Nutrisystem got its start in 1972, being one of the leading diet meal delivery companies. Since then, it’s become a name that many people recognize, thanks to celebrities from Marie Osmond to Janet Jackson losing weight and endorsing it.
But despite its popularity, many people can’t answer what should seemingly be a simple question, given its high celeb profile—what is the Nutrisystem diet?
We’ll give you the low-down on Nutrisytem, the foods you can eat, and its pros and cons so that you can determine if this is the proper diet to help you with your weight loss goals.
An Overview of the Nutrisystem Diet
After watching his mom struggle with weight loss, Harold J. Katz founded the Nutrisystem diet. The premise of his company is to make it easy for people to lose weight by not having to plan meals, reduce their grocery shopping, and nearly eliminate the time they spend cooking.
Some of the basic principles of Nutrisystem include:
According to Nutrisystem, individuals can lose between 13 and 18 pounds during their first month on the program. They encourage dieters to exercise for a minimum of 150 minutes per week to quicken weight loss.
Nutrisystem delivers many of the meals to your door in frozen, shelf-stable, and shake forms. You only have to heat up or mix your meals and snacks to prepare them.
Despite many people following in lead endorser Marie Osmond’s footsteps with losing weight, this diet is cost-prohibitive for people on a budget, and many nutritionists believe it’s too calorie restricting.
Food You Can Eat on the Nutrisystem Diet
Nutrisystem has had time to develop since the 1970s, and one of its most significant changes in the various types of meal programs it offers. They offer the following plans, most of which come with their unique sets of 100+ foods to choose from:
While every plan has specific foods that it specializes in, almost all focus on offering lean protein, whole grain carbohydrates, vegetables, fruit, and dairy. Special Nutrisystem protein shakes are also a part of most diet plans.
Some examples of the foods you might be able to eat, depending on your plan, include:
The type of plan you choose will also determine how many meals Nutrisystem drops off at your door. Most programs come with five days of ready-to-eat meals. However, the Uniquely Yours Max+ option within any of the plans allows you to choose to receive seven days worth of prepackaged meals.
Another aspect of the Nutrisystem diet is that you can have eight cheat meals a week—something that Nutrisystem likes to call Flex Meals. While they encourage people on this diet to eat foods low in calories, sodium, and fat, you have the flexibility to splurge on a treat if you wish or if social gatherings all but require it.
You can have two breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks with your eight weekly cheat meals.
Nutrisystem Diet Pros
Below are some of the positive aspects of following the Nutrisystem diet.
Nutrisystem does most of your meal planning for you, and it reduces the amount of time you need to spend in a grocery store. Furthermore, all Nutrisystem meals simply need reheating or mixing (in the case of shakes with skim milk). So, you’ll spend less time in the kitchen and more time doing what you love.
Finding a diet plan that works for vegetarians can be challenging, especially with trending meat-based diets like keto and paleo. So, Nutrisystem offers respite from this by laying out vegetarian-friendly meal plans.
Supports Blood Sugar Regulation
If you’re on Nutrisystem’s D plan, you’ll be eating low glycemic index foods, which may help regulate your blood sugar. But even if you’re not a person with diabetes, many of Nutrisystem’s plans are high in fiber and protein. Therefore, you may also experience fewer high blood sugar spikes.
Nutrisystem Diet Cons
No diet is perfect, and each comes with different risks depending on the person. So, before embarking on the Nutrisystem diet, consider the following cons.
It’s undeniable that Nutrisystem is expensive, which comes with the territory—they’re saving you time by not having to plan and cook your meals, so they price it accordingly. Furthermore, keep in mind that you’ll have other grocery costs in addition to the base plan package, as they don’t include all meals and snacks.
Highly Processed Foods
Nutrisystem encourages dieters to supplement their diet with lean protein, fruit, and vegetables. However, Nutrisystem’s foods are typically highly processed. Processed foods often contain high levels of sodium, fat, and sugar and lack nutritional value.
Low Daily Calorie Intake
Generally speaking, doctors recommend that women and men consume 2,000 and 2,500 calories per day, respectively. In contrast, the average Nutrisystem diet plan offers 1,200 - 1,500 calories per day. A lack of calories can have devastating long-term effects on the body, including bone deterioration, infertility, and anemia.
Difficult to Sustain
The difficulty in sustaining the Nutrisystem diet is a two-part process. On the one hand, it can be challenging to keep up with because you might feel hungry from such a restrictive caloric intake. On the other hand, having eight cheat meals per week might grant some people too much liberty, encouraging frequent overeating.
Benefits of the Nutrisystem Diet
If you follow the Nutrisystem diet, you can nearly guarantee that you’ll lose weight. Although it’s questionable whether your weight loss will be healthy because of a huge reduction in calories, weight loss undoubtedly has benefits.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), losing as little as 5% of your weight can support improved cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels.
Risks of the Nutrisystem Diet
If you have celiac disease, are on dialysis, have soy allergies, or are allergic to latex, the Nutrisystem diet isn’t suitable. Furthermore, if you already have a low body max index, this diet could put you in dangerous territory. For this reason, Nutrisystem won’t allow anyone with a body mass index under 19 into their program.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should also avoid Nutrisystem, as the calorie restriction is too low for them to give proper nutrients to their baby.
Should you not fall under these categories and choose to try the Nutrisystem diet, make sure to self-assess regularly. If you’re ever feeling faint, nauseous, or experiencing other troubling side effects, stop the diet immediately and see a doctor.
The Final Verdict
A quick search on Google will reveal many celebrities and hundreds of weight loss stories from people following the Nutrisystem diet. However, while this diet offers attractive convenience factors, it’s a restrictive eating style that often isn’t sustainable in the long run.
If you’re interested in giving the Nutrisystem diet a try, we recommend speaking with your doctor first. They can offer their professional recommendation on whether you’re a good candidate for this diet plan.
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