You’ve seen the commercials with the best B-list celebrities who’ve gone from tubby to less-tubby by losing weight on the Nutrisystem diet. But you may have also heard stories about people who’ve joined Nutrisystem and have ended up with less-than-tasty food or who just put on the weight after they stop the diet. So, is Nutrisystem a legitimate diet? The answer depends on you.
How to Choose the Right NutriSystem Plan
Fad diets have been with us for a long time, from the Atkins diet, to the Cambridge Diet, to the Grapefruit diet, to the high protein diet, to the Jenny Craig diet, to the low-fat fiet, to the rice diet, to the South Beach diet, to the Weight Watcher’s diet, to the Zone diet to 100 others I don’t have room to name. They’ve made a lot of book authors very, very rich. They’ve spawned mutli-million dollar corporations.
But after all these years, we’re still a nation of fatties. Why?
The reason is simple. It’s our lifestyles. While our great grandparents were working hard all day in the fields, we sit all day in an office in front of a desk. While our great grandparents ate three square meals a day, we have food at our fingertips constantly that taste great but aren’t all that good for our bodies.
Losing weight is not rocket science. It’s really all about habits. That’s what I like about Nutrisystem. To be honest, the food isn’t the greatest in the world (although I gotta say their new frozen product is amazing…see the “Nutrisystem Select” section below). But the most important thing it does you is teach you good eating habits. You learn how to eat right sized portions instead of pigging out at every meal. You learn to add your own fresh fruits and vegetables to meals, which benefits your health. You learn how to snack properly thoughout the day so that you don’t starve yourself all day and then binge at night. These are all good habits that continue on even after you stop using Nutrisystem. When people say that they “gain all the weight back” it’s because they didn’t learn the good habits.
Nutrisystem meals are based on the “glycemic index”. This is a fancy way of saying that their food is low in fat and has a lot of “good carbs”. “Good carbs” is a buzzword we’ve all heard thrown around. What it means is that these kinds of carbohydrates break down slowly in the body, keeping stable blood sugar levels and making you feel more satisfied so you don’t crave food as much between meals (“bad carbs” are the ones that cause your insulin levels to spike, your body to store more fat, and you to feel unsatisfied after meals).
No matter what plan you choose, I find it fascinating the way the Nutrisystem plan is set up. You get a huge box of food sent to you, and the first time you open the box it’s like Christmas morning. You see all kinds of entrees and snacks and breakfast bars, and soups. It also comes with a book you’ll fill out in which you plan out for the next 28 days what you’ll eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacktime. It’s actually kind of fun.
One thing that’s a a tiny bit of a pain is that you do still need to go to the grocery store and buy fresh fruits and vegetables. For someone lazy like me, I would have liked to see those delivered to my door too, but I guess those aren’t as easy to deliver and still be fresh. The book is pretty good about telling you how much of different fruits and vegetables you can eat–in some cases, you can eat as much as you want.
Nutrisystem foods come in one of two types. The first option (and their original product) was their non-refrigerated (Shelf-Stable Food product. This is food that is not refrigerated, but comes in cardboard boxes and vacuum-sealed plastic (which makes their consistency and flavor a lot like canned food or military MREs). The section option (called Nutrisystem Select) is for Frozen Food, prepared by the talented people at Schwann. In general, my conclusion is most of the Shelf-Stable Food is generally “okay” tasting as long as you go in with low expectations, and the portion sizes are good. The frozen food ranges from good to amazing in terms of taste, but portion sizes sometimes seem a bit small. But again, in both cases you’re supplementing with fruits and vegetables, so you won’t starve. You can read more about my specific personal experiences with this program in my blog.
So, question is, how do you go about buying a Nutrisystem plan? Here’s the skinny (pun not intended, at least not one I’ll admit to).
Women’s Program (specially designed for women)
I admit, women have a rougher time in this world than men when it comes to losing weight. Men don’t have to deal with living up to some unrealistic standard (such as the picture of the woman in the swimsuit to the left), they don’t have to think about things like baby weight, and the only thing they deal with on a monthly basis is doing laundry.
The Nutrisystem Women’s Program lets you buy food for a whole month, and you’re not locked into any long-term commitments or investments. As I described above, you get a huge box delivered to your door which contains a lot of food, along with a simple book to plan out every meal (you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out how much to eat and when). At first glance you might be worried that each meal is too small, but remember that because the food is based on the “glycemic index”, you’ll be satisfied with less food.
You’ll be able to select from Basic, Core, and Select packages.
Basic is the cheapest and easiest–you pay about $8.50 a day and receive a preselected assortment of their most popular meals. This is probably the best plan to get started if you just want to try the program at the lowest possible price.
Core lets you customize your meals. This is great if you’ve been through the program once and know which foods you like and which you don’t like.
Select lets you customize your meals AND select from frozen options. I’ll be perfectly honest. The meals that come in the standard Nutrisystem packages aren’t the kinds of food you’d find in five star restaurants. I’d say they’re a little more like airplane food, not as bad as coach, but not as good as first class.
Nutrisystem recently introduced something new, and I think it’s an absolutely brilliant move on the part of the company. They’ve partnered with Schwann, one of the leaders of gourmet frozen food, to deliver Nutrisystem Select
The service is white glove all the way. After you order and before they deliver the first set of food, they’ll call you to make sure you’ll be at home. If you’re not at home, they’ll still drop the package at your door, with enough insulation to keep the food perfect for 6-10 hours. I live on the third story of a walk-up apartment building, and yes, they delivered it right to my door.
The food is easily as good as first class on an airplane, featuring dishes from Shrimp Alfredo to Asian Beef Tips to ice cream sandwiches. And while it’s not loaded with all the junk and fat you find in traditional TV dinners in the supermarket, it still tastes great. It costs more than the standard Nutrisystem diet, but if you want to diet without compromising your taste, this is the one for you. Like the standard Nutrisystem diet, the portions are perfectly sized, and you follow along in your book to plan out your meals.
Men’s Program (specially designed for men)
Nutrisystem was very smart to round up a bunch of B-list celebrities like Chris Berman, Mike Golic, and Dan Marino to be their spokesmen. Over the years, diet program have definitely been geared towards women, and men wouldn’t be caught dead doing things like Jane Fonda’s workout or going to Weight Watchers. But by getting these men’s men to talk about Nutrisystem, that stigma is gone. It’s suddenly okay to be a man and to diet.
Also, these guys were all once in the best physical shape a man could be in (okay, I don’t know about Berman, but Golic and Marino certainly were), and then they turned 40. From personal experience, that’s when the beer belly starts to grow–even for guys who don’t drink beer.
The Nutrisystem Men’s Program is specially designed for men’s body’s needs. It contains higher amounts of protein and has properly-sized servings for up to 5 times a day. Again, the goal of the program is not just to provide food, but also to provide good habits about the right foods and the right portions. As with the Women’s program, it comes in Basic, Core, and Select options.
Type II Diabetic Program
1 in 5 Americans are at risk for having or developing Type 2 diabetes. This is a condition where the body fails to respond to or produce enough of the important hormone insulin. Up to 25% of Americans who have diabetes don’t even realize it. Diabetes’ symptoms, from blurred vision to increased thirst to more frequent urination, can often by explained by other causes. But untreated, diabetes can eventually harm the eyes, kidneys, nerves, and heart.
The only real way to tell if you have diabetes is by testing your blood sugar. Finding out you have diabetes is a difficult thing, but just remember you’re not alone. There are millions of others who have been diagnosed with diabetes that are living perfectly happy and healthy lives. But it’s all the more important to watch what you eat and to exercise. Hopefully this help will help you realize that watching what you eat isn’t difficult and exercise can really be like playing.
In the Nutrisystem D for Diabetics program, Nutrisystem’s “we’ll do the thinking for you” approach to meal planning is perfect for those suffering for diabetes. The American Medical Assocation recommends low glycemic diets like the Nutrisystem diet, because they control the intact of carbohydrates, especially “bad carbs” which can lead to damaging blood glucose levels. Instead of having to “count carbs”, the counting is all done for you already.
As with the other plans, you’ll get 28 days of food with a daily diary to plan the meals.
My Favorite Nutrisystem Foods
If you’re an existing Nutrisystem customer or have selected the Nutrisystem Flex plan, you’ll be going through the process of choosing foods. I’ve listed some of my personal favorites here. If you have your own favorites, click on the “Comments” section in the upper right-hand corner of the site and let me know yours–I’ll add it to the list!
Best Nutrisystem Breakfast Foods:
#2 – Berries and Multigrain Flakes
#1 – Egg Frittatta
Best Nutrisystem Lunch Foods:
#5 – Three Cheese Pasta with Chicken
#4 – Cheesy HomeStyle Potatoes
#3 – Vegetable Beef Soup
#2 – Cheese Tortellini
#1 – Chicken Salad
Best Nutrisystem Dinner Foods:
#5 – Any of the Beef Dishes
#4 – Macaroni & Cheese with Beef
#3 – Lasagna with Meat Sauce
#2 – Thick Crust Pizza (or Sourdough Pizza with Cheese]
#1 – Cheese and Spinach Ravioli with Meat Sauce [or Cheese Ravioli with Basil Tomato Sauce]
Best Nutrisystem Desserts:
#5 – Blueberry Lemon Dessert Bar
#4 – Zesty Herb Snack Mix
#3 – Strawberry Shortcake Bar
#2 – Mint Chocolate Crunch Bar
#1 – Nacho Crisps