 3 months in one 2009 study (6).

Convenience

Because it provides most of your meals, Nutrisystem can be a convenient way to lose weight. While many weight loss programs require you to cook at home more, Nutrisystem can save you time by using prepared options.

Thus, people who are busy or those who dislike cooking may prefer Nutrisystem as it requires less meal planning, cooking, and grocery shopping than other weight loss programs.

Summary

Nutrisystem is a convenient diet program because most of your meals are provided for you, requiring only reheating. The program may also help with short-term blood sugar management.

Despite some benefits, Nutrisystem has a number of potential downsides.

The first is the price. The program starts at around $10 per day, which is nearly $300 for a 4-week plan. The higher-priced plans cost even more than this. For many people, this is cost-prohibitive — especially if they need to do more than one round of the program.

Additionally, the program is not sustainable. Most people don’t want to eat a diet mainly consisting of frozen meals over the long term. Plus, the average calorie intake on Nutrisystem works out to approximately 1,200–1,500 calories per day, which can be excessively restrictive for some people (4).

Due to the hormonal changes that occur with highly restrictive, low calorie diets — especially in the long term — highly restrictive diets may lead to increased food cravings, more hunger, and rebound weight gain (9, 10).

For this reason, it’s best to choose a dietary pattern that encourages nutrient-rich foods and a moderate reduction in calories that’s easier to maintain in the longer term (11).

Moreover, Nutrisystem is not feasible for people on specialized diets. Although there’s a vegetarian plan, there are no vegan, dairy-free, or gluten-free options.

Finally, although the Nutrisystem meals are low in calories, they’re highly processed. Diets containing large amounts of highly processed foods are linked to higher rates of obesity and chronic disease. For optimal health, it’s best to choose whole, minimally processed foods (12, 13, 14).

Summary

Nutrisystem can be expensive and excessively restrictive. The meals included in the program are also highly processed and unsuitable for those following a vegan, dairy-free, or gluten-free diet.

Nutrisystem is a long-standing diet program that offers premade meals. It’s convenient and may lead to short-term weight loss, along with improvements in blood sugar control.

However, it can be expensive and excessively restrictive. Nutrisystem meals and snacks are also highly processed and unsuitable if you follow a vegan, dairy-free, or gluten-free diet.

Although some people find weight loss success with Nutrisystem, there are other, more sustainable ways to lose weight and keep it off.