Nutrisystem Review

Ever wanted a Dietitian’s perspective on common diets like Jenny Craig, Herbalife, Nutrisystem, Weight Watchers, Paleo, Primal and more? Well, good news! I am starting a series reviewing these different diets. This is part 1 in the series.

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As a dietitian, I get a lot of questions about common diets, and for good reason. People are often looking for an easy way to lose weight. The #1 way to lose weight and get a diet individualized to you is to schedule a consultation with me or another Dietitian or Certified Nutritionist. However, if you yet don’t have the money to invest in a consultation, at least do me the favor of staying far, far away from Nutrisystem, and I’m going to give you 5 reasons why.

1. The meals are highly processed, chemical concoctions.

I looked through the entire menu online, and I tried really, really, really hard to find a healthy option. I really did. The healthiest thing that I found, below, is the Tuna Salad. That can’t be bad, right? Wrong.

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First ingredient (light tuna) seems ok, but it goes downhill from there. Mayonnaise from likely GMO soybean oil, also high in omega-6, although at least you’re getting some omega-3 from the fish. Modified starch in the mayo, likely from GMO corn, although there’s no way to be sure. And only 120 calories. I don’t know about you, but I can’t just eat 120 calories for lunch. The suggestion is to add your own vegetables and a “whole-grain roll”. If I’m going to add a whole-grain roll (which I’m not), and my own veggies, I might as well just grab a can of tuna while I’m at the store and make this puppy myself, or better yet a nice salad topped with some tuna. Major Fail. Keep in mind this is the best choice I could find. Here’s one that’s not so glorious.

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Again with the calories…240 calories is NOT ENOUGH for me for Lunch. I will be starving by dinner and end up binging on sweets before I even get dinner cooked (trust me, I’ve been there). Health is not about the calories. Look at that list of lovely ingredients. Let’s break it down.

Filling: Cooked Rotisserie Seasoned Chicken White Meat – ok the first ingredient’s not so bad. Oh wait, see that parenthesis? That means all of those ingredients are IN the first ingredient. Let’s look…. (chicken white meat, water, less than 2% of: potato starch, salt, sodium phosphate, natural flavor) – this is basically what you would expect to see on a lunchmeat package at the grocery store. I don’t recommend lunch meat, by the way. Phosphate additives (like the sodium phosphate) are a preservative that has been linked with heart disease, and is also something very dangerous for people with kidney disease. Even if you don’t have kidney disease, stay away, unless you WANT to destroy your heart and kidneys.

Peeled Ground Tomatoes (with extra heavy tomato puree and salt)– not so bad, except all the excess salt.

Parmesan Cheese (Pasteurized Part Skim Milk, Cultures, Salt, Enzymes) – could be worse.

Diced Tomatoes (Tomatoes, Tomato Juice, Calcium Chloride, Citric Acid) – ok, why are they putting calcium chloride in my tomatoes? I have to wonder. My best guess is, they didn’t want to add more salt (the sodium chloride variety), but they wanted to preserve it longer/make it taste saltier. Really this is unnecessary at best and harmful at worst. Calcium additives can cause heart damage, although who knows how much dietary calcium this actually provides. Calcium Chloride, the chemical form, is very dangerous and can hydrolyze, producing excess heat and possibly burns, but likely the amount added here is very small. Still, it’s a tell-tale sign of high processing since most small-time canneries aren’t going to be ordering large amounts of calcium chloride.

Tomato Paste, Water  – no problems there.

Modified Food Starch – again, no way of knowing the source. Could be GMO corn. Could be regular potatoes. Who knows? They don’t tell us. Usually when they don’t tell us, it’s not good.

Here’s where we get to the nitty gritty. Less than 2% of: Sugar, Methylcellulose (just a laxative, don’t worry), Olive Oil, Spices, Natural Flavor (Potassium Chloride (another one of those chemical salts that we don’t particularly need, and could be downright dangerous for those with kidney problems), Maltodextrin (just a highly processed chemical which could come from GMO corn, look away), Disodium Inosinate and Disodium Guanylate (just there to trick your senses into tasting a more “meaty” flavor with less salt, no worries, except for maybe the fact that it’s produced by bacteria, and a highly processed MSG-like chemical), Modified Food Starch (likely GMO, again we don’t know), Corn Syrup Solids (almost surely GMO…and…ew), Natural Flavor (likely MSG)), Granulated Onion, Granulated Garlic.

Whew. I don’t know about you, but I’m already tired (of course I’ve been linking all of this and explaining it) and we’re just through the filling. For time’s sake (mine, that is), I’m just going to link out the rest of these and let you decide.

CRUST: ENRICHED FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, MALTED BARLEY FLOUR, NIACIN, IRON, THIAMINE MONONITRATE, RIBOFLAVIN, FOLIC ACID), WATER, FULLY REFINED SOYBEAN OIL (avoid highly refined oils, they are usually extracted with chemical solvents like hexane), INULIN, RICE FLOUR, SUGAR, LESS THAN 2% OF: WHEAT BRAN, DOUGH CONDITIONERS (MONOGLYCERIDES WITH ASCORBIC AND CITRIC ACID, SODIUM STEAROYL LACTYLATE), NONFAT DRY MILK, SALT, ACTIVE DRY YEAST, BAKING POWDER (SODIUM ACID PYROPHOSPHATE, SODIUM BICARBONATE, CORN STARCH, MONOCALCIUM PHOSPHATE)

TOPPING: PARMESAN CHEESE (PASTEURIZED PART SKIM MILK, CULTURES, SALT, ENZYMES), PARSLEY FLAKES.

Basically, anything that has an ingredients list that long CAN’T be good for you. Skimpy on the vegetables, high on the processed crap. No Thank-You. Pull up any number of their options right on their website (under “Our Menu”) and you will likely find the same thing.

 

2. The meals are high-carb for their calories and likely not satisfying.

The second meal above was 30 grams of carbs in only 240 calories. That’s basically a snack for me. Oh did I mention that’s white flour, highly processed carbs? Even if you wanted to go with the “government recommendation” for 50% of your calories from carbs, which is super high for anyone with diabetes or blood sugar issues, you would want to get your carbs from complex sources like vegetables. Vegetables are really good for you. Someone should tell Nutrisystem that. (Because, seriously, who is buying frozen meals online, and then going out to the store to buy fresh veggies to add in?)

3. The plan doesn’t account for eating out.

One of big BIGGEST reasons I avoid plans like Nutrisystem or Jenny Craig, or any plan where they send you the food is that it teaches you nothing about making choices, and as soon as you have an opportunity to overeat or make bad choices, you do. Say you go to a BBQ, or to a girlfriend’s (or boyfriend’s?) house for drinks and appetizers, or you get invited to a birthday party, or you go out to eat with your family, or, or, or…the list goes on. Real life is not microwaved meals. You need a diet plan that can teach you to combat those things.

4. You have to add your own vegetables anyway.

I mentioned this above, but if you are going to the store to buy veggies to add to their meals anyway, you might as well pick up, IDK, a rotisserie chicken? Way less processed and really delicious! Or how about a quick fish to pay fry for 8 minutes? Or what about a chicken breast, a cubed steak, or any number of other foods that you can prepare with 1 pan in about the same amount of time it takes to open and microwave a meal. If I WERE to endorse a microwave-meal plan (don’t hold your breath), it would include the vegetables.

5. You will be starving with very few calories provided.

Again, eluded to it above, but since it is a big point, I thought I’d make a separate bullet out of it. You cannot survive on 1000 calories a day! You will lose weight, yes, but you will be starving. Some of their choices are less than 300 calories, which times 3 meals would be less than 900 calories. Yes, they do have some highly processed desserts (100-200 calories from what I can tell), and recommend adding a “grocery item” twice a day for snacks, but even with that you might top out at 1200 calories. If you are working out at all, you are going to be starving. 

 

So that’s it. If you’ve tried Nutrisystem, comment below and let me know if you liked it. If you are thinking about trying it, comment below and let me know why you’re not now ;). Also, if you know someone who is thinking about trying Nutrisystem because they think it will be healthy for them, please share this with them, and guide them toward a Dietitian or at least a good meal plan (this one I am reviewing next). Thanks! You will really be doing your friend a favor.

 

-Samantha, RD

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19 thoughts on “Nutrisystem Review”

  1. As a fellow RD, I’m thrilled to see you dissect this terrible food. I’m forwarding your article to my students in my nutrition class at Northeastern University in Boston, MA. I want them to really be critical consumers of nutrition and food info. Great work!

      1. I’ve gained and lost the same 100 lbs for the last 30 years. I’ve done ALL that’s out there including cancelling a gastro bypass. I decided to try the nutrisystem products. I am disgusted by the amount of money I spent for 2 months of food that is ALL soy. I can’t believe I didn’t research this diet better. I haven’t put chemicals like this in my body for the last 10 years. It’s been 3 weeks and I lost 10 pounds. The food does ALL taste the same. It reminds me of the nursing home food. Sooo…I’ll go back to eating from the outside of the grocery store, eat out less, and eat my last meal by 7:00pm! The ONLY way to loose weight is less hand to mouth motion and more leg motion. ( I had bilateral knee replacements 7 years ago. I cannot walk or stand for extended periods of time.) I hope others will find this sight and not make the same mistake.

  2. disqus_kPXrgmHg2A

    I tried nutrisystem 6 year ago… First… every meal tastes the same. whether its chicken and noodles or beef and broccoli. I’m assuming its because they use the same fillers and chemicals in every meal. Second… it left me starving. The portions are extremely small. Third… after a few days, you feel like you’re losing weight, but in reality you just have diarrhea and I can only attribute “losing weight” to losing water and muscle mass. It is terrible and most of the meals are basically just soy protein. terrible. I ended up sending it back because my stomach hurt so much after a week. The only joy I got out of the whole system was eating the veggies, salads and dairy that I supplemented on the side!!

    1. That is good information, thanks. I considered trying to meals for my review, but I just couldn’t bring myself to order that garbage! Also, there are very few (if any?) that are gluten-free, so I would probably end up with unnecessary pain. It is crazy that the best part of the plan are the veggies and fruits you buy on the side…so why not just buy them and eat THOSE yourself?

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  4. I look forward to the one on Herbalife. I am down 50lbs in 4 months, off thyroid meds because it is miraculously working, iron is normal levels (suffered from anemia for over 20 years), off one ani- psychotic, two anxiety pills, and all sleeping meds a month after consumption of Herbalife. My doctor is so impressed with results he is thinking of trying the products. I know you are a smart girl but I feel great and in better health than 20 years ago. Seems every thing one dietition claims there is another one with complete opposite stance with research to back it up. We wonder why America is confused! Thank you I loved reading this. I have so much love and respect for ya!

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  6. Fat girl and diabetic boy

    As someone who is in their first month of Nutrisystem, I can tell you there is more to the program than just the meals. You add in four servings of vegetables a day, plus depending upon the plan you have (men, women, diabetic) other additions called Powerfuels and Smart Carbs which are small servings of grocery items (like 2 oz chicken, or a cup of fat free cottage cheese, veggies, fruit, etc.). I really feel you should have accessed the entire program to understand it and therefore be able to give a full and valid review.

    I’ve got no stock in Nutrisystem. I am a new user of it. My husband is diabetic and essentially uncontrolled despite medication. I am beyond morbidly obese. We are both well educated, have had nutrition classes, understand basic anatomy, etc. But fact is, our comfortable habits were keeping us fat. And making it worse. I was diagnosed as pre-diabetic, and then bona fide type 2 and recommended medication.

    I knew I had to do something significant. I knew no such system would be a long term solution, but I needed something to get started on, FAST. He agreed to do the plan with me, so I ordered one for me and the diabetic version for him.

    The food isn’t that bad — on par with what you find in the frozen food section (Lean Cuisine, Smart Ones, etc.). It’s very different from just a year or two ago, much less 5, 10 years ago (from what others who have tried it has told me). The system is easy. It’s clear. And it has really shocked us into realizing how badly we were eating. Way to much rich food, and way too often. And, at the same time, not enough nutritious food.

    Is it as good as cooking an organic, fresh, nearly raw/macrobiotic diet at home? No. But is it better than eating fast food 2-3 times a day like we were? Hell yes.

    And the results speak for themselves. We are both losing weight, and his testing numbers are falling FAST. (A bit alarmingly so!)

    It’s led us to look at what we were eating, and how much we were eating. It took us about a week to get used to the program, and figuring out we could use our “extras” to construct a good side salad to go along with one of the entrees. If we eat everything designated on our plans (which are different), we find that we are full. Certainly hungry by the next time to snack or eat, but it gets us through.

    It’s really reset our concept of how much one should eat, or needs to eat. And, that much of the bulk should come from fresh vegetables. That bulk comes with low calories. Unlike the incredibly calorie dense, nutrition poor choices we were making. (And shoveling in by the handfuls.)

    Our plan is to finish out this month, reorder, and during that month start working in our own fresh made meals and not continue they program, but our own new way of living healthier.

    If I could afford a nutritionist and a private chef to do this for me now, I would. But, I don’t. The cost of Nutrisystem was high, but I can say the experience for us has taught us a lot, and we both feel amazing — and have various health metrics that also show improvement. Well worth it in my opinion.

    It won’t solve the problem for you — with any “diet” if you “go back to how you use to eat” guess what — you’ll go back to the fat you used to have! Duh. We understand we can never “go back.” And this is one step in the bigger plan. The jump start it is giving us is making the rest of that plan easier.

    1. I am glad that Nutrisystem is working for you and you are losing weight! If it is helping you to incorporate fresh fruits and veggies in your diet, all the better. But let me ask you this: how much did you spend on the program? Seeing a Dietitian is actually more affordable than you think. Many private practice RD’s charge between $100-$200 for a session, and there are online dietitians that are even cheaper because they have a lower overhead, for example on mommycoach.com, where I also have a profile. I think that if Nutrisystem is working well for you, that you could do even better. Weight loss is great, but it isn’t the end-all-be-all for nutrition; and even cholesterol numbers (which naturally fall when you eat better), and HgA1c (which also falls when you eat less). There are things in life that can’t be measured, and if you are putting chemicals in your body all the time, you never know what that could lead to… cancer, autoimmune diseases, etc. Again, I value your opinion and I’m glad that you are on a path to getting healthier, but I hope that Nutrisystem is just one step on that path and that you continue to better and better things.

  7. How can you criticize food you haven’t even tried? I think it’s delicious. Nutrisystem guarantees weightloss. (which is true) if you gain weight after going off that’s your own personal fault.. I’m pretty sure NutriSystem doesn’t make any promises to teach you ‘how to eat’ it’s ready to eat- no fuss, no calorie counting, no hassle. Also, it’s expensive because you’re paying for convenience.

  8. I happened upon this while looking up some info on the tuna–whether the roll was included as part of the calories or extra. Just a quick online check because so many people use Nutrisystem, I knew I could just Google it. What a surprise to see the sea of negativity in this post! I love Nutrisystem food!

    I think you miss three of the major positive impacts of Nutrisystem. First, it helps people recognize what actual portions are. So many of us either never knew or have lost this along the way. Yes, you can do this on your own, but it’s difficult and many give up. Relearning what to eat, shop for, and how to cook it, is a time-consuming project that requires lots of time! Some of us choose to learn to eat healthier while losing weight with Nutrisystem. As for the food, it’s not meant to be the food one eats for a lifetime. It’s meant to show you the way while you are on the weight loss path. Of course it’s packaged food! As such is will have extra ingredients. They have to ship items that will be as fresh and safe as possible on arrival. Obviously all fresh food is not an option.

    Second, Nutrisystem’s online resources are a fountain of information of healthy eating AND exercise. I’m cooking much healthier meals for my family because I’ve learned so much about nutrition and portion sizes.While I used to struggle to get in a couple of miles jogging, I now easily do 3 to 4 1/2 miles several times a week. I am also bicycling extensively, strength training, and doing yoga on a regular basis after reading about how others built their exercise programs on the site’s forums and blogs.

    Last, Nutrisystem has an immense support system consisting not just of counselors, but also others who are on their weight loss journey and many who have succeeded but remain on the blogs and forums to offer support to those who are struggling and cheer on those who are succeeding.

    I’d be willing to bet that in a competition between other R.D.s and Nutrisystem, Nutrisystem would have more people who are able to stick with the program and maintain their weight. Most people I know who have used dieticians drop the programs because they are too stringent from the beginning, pushing people to make too many changes at once. That said, there is no “one size fits all” dieting plan. Each has it’s place. All make us think and learn more about nutrition. Let’s play nice.

  9. I am on Nutrisystem right now. I decided to try it just because of the convenience as I work incredibly long hours. I was eating junk just because I was hungry and tired after a long day at work and did not have the energy to prepare anything for dinner or to take for lunch the next day. At work I was ordering out take-out high calorie foods as I would be hungry and stressed. After 12 hour shifts, I am also not getting exercise, I am collapsing into bed.
    The Pros: convenient packaging, I can grab and go with any of the meals. I sometimes eat a dinner for breakfast, have a breakfast as a snack, etc. I cut my grocery bill, I never go to the grocery store anymore, just stop at a convenience store for milk. Since it is easy to prepare, I can eat it on the go. It is keeping me eating low calorie and I am losing weight which was my goal.
    The Cons: it is the only food I am eating so I am sure I am not getting a balanced diet. If I had time and energy to prepare the recommended add ins I would be preparing myself healthy meals. I have not eaten any fresh food in about 2 months, everything is so processed. I have had bad diarrhea to the point where I leak stool sometimes, Yuck! I had to pay extra to select the more tasty foods rather than just receive the stuff no one else wants in my packages.
    My overall goal was to lose 10-15 pounds for an upcoming trip. Once I get there and my trip is over, I am going to discontinue Nutrisystem and try to find a better way to control my weight. Overall, my recommendation would be to seriously look at if you could lose weight with fresher options and home prepared foods rather than this processed stuff.

  10. I lost 50 pounds on NutriSystem and felt very full throughout the day. However, I became allergic to something in the food…not sure what but had to stop the program. I needed to lose 100 pounds and needed a jump start. I was willing to eat the processed foods to lose the weight but had no idea how bad their ingredients were…I am still struggling with weight loss and feel like a failure still.

  11. I am extremely happy with the first week of doing Nutrisystem and 15 minutes each night on my Bowflex Max Trainer… 12 lbs in just 1 week! There are many ways to keep the costs down on Nutrisystem such as buying gift cards from Costco at 80 cents on the dollar, do the auto-ship option, and if you are interested in starting Nutrisystem and would like to get $30 off send me an email to nutrisystemdiscount@outlook.com with your name and I will get you a code.

  12. I’ve been doing Nutrisystem for 3 months and that was all I had planned to do. I wanted something that would get me started before switching over to feeding myself again – since I had clearly lost my way. It’s true; it is convenient and got my stomach to shrink since my portions were so much smaller. In the beginning I was absolutely starving but that seemed to die down after a couple of weeks. The down side is that it is so full of chemicals that I have had the worst gas imaginable and oily stool. The gas is so bad that even the cats leave the room after my meals. My husband just says, “Thank God this is true love” with tears in his eyes. The other downside is that it has reintroduced high carb items BACK into my diet – things I had eliminated long ago. I gave up muffins and pasta years ago yet here I am, eating them in bulk.

    I’m not renewing again after this month. I lost about 10 pounds, nothing Earth shattering but I feel that it got me kick started. The plan is to now go to something more sustainable. I feel I have gotten myself back on track and can move forward on my own.

  13. I can’t help but think that these lengthy testimonials have been sponsored by Nutrisysten.. I bought the products for 3 months. The only good thing I can say is that it has led me to adopting a natural foods diet. Everything tastes so good in comparison to the chemical laden products. I feel much better too.

  14. Michelle Graham

    I have lost 27 pounds in 10 weeks on nutrisystem. I followed the system and eat plenty of fresh veggies and fruit. Any diet is hard to start but I have not felt deprived or hungry following the program. I walk 30 minutes to 60 minutes a day … that is it. I enjoy the food as well.

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