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Both Nutrisystem and Jenny Craig provide portion-controlled, reduced-calorie prepared meals and snacks. But they differ based on price, plan variety, and professional support.
Nutrisystem and Jenny Craig are two popular weight loss programs that have been around for decades.
Although the two companies offer similar services, many people wonder how they compare and whether one is better.
This article explores Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem’s similarities, differences, benefits, and downsides to help determine whether either program is right for you.
|Average monthly cost||$279–$690 |
(plus cost of additional groceries)
(plus cost of additional groceries)
|Basics||provides portion-controlled, reduced-calorie prepared meals and snacks||provides portion-controlled, reduced-calorie prepared meals and snacks|
|Peer or professional support||weight loss counselors available by phone||1-on-1 health coaching available with Max Up Weight Loss Plan|
|Meal plans||• Women’s|
|• Simple Meal Plan|
• Essential Meal Plan
• Max Up Weight Loss Plan
What is Nutrisystem?
Founded in 1972, Nutrisystem is a well-established weight loss program that offers monthly deliveries of portion-controlled, reduced-calorie prepared meals and snacks.
The program requires a monthly subscription that includes a meal plan and a selection of Nutrisystem’s reduced-calorie breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks. Members also get access to NuMi, an app that provides daily tips, smart reminders, and food and exercise tracking.
You can follow the program for as long as you like, and you have the option to cancel over the phone at any time.
What is Jenny Craig?
Jenny Craig was founded in 1983 in Australia and made its way to the United States in 1985.
Similar to Nutrisystem, Jenny Craig is a weight loss program that delivers portion-controlled, reduced-calorie prepared meals to your home.
The more money you spend, the more meals you get. With the highest priced plan, you also get personalized coaching. According to the company’s website, the plan’s goal is to help you lose 2 pounds (just under 1 kg) per week.
You can follow the Jenny Craig program for as long as you like, as it also offers a maintenance plan once you’ve reached your goal weight. You can cancel your membership by phone or email.
Nutrisystem has a Better Business Bureau (BBB) rating of A+ and is accredited by the BBB.
The messaging on the Nutrisystem website makes no promises about a specific amount of weight loss to expect in a given time frame.
Reviews for Nutrisystem are mixed. Many reviewers say they enjoyed the food items and found the plan to be a convenient way to lose weight.
However, other reviews are less favorable, with people complaining that the food is highly processed and overpriced, especially since you may still need to purchase fruits and vegetables to create balanced meals.
Unhappy customers also mention that they’ve experienced issues with unapproved credit card charges, incorrect delivery items, and difficulties canceling their subscriptions.
Jenny Craig has a BBB rating of A+ but is not accredited by the BBB.
Many customers appreciate that Jenny Craig is easy to follow and offers the option of one-on-one health coaching.
Several reviewers also note that they enjoy the taste of the prepared meals and packaged snack bars.
In contrast, unhappy customers mention that they disliked the taste of the food items and didn’t find the coaching helpful.
During Healthline’s vetting process, we noted that the company has been involved in several lawsuits. The most recent litigation concerned the company illegally sending unsolicited text messages to promote its services (1).
Nutrisystem and Jenny Craig are designed to support weight loss using meal planning and prepared meals.
Both programs offer a selection of calorie-controlled packaged meals and snacks that are delivered to your door. They also feature a range of plans at different price points — the more you pay, the more meals, snacks, and support you get.
The companies’ websites offer menus of meals and snacks and allow you to select the items you’ll enjoy the most.
However, the meals are not always well balanced. For example, a frozen meal may be macaroni and cheese, so you will need to add your own vegetables and fruit (and often extra protein) to create a complete meal.
Although Nutrisystem and Jenny Craig use the same general approach, they have a few key differences.
One significant difference between Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem is your access to personalized weight loss support.
Research suggests that diet and fitness plans may be more effective when paired with personalized coaching and accountability to help you stay on track (
Jenny Craig’s highest tier, the Max Up Weight Loss Plan, comes with weekly one-on-one weight loss coaching. For some, this feature may make the difference between successful weight loss and another failed diet attempt.
Jenny Craig has more than 600 centers around the world, where you can meet with a coach in person. They also offer appointments online or by phone.
Your coach will help you determine what calorie level to follow, based on your age, height, current weight, goal weight, and activity level.
However, Jenny Craig weight loss consultants aren’t required to have formal coaching credentials or experience, so their advice may not be evidence-based or reliable.
Coaches attend a training course developed by a dietitian, which covers the basics of nutrition, exercise, and behavior modification.
Nutrisystem doesn’t have any physical locations, but you can call and speak with the company’s team of weight loss counselors any day of the week.
Instead of coaching, Nutrisystem offers the NuMi app, which includes a journaling feature for logging your food and exercise.
Meal plan options
Nutrisystem and Jenny Craig also differ in the types of meal plans they offer.
Jenny Craig has three packages to choose from:
- Simple Meal Plan
- Essential Meal Plan
- Max Up Weight Loss Plan
The Simple Meal Plan is the most affordable and provides 14 breakfasts and 14 lunches each month. The other options are progressively more expensive and offer additional meals, snacks, and support.
Nutrisystem offers a more tailored meal plan structure, featuring six plans, each of which is available in three package sizes.
The plans currently available are:
Each plan includes a month’s worth of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. However, you can upgrade your plan to get a wider selection of menu items, including Premium Meals, which are designed to be higher in protein and contain more vegetables.
Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem use tiered pricing options to accommodate a range of budgets, though Nutrisystem generally costs less than Jenny Craig.
Depending on the plan and package you choose, Nutrisystem costs $279–$609 per month. You can save up to 50% by ordering 2 months’ worth of meals at a time and signing up for automatic delivery.
In comparison, Jenny Craig costs $420–$840 per month, depending on the meal plan you select. There’s also a shipping fee of $20–$30.
Keep in mind that, unlike Nutrisystem, the most basic Jenny Craig plan includes only breakfasts and lunches, so you’ll need to budget for additional groceries.
Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem may offer several potential benefits for people trying to lose weight.
May save time and simplify meal planning
As they provide shelf-stable or frozen meals and snacks, Nutrisystem and Jenny Craig can help you cut down on the amount of time you would otherwise spend grocery shopping, cooking, and even doing dishes.
What’s more, neither plan requires much time for meal planning or calorie counting.
For these reasons, the programs are appealing to people who have busy schedules or dislike cooking and grocery shopping.
May promote weight loss
Weight loss is complex. According to the National Institutes of Health, numerous factors — such as your genetics, hormones, medical conditions, socioeconomic status, environment, food intake, sleep habits, and stress level — may affect your ability to lose weight (
Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem focus on only the most basic aspect of weight loss: eating fewer calories than your body burns (
Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem meal plans provide roughly 1,200–1,500 calories per day, which is likely low enough to stimulate weight loss for most adults.
A review on the effectiveness of commercial weight loss programs found that Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem led to 4.9% and 3.8% more weight loss, respectively, than a control diet after 12 months (
However, it’s important to note that the quality of the research studies was mixed. Overall, more research is needed to investigate the effectiveness of both diets for weight loss and weight maintenance.
May improve blood sugar regulation
By supporting weight loss through portion-controlled meals, Nutrisystem and Jenny Craig may also help improve blood sugar regulation.
Research suggests that modest weight loss of 5–10% of your body weight may lead to significant improvements in blood sugar regulation (
One review found that Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem were associated with significant improvements in HbA1c (a measure of blood sugar regulation over time) over 12 and 6 months, respectively, in individuals with type 2 diabetes (
While Nutrisystem and Jenny Craig may offer a convenient way to lose weight, the plans also have several downsides that you may want to consider.
Evidence for long-term weight loss is limited
Nutrisystem and Jenny Craig may help you lose weight in the short term, but there is limited evidence to suggest that they’re effective for long-term weight loss and maintenance.
Both companies claim that they teach healthy habits to help people sustain a healthy weight, such as portion control and meal planning. They also include maintenance plans that you can transition into once you’ve reached your goal weight.
However, some people may find it difficult to plan healthy meals and stay within their calorie goal if they become reliant on the programs’ prepared meals and snacks.
Research also shows that a key component of weight loss maintenance is ongoing support, which is included only in the Jenny Craig Max Up Weight Loss Plan (
Finally, because the programs are pricey and low in calories and the food options can get repetitive, the programs are not realistic long-term diet solutions.
Diversity of meal options is lacking
Despite offering hundreds of meal and snack options, the companies’ menus lack culturally diverse menu options.
Instead, the packaged meals feature standard American-style dishes, such as hamburgers, scrambled eggs, pasta, chicken, pastries, and pizza.
The menus also don’t accommodate many dietary preferences or needs.
For example, while both programs offer a decent selection of vegetarian options, neither program is suitable for people following a vegan diet.
Finally, Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem are not suitable for people with severe food allergies or intolerances. Neither company offers allergen-free menus, and there is a risk of cross contamination because the items are processed in facilities that handle common food allergens.
Most meals are highly processed
Nutrisystem and Jenny Craig encourage a liberal intake of fresh vegetables. However, the companies’ premade meals consist of mostly ultra-processed ingredients, including refined grains and high sodium condiments.
Additionally, many of the meal options are low in fiber and contain no fruits or vegetables.
Frequent intake of highly processed foods has been associated with an increased risk of obesity, several chronic health conditions, and poorer nutritional status compared to diets rich in whole, minimally processed foods (
Nutrition recommendations aren’t personalized
For the most part, Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem operate on a one-size-fits-all model, with plans providing 1,200–1,500 calories per day.
Because the plans don’t account for individual factors such as body composition, age, sex, desired weight loss, and fitness goals, they often underestimate the number of calories your body actually needs to support healthy weight loss.
Jenny Craig’s Max Up Weight Loss Plan includes one-on-one coaching to better customize your experience. However, the coaches are not nutrition professionals and do not have the same education or credentials as registered dietitians.
The programs are expensive
Nutrisystem and Jenny Craig may be too expensive for many people.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average monthly cost of groceries is $298.80–$431.30 per adult in a 4-person household (11).
In comparison, the cheapest Nutrisystem plan costs $279 per month. The monthly price tag rises to $379.99 per month for the most expensive auto-delivery plan and spikes to $690.89 per month for a one-time delivery.
Jenny Craig’s general cost is even higher, at $420–$840 per month.
Also, keep in mind that the prices mentioned above cover only the meals you order from Nutrisystem or Jenny Craig. They do not account for additional groceries, such as vegetables, fruit, milk, and other items you’ll still need to buy each month.
While some people may find that the convenience is worth the extra cost, there are more affordable ways to eat healthier and lose weight.
The programs are not very eco-friendly
Another drawback of Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem is the amount of waste they produce.
The food items come individually packaged in cardboard boxes and plastic wrap. While the packaging is recyclable, the waste from these single-use packages adds up, contributing to your carbon footprint.
Trying to “do it right” when it comes to nutrition may feel tempting, but it can backfire.
If you are preoccupied with food or your weight, feel guilt surrounding your food choices, or routinely engage in restrictive diets, consider reaching out for support. These behaviors may indicate a disordered relationship with food or an eating disorder.
Disordered eating and eating disorders can affect anyone, regardless of gender identity, race, age, body size, socioeconomic status, or other identities.
They can be caused by any combination of biological, social, cultural, and environmental factors — not just by exposure to diet culture.
Feel empowered to talk with a qualified healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian, if you’re struggling. You can also chat, call, or text anonymously with trained volunteers at the National Eating Disorders Association helpline for free or explore the organization’s free and low cost resources.
There are many commercial weight loss programs on the market. Here’s a quick look at how Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem compare to their other main competitors:
|Jenny Craig||relies on portion-controlled, reduced-calorie prepared meals||$420–$840 per month (plus additional groceries)||premade frozen meals and snack bars||• meal plans|
• personal coaching at highest price tier
|Optavia Diet||relies on a low calorie, reduced carb program that combines packaged foods and homemade meals||$378–$423 per month (plus additional groceries)||• premade meals and snacks|
• low calorie, low carb homemade meals
|• personal coaching |
• community forums
|Noom||provides a mobile app to log your meals and help you reduce your calorie intake||$59 per month (plus groceries)||• color-coded system promoting foods with a low calorie density|
• no off-limits foods
|• food tracking app|
• virtual coaching
• behavior change education
• meal plans (additional fee)
|Nutrisystem||relies on portion-controlled, reduced-calorie prepared meals||$279–$690 per month (plus additional groceries)||premade frozen meals and snack bars||• meal plans|
• food tracking app
|Weight Watchers (WW)||provides a method to track food intake and reduce calories by staying within your PersonalPoints allotment||$22.95 per month (plus groceries)||• points value assigned to each food|
• daily points budget that you must stay within
• no off-limits foods
|• meal plans|
• food tracking app
• online and in-person support
• fitness programs
Despite some differences, Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem are ultimately very similar.
Either of these programs may be a good option for people who have difficulty limiting portion sizes and value the convenience of having prepared meals delivered right to their doorstep.
When choosing between the two, you’ll want to consider your budget, food preferences, and support needs.
While Nutrisystem is generally more affordable, Jenny Craig will be a better fit if you’re interested in receiving personalized health coaching — and can afford the monthly cost.
The programs’ food options are similar, though Nutrisystem offers more menu types, including a diabetes-specific plan and an option for couples.
You’re not likely to stick with a program if you dislike the food, so browse Nutrisystem’s and Jenny Craig’s menus to see which program better aligns with your food preferences.
Regardless of which plan you choose, it’s important to consider how you’ll maintain your weight loss once you discontinue the program.
For example, several meal planning apps, such as PlateJoy, offer curated meal plans and grocery lists to help you stay on track with your health goals.
Does Nutrisystem or Jenny Craig have better support?
Jenny Craig’s highest tier program offers weekly one-on-one support from a health coach, though the coaches are not credentialed health professionals.
In contrast, Nutrisystem does not have personalized coaching. Instead, Nutrisystem encourages members to use the NuMi app, which offers tools to support your weight loss efforts, such as food tracking, smart reminders, and daily tips.
Does Nutrisystem or Jenny Craig have better food?
Nutrisystem and Jenny Craig have mixed reviews on the taste and quality of their meals. The programs are similar in that they mostly offer highly processed snack bars and frozen meals.
Is Nutrisystem or Jenny Craig more effective for weight loss?
Limited research suggests that Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem are equally effective for weight loss for up to 12 months (
Jenny Craig’s highest priced plan offers one-on-one support, which has been shown to be an important factor for weight loss and maintenance.
However, as Jenny Craig is more expensive, Nutrisystem may be easier for some people to stick with longer.
Keep in mind that there’s currently no research to confirm whether these diets are effective for long-term weight loss and maintenance.
Nutrisystem and Jenny Craig are popular weight loss programs that deliver highly processed frozen and shelf-stable meals to your door.
The programs use a one-size-fits-all approach and may be effective for weight loss.
However, as the programs are expensive and rely on premade meals, neither Jenny Craig nor Nutrisystem is designed to be a sustainable weight loss solution.
If your goal is to form sustainable healthy behaviors and lifestyle changes, you may be better off investing your time and money to work with a registered dietitian.
Learn more about Nutrisystem or Jenny Craig by visiting their websites.