by Maria Adams, MS, MPH, RD
The NutriSystem diet entails eating mainly prepackaged NutriSystem meals until you reach your desired weight. For around $360-$420, you get 28 days worth of entrees, snacks, and desserts delivered to your home. The average subscriber to this plan loses 2 pounds per week and stays on the program for 10 weeks.
How Is This Diet Supposed to Work? TOP
The premise of this diet is that eating a controlled amount of foods with a low-glycemic index will help you lose weight. The glycemic food index gives carbohydrate-rich foods a score based on how quickly 1 serving raises your blood sugar. Research suggests that eating foods with a low-glycemic index can help control hunger by keeping you full longer. The NutriSystem diet is made up of about 50% low-glycemic carbohydrates, 25% protein, and 20% fat.
What’s Involved? TOP
On this diet you will eat mostly prepackaged NutriSystem meals, including entrees, snacks, protein-rich shakes, and desserts. You will also need to supplement with grocery items such as dairy products, fruits, and vegetables. This diet staggers meal times to help prevent hunger, so you end up eating 5 times a day.
You begin this diet by selecting the program that best meets your needs: Women’s, Men’s, Silver for Women, Silver for Men, Type 2 Diabetes, or Vegetarian. You can then either let NutriSystem select your meals or you can choose for yourself. Standard programs, such as Women's or Men's, offer over 300 different meals to choose from. But subscribers to the other programs have a more limited selection. For example, the vegetarian program lets you choose from about 60 entrees and desserts.
Once you enroll in a program, the meals that you select will be delivered to your home. The meals are designed to be quick and convenient and don’t even require refrigeration.
Additional Features of This Diet
In addition to the traditional prepackaged meals, NutriSystem offers a line of gourmet frozen foods, which are more expensive.
The NutriSystem program has a number of online features, like a food log, weight tracking tools, chat rooms, and blogs. You can also email or call a NutriSystem registered dietitian or weight-loss counselor.
The My Daily 3 fitness program encourages 10-minute activity sessions, 3 times a day. You can also access tools and support to help you to maintain weight loss as you transition off of the program.
What Does the Research Say? TOP
Research suggests that eating foods with a low-glycemic index can help you feel full longer. Moreover, researchers have found that when meal replacements are part of an overall weight management plan, participants have been successful in losing weight and keeping it off. Studies have also shown, though, that the best diets are the ones that you can stick with over the long term, but NutriSystem is designed to be used for a short period of time.
Are There Any Concerns With This Diet? TOP
Overall, this diet is healthy and may help you lose weight. The key, though, is keeping the weight off once you are no longer following the NutriSystem program.
Maintaining the weight loss involves having healthy eating habits, which includes knowing how to select and prepare foods and being familiar with portion sizes. By eating the pre-packaged meals, a participant is not learning how to manage daily eating, portion control, or make healthy choices. Many participants on the NutriSystem plan end up regaining the weight once they go off the diet.
Another concern with this diet is that it may be difficult to follow if you regularly eat meals with other family members or enjoy eating out. Moreover, this program is costly. You do have to consider the money you would spend on groceries and eating out.
Bottom Line TOP
If you prefer the convenience of prepackaged meals delivered to your door over the freshness and flavor of home-cooked meals, this diet may be for you. Having all of your meals prepared for you makes it easy to eat the right type and amount of food. The challenge is that after you go off the program, you are on your own again. So if you do go on this diet, work with the counselors to develop a plan for how you are going to maintain your weight loss when you are eating and cooking on your own again.
Eat Right—Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Kiley D. My Dinner with NutriSystem. Business Week. 2005;3851:84.
How NutriSystem works. NutriSystem website. Available at:
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Accessed January 31, 2012.
Palmeri C. How NutriSystem Got Fat and Happy. Business Week. 2005;3851:82-84.
Last reviewed March 2017 by Dianne Scheinberg Rishikof MS, RD, LDN
Last Updated: 3/15/2013
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