How Does Nutrisystem Work?

Jane_150by Jane, Boston, MA

I’ve had a lot of people ask me how Nutrisystem works when they find out that I’ve done it. While I was on Nutrisystem, people at work would always want to know how the program works. Most people have at least some idea how it works, from seeing the ads on television. But they want to know the ins and outs.

Is it enough food?
That’s the number one question I get: is it enough food? I heard an ad on the radio yesterday for a weight-loss pill that was guaranteed to work—but in the study, the women had been eating a diet of 1300 calories a day. Of course it works! If you’re cutting your daily calories by 500 or more, you’re going to lose weight, pills or no pills. But the fact of the matter is, it’s pretty hard to cut your calories on your own.

Nutrisystem is going to be fewer calories than you’ve been eating. If it weren’t, you wouldn’t lose any weight. At first, the portions seem pretty small. But they actually fill you up. So I guess the answer is that it’s definitely enough food to be full, but it isn’t as much as you’re probably used to eating. For me, that was actually great, because I feel like it taught me how proper portioning works.

So what do you get?
My plan includes a breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack/dessert, and protein shake each day. I order them once a month, and they arrive in a big box on the doorstep. If there are frozen meals included, those come shipped in dry ice. (By the way, don’t throw out the Styrofoam cooler! You can find lots of people happy to take it off your hands and reuse it!) So then I’m stocked for the month.

Everything that isn’t frozen can be stored in the pantry, which is really convenient. It means you can leave them in a cabinet at work or even in your car (yes, I have a backup lasagna in my car).

There are all kinds of different meal plans you can choose. The basic plan saves about $1 per day, and it comes with a pre-selected group of meals. My advice would be that it’s worth the extra $1 per day to go to the core plan, which lets you customize your menu. For $1 per day, I think it really helps to pick what you like best. After all, you’re going to be eating it every day!

There’s a Select plan as well, which includes fresh frozen meals. I will say that some of the frozen meals are awesome, so this might be worth it if you want the best-tasting food possible.

You can get a plan customized for vegetarians, men, women, or diabetics. I just did the regular women’s plan; some months I did the frozen meals, and some months not. I found both of them to be just fine.

Is it all the food you need?
Nope! You supplement the meals by buying certain carbs, proteins, dairy, fruits, and veggies at the grocery store. Nutrisystem provides you a list of grocery options, but you really have a lot of options and can shop for things you like, within the guidelines.

If you live with other people, this won’t be a big deal at all—you’re going to have this stuff around anyway. That’s sort of what I did. I grocery shopped for our house at about half the amount I used to, making sure there was some fruit, veggies, and almond milk available for me to use. I actually skipped some of the additions to meals, because I found it easier to just eat the prepared meal. For me, it was enough food—especially for lunch. That freed me up to have an occasional drink, diet soda, half a bagel, or snack at a party.

If you live by yourself, it’s easy to choose 3 or 4 grocery items a week to supplement your meals. The cost is really minimal, but it increases the variety and makes you happier.

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