Lose Weight

How Does Nutrisystem Work?
An Unbiased & Honest Review

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Isaac Robertson
Written by Isaac Robertson

Dieting sucks. I know we’re not supposed to say that on a fitness website, but it's true.

Eating healthy foods can be demanding, boring, and hard to maintain. No matter how fit we are, we all secretly want to lay in bed and wolf down a pint of Häagen-Dazs.

Controlling your food choices and fitness is easier said than done, but with a weight loss program like Nutrisystem, all of these can actually be made easier for you.

On a Nutrisystem program, the majority of your food is delivered straight to you in appropriate portion sizes, so it’s impossible to F it up when trying to lose weight.

What Is the Nutrisystem Diet?

Nutrisystem is a 28-day low-calorie weight loss program and meal delivery service.

The company provides you with a meal plan in the form of prepackaged meals which are delivered straight to your door and require minimal preparation. You may occasionally have to buy some fresh vegetables, but it’s mostly very easy to follow.

Nutrisystem dishes aim to consist of roughly 50% carbohydrates, 25% fat, and 25% protein. This way, you feel full while eating fewer calories than usual. 

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They’re also very big on so-called “smart carbs” which avoid raising your blood sugar too high.

There are many foods containing these carbs, including things such as oats, whole grains, wholemeal breads, brown rice, and more. These carbohydrates help to supply you with energy throughout the day and keep hunger pangs at bay.

The healthy eating company was founded in 1972 by Harold Katz. After starting out as a brick-and-mortar Nutrisystem weight loss chain, it adopted the online direct-to-consumer business model in the late ’90s.

How Does It Work?

man creating a diet

There are many different versions of Nutrisystem available depending on your age, gender, and many other factors.

For instance, there are diabetic and vegetarian plans available for people with food restrictions who want to lose weight. There’s even a version for people on a gluten-free diet.

I think this customization is good, because too many diet programs have a one-size-fits-all model when it comes to food.

If you ever read the diet reviews for other diets, you’ll often see people complaining that they feel hungry all the time – sometimes they just aren’t eating enough because they’re following generic meal plans.

With Nutrisystem, you get 3 meals per day which are tailored to your needs.

Women are also allowed to have 1 snack per day, while men are allowed to have 2 snacks per day. As unfair as this feels, men just naturally tend to use more energy on a daily basis.

There are different plans to choose from, although most dieters will start off with the “Turbo 13 Plan” which is designed for people who are just starting their weight loss journey.

This “turbo takeoff” will supposedly help you to lose 13 pounds in your first month, depending on your starting weight and gender.

After your “turbo takeoff,” your Nutrisystem meals become more regular, aiming to encourage gradual weight loss in the long run.

Depending on the package you choose, you may be able to customize your menu options and use special online tracking tools and systems which allow you to monitor your results over time.

Nutrisystem foods are designed to be low-sodium and lower-glycemic foods, meaning that you’re eating healthier foods for your body.


A low glycemic diet (or low GL diet) has benefits including helping normalize blood sugar, prevent insulin resistance, prevent fatigue, and keep you fuller and energized for longer.

Jillian Levy Holistic Health Coach

What Foods Can You Eat?

While on the Nutrisystem plan, you’re encouraged to eat three pre-packaged meals per day, in addition to some snacks. There are many healthy foods that you can eat on the plan, as well as “healthy versions” of junk food.

For example, choices include double chocolate muffins, margherita pizzas, and mushroom-stuffed chicken breasts.

These options are designed to be low in calories while being filled with nutrients, lean protein, and fiber.

If you want to snack or eat more than the meal plan allows for, you can increase your portion sizes with non-starchy vegetables such as carrots and tomatoes. 

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Dieters can eat as many of these low-calories vegetables as they like, and they’re great for people with diabetes too.

As mentioned earlier, the system is also big on “smart carbohydrates” such as those found in beans, fruit, and whole grains. (1)

It also places a huge emphasis on lean protein, which allows you to lose weight and gain/maintain muscle mass while keeping your heart healthy.

What Foods Can’t You Eat?

Foods You Can't Eat

Now for the bit you don’t want to hear… what you can’t eat on this diet.

Seeing as this is a diet food delivery service with strict dietary guidelines and pre-packaged meals, you’re not allowed to consume outside meals such as meals from restaurants and cafés.

You also need to greatly limit your alcohol intake over the course of the week, which may cause your problems if you’re a regular social drinker.

It’s generally advised that you avoid alcohol on most diets, and this is no exception.

Finally, we’ve got bad news if you like condiments… toppings such as ketchup, mayonnaise, and avocado are discouraged on the plan, as they add extra fat and calories to your meals.


A natural, homemade dessert in a reasonable portion size is better than alcohol. A simple glass of wine is better than a highly processed or large portion of dessert. It is all about making the most whole, real food and drink choices.

Lisa Eberly Dietitian

Nutrisystem Menu Samples

Here I’m going to go over some real menu options from a typical day of Nutrisystem. First I’ll show you a typical dieting day for a man, followed by a typical day for a woman Nutrisystem user.

​Meal

For Men

For Women

Brea​kfa​st

  • Nutrisystem® Blueberry Muffin
  • Milk, fat-free, 1 cup
  • Hot tea with calorie-free sweetener
  • Eggs, 2 scrambled
  • Whole wheat toast, 1 slice
  • Light margarine, ½ tbsp.


Mornin​g Snack

  • Nutrisystem® Honey Mustard Pretzel Bits
  • Nutrisystem® Turbo™ Shake

Lun​ch

  • Nutrisystem® Cheese Tortellini
  • Turkey breast, 2 oz.
  • Green beans, cooked, 1 cup
  • Nutrisystem® Tuna Salad (add whole grain roll)
  • Tomato, sliced, 1 cup
  • Celery, 2 medium stalks

Afternoon Snack

  • Cottage cheese, low-fat, ½ cup
  • Peaches, canned in water, 1 cup
  • Cashews, unsalted, 2 bsp.
  • Raisins, ¼ cup

Dinner

  • Nutrisystem® Turkey and Stuffing
  • Turkey breast, 2 oz.
  • Mixed greens, 1 cup
  • Cucumbers, 1 cup
  • Salad dressing, fat-free, 1 tbsp.
  • Nutrisystem® Chicken Alfredo
  • Spinach, cooked, 1 cup


Evening Snack

  • Nutrisystem® Chocolate Cake
  • Whipped topping, fat-free, 3 tbsp.
  • Nutrisystem® White Cheddar Popcorn

PROS

  • Foolproof – There’s very little room for error with Nutrisystem, as you’re literally being delivered your healthy food in the correct portion sizes.

    You cannot “accidentally” purchase junk food from the grocery store and absentmindedly eat it – you get given exactly what you need and there are strict rules in place to keep you in check.
  • Customizable – Nutrisystem comes with several options for customization, so you can easily adapt your diet to your eating habits and lifestyle.

    For example, there are variations for diabetics and veggies, while more advanced users can request nutritional low-calorie meals which suit their palate.
  • “Healthy” Junk Food – The folks at Nutrisystem understand that dieters naturally crave sugar, fat, and junk food. As a result, they have created several healthier versions of these snacks, such as popcorn, cupcakes, and pizza. 

CONS

  • Sticking To It – Most diets have some sort of leeway for eating food from outside sources, but Nutrisystem really demands that you stick to its own recipes and dinners if you want to sate your appetite.

    As a result, it can be hard to stick to the plan if you work long hours, have a hectic lifestyle, or just spend a lot of time away from your home where all the Nutrisystem-approved food is.
  • Weight Loss Rate – some users have complained that it takes longer to lose weight with Nutrisystem when compared to other diets. This may be true for some people, but you should bear in mind that crash diets cause several health problems and losing weight too quickly tends to take its toll on your body. 

This means that you can satiate your desires without going overboard.

It is generally advised that slow weight loss is better than fast weight loss because it gives your body time to adapt.

How Much Does Nutrisystem Cost?

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Depending on your gender and the plan that you’ve opted for, Nutrisystem costs differently. For instance, the “Uniquely Yours” and “Uniquely Yours Plus” plans cost more money, but they allow you to customize your Nutrisystem meals according to your tastes.

At the time of writing, this is how the cost is broken down for a 28-day Nutrisystem plan - see below

As you can see, men do usually have to pay more than women dieters.

However, they also get a little more food/snacks included in their meal plans because men have greater caloric needs than women, so it all works out in the end.

​Package

For Men

For Women

Basic Package

$324.99

$284.99

Core Package

$349.99

$309.99

“Uniquely Yours” Package

$389.99

$349.99

“Uniquely Yours Plus” Package

$429.99

$389.99

Vegetarian Package

$389.99

$349.99

FAQ

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1. How healthy is Nutrisystem?

Nutrisystem is healthy for the vast majority of people, especially when combined with regular workouts and physical activity. This is because the meals are high in lean protein while remaining low in sodium and calories. The foods are also usually low on the GI index, which is good for keeping blood sugar levels down.

2. How many calories a day do you eat on Nutrisystem?

Men eat around 1,500 calories a day and women eat around 1,200 calories a day on Nutrisystem. However, in the first week of the diet, which is known as the “turbo takeoff” for dieters, they will consume even fewer calories, usually coming to around 1,000 calories a day.

3. How much weight can I lose on Nutrisystem?

Men can lose up to 15 pounds on Nutrisystem in their first month, while women can lose up to 13 pounds in their first month. This is assuming that the dieters are using the “Turbo Takeoff” plan for people who are starting a diet from scratch. After this initial month, weight loss becomes more gradual; most people will lose 1-2 pounds every week after the first month.


​4. Can you drink coffee on Nutrisystem?

Coffee Beans

You can drink coffee on Nutrisystem, but you must be sure to avoid adding sugar and high-calorie milks or creamers.

Coffee is best taken black and sugar-free if possible, as adding milk/creamer and sugar can add additional unwanted calories. If you take sugar in your coffee, try adding low-calorie sweetener instead.

5. Can you eat fruit on Nutrisystem?

You can eat fruit on Nutrisystem, assuming that it’s not a particularly calorie-filled fruit. Generally speaking, most fruits and vegetables can be eaten in several servings on Nutrisystem, and do not spoil your diet. This is due to their health benefits and high levels of nutrients.

6. Is Nutrisystem food frozen?

Some Nutrisystem food is frozen, allowing you to keep it fresher for longer. The frozen portion of your food will be delivered by a special truck which is designed for transporting cold loads. Your frozen food will be packaged with dry ice if necessary, keeping it cold for 6-8 hours until you get home and put it in the freezer.

7. Is Nutrisystem healthy for diabetics?

Nutrisystem is healthy for diabetics, as the foods are purposely low on the GI index, meaning that they don’t raise your blood sugar too high. The Nutrisystem plan can be tailor-made for people with diabetes and other dietary concerns, making it easy to eat healthy dinners and lose weight as a diabetic.

8. How much water should I drink on Nutrisystem?

You should drink as much water as your body needs while on Nutrisystem. The Nutrisystem guidelines do not limit the amount of water that you can drink, so be sure to drink as much as you need in order to be healthy. On average, people need around 1.8 liters of water every day in order to stay healthy..

9. How often should I weigh myself on Nutrisystem?

Weight Machine

You should weigh yourself once a week while on Nutrisystem.

It is best to weigh yourself once a week, on the same day, in the morning, and while wearing no clothes if possible. This is recommended because your body naturally fluctuates in weight from day to day, but taking a measurement once per week is sparse enough to show a general trend of your weight dropping, increasing, or plateauing over time.

10. How many times a day do you eat on Nutrisystem?

You eat 3 times a day on the Nutrisystem diet. In addition to these 3 nutritionally balanced meals, you are also allowed 1-2 snacks per day too. Women are usually allowed 1 snack per day, while men are allowed 2 snacks per day due to their greater caloric needs.

11. Can you eat pickles on Nutrisystem?

You can eat a limited amount of pickles on Nutrisystem, as they fit into the “limited extras” category. However, try to ensure that your serving size does not exceed that of 35 calories. Furthermore, some pickles will be very high in sodium, so look for low-sodium pickles where possible.

12. Can you have watermelon on Nutrisystem?

You can have 1 cup of watermelon per day on Nutrisystem. Although watermelon is a fruit, its high level of natural sugars means that it could be potentially fattening if you eat too much of it. As a result, it is recommended that you consume no more than 1 cup (approx. 40 calories) per day.

13. Can you eat avocado on Nutrisystem?

Avocado Dish

You can eat avocado on Nutrisystem, but only in small amounts. According to Nutrisystem, 1/8 of a medium avocado counts as 1 “extra” in your daily allowance. So while there is the potential to eat avocado as part of the diet plan, you are limited to a very small amount.

14. Do I have to freeze Nutrisystem dinners?

You do not need to freeze your Nutrisystem dinners unless you are specifically ordering frozen foods from the “Uniquely Yours” or “Uniquely Yours Plus” plans. The majority of Nutrisystem meals do not need to be stored in the freezer, but some may.

15. Is Nutrisystem heart healthy?

Generally speaking, Nutrisystem is heart healthy and is great for conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. This is because the food is low in saturated fats, trans fats, and sodium, while being high in smart carbohydrates, good fats, lean protein, and high-fiber whole grains.

16. Can you have popcorn on Nutrisystem?

You can have popcorn on Nutrisystem, but the amount you can consume is limited. Popcorn is listed as a snack in the system, so you can eat a certain serving size according to your needs. Some meal plans from Nutrisystem actually feature low-calorie popcorn as a snack/dessert, so you may be able to enjoy popcorn without adding it as an extra to your daily allowance.

You can also watch this ​full video review by Fruscella Nutrition on Nutrisystem to know more about this weight loss kit.

Is it worth buying?

All in all, Nutrisystem is a sensible diet system which has a 50-year-long history of helping people lose weight and manage their portion control.

There’s not much room for error, as the pre-packaged meals require minimal cooking and come in the correct serving sizes. Also, the rules are very clear about what you can and cannot eat on the side.

If you’re the kind of person who struggles with regular diets, I would seriously recommend Nutrisystem as an alternative form of dieting.

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I found it to be effective for my own weight loss, and many other Nutrisystem reviewers seem to have similar opinions. To find out more, take a look at their website and see if it’s for you.

About the author

Isaac Robertson

Isaac Robertson

I’m a personal fitness trainer and nutritionist living in sunny Indianapolis, IN. I’ve spent the last 8 years staying at the forefront of the health and fitness industry. In that time, I’ve helped hundreds of people shed the excess weight and get into shape, maintaining their healthy new lifestyle through proper training and eating habits. You can read more about me here​.

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