What Is the Nutrisystem Diet?

nutrisystem

Verywell / Debbie Burkhoff 

At Verywell, we believe there is no one-size-fits-all approach to a healthy lifestyle. Successful eating plans need to be individualized and take the whole person into consideration. Prior to starting a new diet plan, consult with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian, especially if you have an underlying health condition.

What Is the Nutrisystem Diet?

The Nutrisystem diet is a portion-controlled eating plan centered on prepackaged foods delivered to your home. Some meals emphasize lean protein and carbohydrates with a low glycemic index, such as whole grains and non-starchy vegetables. The 2021 U.S. News and World Report Best Diets ranks the Nutrisystem diet number 20 in Best Diets Overall and gives it an overall score of 3.5/5.

What Experts Say

"Nutrisystem is a meal delivery program that focuses on eating real food (versus bars or shakes), but it’s expensive and the portions are small. Relying on a meal delivery service isn’t sustainable for most people, so healthy, long-term habits are not learned."

Kelly Plowe, MS, RD

The 7-Day Diet Plan

There are many ways to follow the Nutrisystem diet (after the first week, when only Nutrisystem products are allowed), This is one example of how the diet might look; Nutrisystem suggests 6 small meals a day.

  • Day 1: Nutrisystem cinnamon roll, almonds; apple slices with almond butter; Nutrisystem creamy tomato soup, side salad; Nutrisystem pretzel nuggets; Nutrisystem white chicken and ranch pizza; Nutrisystem vanilla ice cream sandwich
  • Day 2: Nutrisystem apple walnut oatmeal; low-fat yogurt; Nutrisystem grilled chicken sandwich, pear; low-fat string cheese; Nutrisystem merlot beef with root vegetables; Nutrisystem white cheddar popcorn
  • Day 3: Nutrisystem turkey, sausage, and egg muffin, grapefruit; Nutrisystem shake; Nutrisystem meatball parmesan melt, carrots; apple slices with almond butter; Nutrisystem grain-crusted pollock with vegetables; whole-grain toast with fat-free preserves
  • Day 4: Nutrisystem honey wheat bagel, non-fat cream cheese; bell pepper strips; Nutrisystem white bean chicken chili, whole-grain roll; Nutrisystem meat stick; Nutrisystem lasagna with meat sauce, side salad; Nutrisystem orange cream bar
  • Day 5: Nutrisystem cranberry orange muffin, low-fat string cheese; mixed nuts; Nutrisystem classic tuna salad, whole-wheat pita; grapefruit; Nutrisystem chicken enchilada, 1/4 avocado; low-fat yogurt with berries
  • Day 6: Nutrisystem homestyle pancakes with berries and walnuts; low-fat yogurt; Nutrisystem white cheddar mac and cheese, broccoli; Nutrisystem BBQ crisps; Nutrisystem chicken edamame power bowl; Nutrisystem strawberry shortcake cupcake
  • Day 7: Nutrisystem turkey, ham and cheese omelet, apple; Nutrisystem bar; Nutrisystem red beans and rice with quinoa, orange; low-fat yogurt; Nutrisystem Cajun-style chicken and shrimp sauté, salad; Nutrisystem cheese puffs

What You Can Eat

After the initial week on the Nutrisystem diet, some foods other than those purchased from Nutrisystem are allowed.

Pre-Packaged Meals and Snacks

Nutrisystem meals each provide around 200 calories. These include comfort-food selections such as:

  • Double chocolate muffins
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Grilled chicken sandwiches
  • Pizza
  • Nutrisystem meal bars

Nutrisystem Shakes

The system's shakes ("NutriCrush" or "Turbo Shakes") contain whey protein, flavoring, sweeteners, and herbal ingredients such as monk fruit. Shakes provide around 120 calories per serving (without milk).

Lean Proteins

Nutrisystem-approved proteins are called "PowerFuels." Each serving should provide 5 grams of protein and 80 to 120 calories. The list includes:

Carbohydrates

Nutrisystem provides a list of "SmartCarbs"—low glycemic carbs that provide fiber. Each serving should provide at least 1 gram of fiber and 80 to 120 calories. The approved list includes:

  • Whole grains (oatmeal, whole wheat bread, whole grain pasta)
  • Beans and legumes (chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans)
  • Fruit (banana, apple, orange)
  • Starchy vegetables (potatoes, corn, squash, carrots)

Vegetables

Nutrisystem customers are strongly encouraged to consume at least 4 servings of non-starchy vegetables each day. You can also consume low-sodium vegetable juice as an alternative. Each serving is equivalent to 1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup raw of approved veggies, which include:

  • Bell peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Lettuce
  • Green beans
  • Cucumbers
  • Asparagus
  • Tomatoes

Condiments, Seasonings

Foods defined as "Extras" and "Free Foods" allow you to prepare, season, and flavor your food. Approved "Free Food" seasonings should provide no more than 10 calories per serving but are unlimited on the plan. Free condiments include:

  • Mustard
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Salsa

Extras

"Extras" should only provide 10 to 35 calories per serving.

  • Ketchup
  • Honey
  • Mayonnaise
  • Avocado
  • Sunflower oil

Beverages

You can drink:

  • Black coffee
  • Unsweetened tea
  • Herbal tea
  • Seltzer

Alcohol

Alcohol is also allowed on Nutrisystem, but in limited quantities. You can have two servings of alcohol per week. A serving is considered:

  • 4 ounces of dry wine
  • 12 ounces of light beer
  • 1.5 ounces of liquor (80–90 proof)

What You Cannot Eat

Any foods beyond what is listed as compliant and in the compliant amounts are not allowed on the Nutrisystem diet. Most foods are allowed as long as they are within compliant measurements, with the exception of non-Nutrisystem sweets.

Sweets and Desserts

  • Candy
  • Cookies
  • Cake
  • Chocolate

After you subscribe to a Nutrisystem program, food is delivered to your door. If you sign up for auto-delivery, you'll continue to pay for and receive orders every four weeks until you cancel your subscription.

How to Prepare the Nutrisystem Diet & Tips

The first week of the program is designed to "reboot your body," and it is more restrictive than subsequent weeks. During this week, you only consume the brand's food and shakes. This weeklong program is designed for quick weight loss of fewer than 10 pounds and can be purchased without investing in a longer-term meal plan.

After the first week, Nutrisystem customers incorporate two flex meals during the week. These meals are prepared using ingredients that you purchase. Grocery guides are provided so customers know what foods are compliant. Restaurant meals are allowed as flex meals. Nutrisystem's NuMi app provides specific guidance for which menu items to select and which to avoid when dining out.

There is no specific meal timing and fasting is not required for the plan. There are no special books to buy, but the NuMi app is strongly recommended.

Children under the age of 18 should not be on Nutrisystem, but some teens aged 14 to 17 years are permitted to follow a specific meal plan upon physician approval.

Pros of the Nutrisystem Diet

Although it is not recommended by nutrition experts, the Nutrisystem diet has some pros.

  • Convenience: Proponents of the Nutrisystem plan find it easy to follow because foods are pre-portioned to keep calories low, promoting weight loss. Having meals delivered to your door is a convenience factor that some people find appealing.
  • Variety: Flex meals, snacks, and supplementary foods can help to make the menu more varied. Easy-to-follow grocery lists help to simplify shopping for these extras.
  • Balance: The plan provides between 1,200 to 1,500 calories per day, and many foods contain protein, carbohydrate, fat, and nutrients such as fiber. Customers are encouraged to consume at least four servings of veggies and one to two servings of fruit each day, and support is available for those who may find this challenging.
  • Transition support: Once you've reached your goal weight, Nutrisystem offers a weight-maintenance plan. These plans include weekend meal plans or a combination of meals and snacks. Of course, there is an additional fee for these products.
  • May induce weight loss: Many people have had weight loss success on the Nutrisystem diet because it is a low-calorie eating plan. The entrées and snacks associated with the diet may also help those who follow the program learn portion control. One study found that people who followed the Nutrisystem plan lost an average of 3.8% more weight over three months than a control group who received nutritional counseling and education.

Cons of the Nutrisystem Diet

The Nutrisystem diet has both practical and health-related drawbacks.

  • Cost: Like many commercial weight loss plans, Nutrisystem won't fit into everyone's budget. The program can cost approximately $250 to $350 per month plus the cost of additional foods from the grocery store, such as vegetables, fruit, and dairy products.
  • Unhealthy processed foods: The prepackaged food on the Nutrisystem diet is heavily processed. You'll find plenty of unfamiliar ingredients in the meals and snacks. And if you are concerned about GMOs, the company is clear that their foods may contain them.
  • May lead to metabolic syndrome: While there are no common health risks associated with the Nutrisystem diet, the eating plan is centered on many frozen and processed pre-made foods. Processing can be associated with health conditions including metabolic syndrome.
  • May encourage unhealthy food choices: Some foods on the Nutrisystem menu, such as double chocolate muffins, frozen pizza bowls, and snickerdoodle cookies, are high in calories, fat, sugar, and sodium in their traditional versions. This could make it harder for some people to choose nutritious, whole, or minimally processed foods over packaged foods once they end their subscription and resume a regular diet. Research shows that long-term consumption of processed foods is associated with chronic diseases.

If a Nutrisystem customer gets used to eating the company's low-cal versions of cinnamon buns, mac and cheese, or hamburgers every day, continuing those food choices after the diet is complete would likely cause any weight lost to be regained.

Is Nutrisystem a Healthy Choice for You?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consuming a variety of nutrient-dense foods and beverages for a healthy, balanced diet. The USDA also recommends limiting foods and beverages with higher amounts of added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium, and limiting consumption of alcohol. The whole foods encouraged by the USDA include:

  • Beans and legumes
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Healthy fats
  • Lean meats and low-fat dairy products
  • Whole grains

In addition, consuming the right number of calories each day will help you to reach and maintain a healthy weight. The USDA recommends consuming roughly 1,500 calories per day for weight loss, but this number varies based on age, sex, weight, and activity level. On the Nutrisystem diet, you can expect to consume 1,200 to 1,500 calories per day. You can use this calculator to determine the right number of calories for you.

The Nutrisystem diet includes meals that are frozen or shelf-stable as well as some processed foods, which are not part of a healthy, balanced diet. While the Nutrisystem eating plan meets federal guidelines for sodium, it does not offer guidance for reducing sodium intake once you're off the diet.

A Word From Verywell

If convenience and simplicity are important for you, the Nutrisystem diet may be an option since it doesn't require counting carbs or calories to see results. However, it's important to note that relying on any type of meal delivery service isn’t a sustainable plan for most people.

Learning healthy meal preparation and developing a nutritious food plan and physical activity schedule is essential for both weight loss and weight management. And it's always a good idea to choose whole foods over processed foods whenever possible to maintain optimal health.

Remember, following a long-term or short-term diet may not be necessary for you and many diets out there simply don’t work, especially long-term. While we do not endorse fad diet trends or unsustainable weight loss methods, we present the facts so you can make an informed decision that works best for your nutritional needs, genetic blueprint, budget, and goals.

If your goal is weight loss, remember that losing weight isn’t necessarily the same as being your healthiest self, and there are many other ways to pursue health. Exercise, sleep, and other lifestyle factors also play a major role in your overall health. The best diet is always the one that is balanced and fits your lifestyle.

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5 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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