by Valerie Kirk
If you haven’t touched a stove since your high school home economics class, Nutrisystem is the leading diet for the non-Betty Crocker set. All meals, snacks, and desserts are prepackaged and easy to prepare.
Members pay for 28 days worth of meals at a time. Nutrisystem has the largest selection of prepackaged meals out of all major diet programs, with over 150 food choices.
Unlike Jenny Craig, most of Nutrisystem's meals are shelf-stable as opposed to frozen. Shelf-stable meals are very convenient as they don't need refrigeration. Unfortunately, they also don't taste as good, which can be a big problem if you're a Nutrisystem dieter.
Is Nutrisystem Effective? Yes.
A recent survey conducted by National Business Research Institute in 2009 found that Nutrisystem customers lost an average of 30 pounds over an average of 18 weeks compared to self-dieters who lost an average of 20 pounds over an average of 13.5 weeks. If you can stick with eating the Nutrisystem food, you’ll lose weight.
*For all of these programs, the discounted price is only offered when enrolled in the Auto-Delivery option! The programs also require you to prepare your own Lunch and Dinner 1 day per week.
Nutrisystem Basic: Month-to-month plan featuring a Favorites Pack, a pre-selected collection of 28 days worth of shelf-stable foods.
Nutrisystem Core: Customizable menu with 28 days worth of shelf-stable food and phone counseling
Nutrisystem Uniquely Yours: Customizable menu with 28 days worth of either shelf stable or fresh-frozen foods and phone counseling
Nutrisystem for Men: Members can choose from Basic, Core, or Uniquely Yours which feature 28 days worth of meals (including 1 extra snack per day). The fresh-frozen option is only available with the Uniquely Yours plan.
Nutrisystem Diabetes: Type 2 Diabetes members can choose the Basic, Core, or Uniquely Yours options which feature 28 days of low-glycemic meals and phone support with Diabetes counselors. The fresh-frozen option is only available with the Uniquely Yours plan.
Nutrisystem Vegetarian: Members can choose Basic or Core which feature 28 days worth of vegetarian, shelf-stable foods. Whether you choose the pre-selected Favorites pack or the Custom Menu, the price is the same.
Nutrisystem for Teens: Designed for ages 14-17 and is only available via phone with parent/guardian approval form
Transition and Maintenance Programs
Nutrisystem does offer Transition and Maintenance programs such as Weekends My Way®, Dinners My Way®, Just Lunch and Snacks™, Success a la Carte.
Dinners My Way allows members to choose from Core (shelf stable foods only) or Uniquely Yours (shelf-stable and fresh-frozen foods) and only gives you breakfasts, lunches, and snacks. Members prepare their own dinners every night.
Just Lunch and Snacks allows dieters to have a few pre-packaged options throughout the day, but enjoy their own home-cooked breakfasts and dinners.
Weekends My Way offers 20 days worth of Nutrisystem foods but frees up your weekends to come up with your own breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.
Nutrisystem A La Carte features access to all foods from the Nutrisystem menu and is best for people no longer interested in a structured meal plan and would prefer to eat mostly their own non-Nutrisystem foods. Benefits include a 20% discount and free shipping and handling.
Nutrisystem 2016 Changes
For the new year, Nutrisystem incorporated the Turbo10 shake program. All new members receive 14 probiotic shakes and 7 breakfasts, 7 lunches, and 7 dinners, designed to jumpstart your weight loss and improve digestive health.
Some of the highlights of their new menu:
- On the "Uniquely Yours" plans, there are no longer any limitations on the amount of shelf-stable meals vs frozen meals
More than half of this year's menu items are brand new or have had their recipes changed, concentrating on avoiding artificial colors, flavors, or sweeteners, and including more whole grains.
Exercise on Nutrisystem
Nutrisystem also incorporates an activity element called the My Daily 3® plan and is designed to encourage dieters to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day. They recommend either breaking it down to 2-3 exercises or 1 whole 30-minute workout. With their dieting and activity app, NuMi, members are given a 2-week activity agenda and can update it accordingly.
Shake 360 is a new plan designed exclusively around their new gluten-free, dairy-free, nutritional shakes. The 28-day plan gives you 2 shakes a day and advises you to prepare your own healthy, low-fat dinner. The Fresh Start bonus is a 3-day plan that combines shakes, tea, and protein-packed granola to assist in staving off hunger.
Nutrisystem's on Amazon
Nutrisystem is now selling some of its products on Amazon.com, specifically a shelf-stable line of snacks and food packs. Items include the On-the-Go Bar Variety Packs, 5-day weight loss kits, Milk Chocolate Smoothie packs, and many more.
Although not as pricey as Jenny Craig, a basic Nutrisystem 4-week plan costs $279.99. Of course, you’re required to sign up for the auto-delivery feature to receive this price, otherwise it's usually $423.06.
The Nutrisystem Uniquely Yours plans feature a wider selection of foods and will set you back $ $334.99 with Auto-Delivery and $515.37 without Auto-Delivery. These prices are for the programs available for women, the costs vary and may increase for Men, Nutrisystem D for Diabetics, and the Vegetarian Plan.
Newbies may not realize that Nutrisystem food is designed to be complemented with around 6 servings of vegetables and fruits every day, adding an additional cost to your monthly food budget. You’ll want to factor this in when contemplating the program’s price tag, as six servings of fresh produce will add an additional $3-9 to your daily cost.
And don't forget, every Nutrisystem program requires dieters to cook their own Lunch and Dinner once a week. So take that into consideration before doing your weekly food shopping.
After you place your order, your selections arrive in six to 10 days. For all plans, shipping is $19.99, unless you are signed up for auto-delivery (which commits you for more than one month).
Purchasing Online vs. Buying by Phone
Dieters that place their orders with a live person via phone have complained that the customer service rep immediately launched into a high-pressure sales pitch to upgrade the member to a pricier plan. If you'd prefer to steer clear of this kind of sales experience, it’s best to order your plan online.
Nutrisystem Food: What to Expect
Lots of shelf-stable items (pouched food that doesn't require refrigeration), with some frozen meals available as well for the more expensive plans. The shelf-stable meals are more convenient (no refrigeration), but most Nutrisystem dieters much prefer the taste and texture of the frozen meals.
Although there are several major diet programs that rely on prepackaged food, one aspect that sets Nutrisystem apart is that the program allows you to tailor the diet to your age, sex, and food restrictions. Special programs include Nutrisystem Men, Nutrisystem D (diabetic), and Nutrisystem Vegetarian.
It’s a no-brainer diet—perfect for the time-crunched or dieters that view counting carbs and calories as culinary punishment. You’ll be eating often throughout the day to prevent food cravings and keep your metabolism humming. And carb lovers will appreciate that no food group is deemed evil on this plan. In fact, Nutrisystem’s low-calorie pasta dinners and chocolate snacks can keep carb-lusters from falling off the diet wagon.
Because many dieters have complained that the meals are far from a flavor sensation (not a good one, anyway) in January 2016, Nutrisystem added over 16 new menu items to win over naysayers, including Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars and Ravioli with Meat Sauce.
Life on prepackaged food works in the short-term, but sooner or later you’re going to have to attend a family gathering, getaway, or office dinner, and whipping out a microwave dinner at your sister’s wedding isn’t going to fly. Using Nutrisystem to lose the bulk of your weight is a solid plan, but for lifelong maintenance eventually you’ll need to learn how to integrate food that doesn’t come in a box.
While Nutrisystem does have online support and a toll free number available to members, it doesn’t have the in-person support some dieters require (like Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers). But if you don’t have problems with emotional eating and you’d prefer to be a weight-loss lone wolf, you’ll enjoy the no-fuss system that requires zero time commitment.
You may find that joining the site’s online community and accessing the online tools are all you need to stay on track. Most notable: their mobile app called NuMi, which is now offered to all members. NuMi can track and catalogue foods, the My Daily 3 exercise routines, and weight loss progress.
Nutrisystem also provides first-timers with a Quick Start guide, Eating Out Guide, and their new online article-database called The Leaf, which provides recipes, tips, and weight loss inspiration.
The Bottom Line
If you’re short on time and want to lose weight without counting points or calories, Nutrisystem makes dieting automatic. There are no meetings or weigh-ins to attend, so busy dieters don’t have to slow down their lives to speed up their weight loss. But compared to diets like Jenny Craig and South Beach, Nutrisystem’s food is less than stellar. And the cost of Nutrisystem can leave your wallet feeling the burn, so make sure you can afford the monthly membership, the Nutrisystem meals and delivery charges. And don't forget to add on the cost of your fruit, dairy, and veggies that you'll have to buy at the supermarket.
At a glance: Is Nutrisystem the diet for me?
• You don’t want to spend time counting carbs, calories, or points.
• You’re too time-crunched to attend meetings or counseling sessions.
• You hate to cook.
• You don’t want to eliminate any “naughty foods” from your life completely.
• You’ve got special dietary needs (vegetarians, diabetics).
• You’re on a tight budget.
• You’re a health newbie and could use peer support or a counselor.
• You spend a lot of time dining out or attending social events.
• You’ve never found a Lean Cuisine or Healthy Choice frozen dinner that rubbed you the right way.
IF YOU DECIDE TO SIGN UP FOR NUTRISYSTEM, READ THE "FINE PRINT" FIRST, WHICH IS SUMMARIZED BELOW:
What is Nutrisystem’s Money Back Guarantee?
Within 14 days, if you’re not 100% satisfied, call 1-800-727-8046 and send back the remainder of meals for a full refund. Return shipping costs are also covered. This guarantee only applies to the first order of any 28 day program.
What is Nutrisystem’s Return Policy?
Within 30 days of shipment you may return any unused, non-frozen Nutrisystem food item. Shipping is not included and you must call 1-800-585-5483 for a Return Authorization Number (RMA#) which is required for each package returned. It takes four to six weeks for the return to be processed and the refund to hit your account. Frozen food items are not returnable or refundable.
What are the Delivery Options for Nutrisystem?
Unless you choose the auto-delivery option, shipping is charged every time. For all orders, shipping costs $19.99 and takes 4-10 business days. If you are not available to accept your food upon delivery, your frozen items will be packed on special ice packs and placed inside an insulated bag to keep for approximately 4 to 6 hours.
If you add any Nutrisystem item a la carte, such as, ready-to-go foods, supplements, and ready-to-go sampler packs to your Auto-Delivery order, bear in mind that they will continue to ship with each Auto-Delivery order until you edit and remove the selections!
Early Cancellation of Auto-Delivery Option:
According to Nutrisystem’s website:
"You may cancel your Auto-Delivery program at any time before 6:00 p.m. EST the day before your order is scheduled to be processed by calling 1-877-338-8446. If you cancel after the 14 day money back guarantee period and prior to paying for your second consecutive 4 week order, you are authorizing us to charge the debit card or credit card we have on file for you a $99.00 cancellation fee.
Early cancellation fees vary based on the Auto-Delivery program purchased and you will be provided with the cancellation fee at time of purchase. For all 4 week orders, your payment method will be charged a $19.99 shipping fee (1) if you cancel after your order has been processed; and (2) if you refuse the order at time of delivery."
"Customers may purchase any number of frozen food selections and add them to any auto-delivery program order and will receive free shipping on these additional frozen food selections above $50.00. Shipping charges in the amount of $20.00 shall apply on additional frozen food selections less than $50.00. Frozen food variety packs are not included. "
According to Nutrisystem’s website:
“Although Nutrisystem has taken every reasonable measure to have sufficient inventory to fill your order, availability of product(s) may change without notice. Nutrisystem is not responsible for unavailability of product due to popular demand, whether discontinued or still in production. In the completion of orders, Nutrisystem reserves the right to substitute a similar product.
In a nutshell, Nutrisystem may run out of particular food items and change your order accordingly. Many clients on Nutrisystem have complained that the company makes liberal substitutions to their meals often. This is certainly one drawback if you have food allergies. Nutrisystem recommends that since “substituted food items may contain different ingredients and allergens than those in items originally ordered….be sure to carefully check all individual product packages…"
Supplemental Grocery Items:
The typical Nutrisystem day has clients eating their own added grocery foods in conjunction with pre-packaged meals. For example, a large side salad to go alongside your Macaroni and Cheese or a yogurt to pair with your Nutrisystem breakfast muffin. This means the average monthly bill on Nutrisystem doesn’t take into account the dairy, fruits, and vegetables you must buy from your supermarket.
Nutrisystem also requires members to prepare 1 Lunch and 1 Dinner every week for themselves. This goes for all 4-week plans for Men and Women.
The prices listed below are for Women's programs. Men's programs are available at different costs.
Nutrisystem Basic Plan Fine Print:
The cheapest plan offered through Nutrisystem is called Basic and normally costs $274.99 with Auto-Delivery and $423.06 without Auto-Delivery. The Basic plan features Nutrisystem’s Favorites Pack, which is 28 days of shelf-stable food.
The Favorites Pack is a collection of customer favorites, but if you suffer from food allergies or an aversion for particular foods, etc, you"ll have to upgrade this plan. Full customization of the Basic plan costs an additional $19.99.
Nutrisystem Core Plan Fine Print:
The second tier of the Nutrisystem program is called Core. This option costs $294.99 with Auto-Delivery and $453.83 without Auto-Delivery. The menu for the Core plan consists of 28 days of only shelf-stable food and is fully customizable.
Nutrisystem Uniquely Yours Plan Fine Print:
The third option on Nutrisystem is called Uniquely Yours. At $334.99 with Auto-Delivery and at $515.37 without Auto-Delivery, this is the most expensive plan available. However this is the only plan that will allow members to fully customize their menu and mix and match any selection of ready-to-go and fresh-frozen foods.
related article: HOW TO LOSE WEIGHT with SUPERMARKET FROZEN MEALS