Now that Thankgiving and Christmas are behind us, I can already sense diet season sneaking up around the corner. At least in part, this is thanks to Nutrisystem. It could be because I live in Pennsylvania where the company is based, but I always see their stuff around. The signage is everywhere, and they control at least one coveted aisle end.

The surprise is, I finally gave in! I broke down and bought some of their so-called “meals” for breakfast, lunch, and dinner – I was curious to see if they were edible.

nutrisystem wrapper

What did I buy?

For breakfast:

  • Apple strudel scone
  • Cranberry orange pastry

For lunch:

  • Hearty minestrone soup
  • Pasta with beef

For dinner:

  • Vegetarian lasagna

Sounds like a good diet, huh? Pastries, pasta, and lasagna! I feel my blood sugar spiking already!

They offer quite a few meal choices, even desserts, but they’re all in line with what I picked out: various pasta dishes, soups, pizza, pretzels, cereal, etc. I believe everything I purchased was from their “Nutrisystem Advanced” line.

nutrisystem meal plan

Just What Is The Nutrisystem Diet Plan?

Given the junk food I had just purchased, I was really curious what kind of “diet” was involved. I had to assume it was a calorie-restriction type of diet, like Slim Fast, and not a food-restriction type of diet, like the Slow Carb diet.

So I found their website and looked at their guidelines and sample diet.

Basically, you eat a Nutrisystem item for each of your three daily meals, and supplement that with 6 servings of fruits and vegetables. So you’re getting at least some good nutrients in there.

Their men’s program provides an average of 1500 calories per day. Most men should probably diet in the 1400-1800 calories per day range, so that seems to be on target.

Once that was figured out, I set out to spend a day eating as they suggest…

nutrisystem breakfast

A Breakfast Of Cake and Pastries

I love breakfast. Pancakes, french toast, waffles, syrup, hash browns, doughnuts, muffins, etc. I love it all. Unfortunately, I eat that stuff very rarely since it doesn’t fit into my normal diet. (When I was racing I ate like that literally once per year.)

But with Nutrisystem, that’s exactly what I get to eat for breakfast each and every day! (Warning signs should be going off in your head right now!)

Here’s how it went…

Cranberry orange pastry:

cran orange pastry

This pastry was very small, but it smelled good, tasted good, and was incredibly moist. It was a lot like a pound cake, and I love those things! It actually had the mouth feel of real junk food, not diet food. Think about a pound cake with some hints of orange and cranberry in it. While not as thick and oily and delicious as a real pound cake, it tasted better than it looked!

How they got it to be so fresh is beyond me. They must have some really good oils and artificial flavors in there.

Apple strudel scone:

apple scone

My other breakfast treat was a little dense and dry, but I guess that’s how a strudel like this is supposed to be. It was not overly dry nor was it stale at all, it just wasn’t fluffy like my beloved pound cake. My take on the name is that it’s a scone with apple strudel flavor; expect the texture of a scone, not a strudel. It has some apple cinnamon flavor, but not much.

Overall, both breakfast items were tasty for being “diet” food. They felt lightweight and pathetic in my hands, but in my mouth, they were pretty good. Unfortunately, I consider them 310 calories of junk food. I’d much rather have fresh fruit for breakfast on a diet.

Something like two medium bananas, a large banana and an apple, or a dish of berries and melon would be an ideal breakfast. Those options would be tasty, healthy, lower-cost, 150 calorie breakfasts! No need for diet strudels!

nutrisystem lunch

Lunch In a Cup

While I love pastries, I don’t like soup. At all. So I wasn’t thrilled about trying the Nutrisystem soup! But I did…

Hearty minestrone soup:

minestrone soup

The cup threw me off because it was very lightweight. Then I realized it was just dry pasta and beans and seasoning really. The only weight is from the water that you add yourself. This needed cooked, which only took 60 seconds, but then you’re supposed to let it sit and cook/cool for 6-8 minutes.

Once cooked, I ate some, and it was just fine! I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to force myself to eat this, but I did, and I didn’t hate it – so I was impressed.

I don’t really know what a good soup would be like, but the texture of this one didn’t bother me. It had some flavor and was pretty good. I’m not begging to eat it again, but if I had to, I certainly would.

My problem was from what I noticed on the ingredients list after I ate it – sucralose! Really, an artificial sweetener in a “hearty” soup? That makes no sense to me.

Pasta with beef:

pasta with beef

In stark contrast to the cup of soup, this pasta came in a very small but heavy cup with a metal lid. The lid was easy to open, but be careful, because in my experience, pasta sauce sprays out onto your countertop, phone, white shirt, and tie. Watch out!

Worse yet, this looked like a blob stuck down in there. Had I dumped it out before stirring, it would have maintained its shape like a Jello figure! Let’s just say, it did not look appetizing.

But, being on a mission, I stirred it up a bit and tried it. Wow! The pasta was terrible! The pasta in the soup was fine, but this was absolutely awful. First of all, it was overcooked x1000! The tomato flavor and seasonings were putrid as well. I was scared to take a bite of the beef after that. Fortunately, the beef was decent. Not great, or even good, but about what I’d expect for diet meal beef in a jar.

I had only 3 bites total, yet I managed to get all the beef out. Two bites is not much beef! The container is packed full of disgusting pasta, though. I don’t know if they could have made this one worse. I mean, the pasta wasn’t just overcooked, there was something clearly wrong with it. Even properly cooked, I feel it would have been too weird to eat.

for the chickens

Here’s the funny part – I took this outside for the chickens… and they wouldn’t touch it!

Just look at this pic. That’s Arnold, the bravest of the bunch, and that’s as close as he got to it!

The smell must have deterred them because they’re always looking for a treat, and they’ll at least taste something and drop it rather than avoid it completely.

I also gave them a couple bites of pasta and beans from the minestrone soup and they loved it, so they weren’t anti-Nutrisystem. They just had the same feelings toward the pasta blob as I did.

This was especially unsettling because my dinner dish was also pasta-based!

nutrisystem dinner

Vegetarian Beef Substitute – It’s What’s For Dinner

Ok, dinner time. Fortunately for me I only had one dinner item! (After that lunch, I didn’t even want to look at a Nutrisystem box.)

Lasagna with meat sauce:

veggie lasagna

Though scared of any pre-cooked Nutrisystem pasta after the lunch debacle, the picture on the box looked pretty good, so I went for it. (And somehow this had 18g protein in it, so I figured if any meal was worth eating, it was the lasagna.)

Like the soup, this was simple to cook in the microwave, and it didn’t make a huge mess like the can of pasta.

The real thing looked nowhere near as nice as it did on the box, but it was not bad – nothing like the blob of lunchtime pasta! If you swirl the meat sauce around, it looks real.

Unfortunately, the pasta in there was the same mushy crap that was in the lunchtime pasta. But the saving grace in this case was that the meat sauce and veggie lasagna patty were pretty good textures, and the spices were nice and flavorful. So if you get a complete bite with pasta, spinach, beans, ricotta cheese, and meat sauce, you don’t notice the pasta that much.

Like with the other items that tasted alright, I wouldn’t want to eat them again. It’s simply not “good.” But I cleaned out that plastic tray this time. If they just had a way to improve the pre-cooked pasta, Nutrisystem could really improve.

nutrisystem ingredients list

Nutrisystem – I Think They Forgot About Nutrition

The normal trade off with health food is that it’s high in nutrients but low in flavor. But Nutrisystem isn’t health food. It’s diet food. It’s low in both nutrients and flavor!

From a nutrition aspect, the stuff I just ate was full of processed crap ingredients. Everything was based on white flour, packed with sodium, and the soup even contained sucralose. On this diet, you miss out on healthy nutrients and get too many junk items. It sounds even worse than the Weight Watchers points system.

Where’s the protein? I don’t think there was any in the breakfast, and there’s not much in fruits and veggies either. There was a little in their lunch and a moderate amount in the dinners, but not nearly enough for a normal-sized person (let alone an athlete). It’s clear this diet is not in agreement with the Precision Nutrition guidelines I usually follow.

This high-carb, low fat, and low protein approach is terrible. If I followed their meal plan and ate around 1500 calories per day, I’d definitely lose weight. No doubt about that. But… Would I also lose my health and fitness? Most certainly. Would I have energy to train? Not likely.

I would bet that BistroMD and Medifast are much better meal services. (I know they’re healthier at least.) BistroMD Sport actually looks pretty good with the endorsement from Olympic athlete-turned-model Tim Morehouse!

And if you want results, hiring a nutrition coach (Precision Nutrition coaching is surprisingly affordable) is definitely the way to go.

nutrisystem people lost weight

My final verdict is…

I expected this stuff to taste like crap and be less healthy than my typical diet. I was surprised (in one instance). The taste was a little better than I expected (barring the awful pasta with beef), but the more I looked at the ingredients, the more I realized this is simply unhealthy food. You could call it diet food, but only if you said “unhealthy diet food.” I would never eat this by choice!

And did I mention the price? It’s absurd. A single Nutrisystem breakfast cereal packet costs as much as a box of regular cereal. Considering price and nutrition, you’d be better off having VitaPizzas all day.

It comes down to this simple verdict: Avoid Nutrisystem. (I gave them a 1.5 star rating. One star for recommending fruits and veggies each day, and half a star because their breakfast snacks do taste good.)

Official website: www.Nutrisystem.com

Product Review Details
Company: Nutrisystem
Product: Nutrisystem
Reviewed by: Coach Levi
My Rating: 1.5 out of 5
Date first published: 2012-12-05
Date last updated: 2018-07-07
Obtained Product: Purchased at retailer.
CoachLevi.com Advertiser: No.

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Levi Bloom is an experienced endurance athlete who has been training and competing for over 17 years. A former Cat 1 road and mountain bike racer (professional class on the regional circuit), he is now a cycling coach (USA Cycling Level 3 Certified) and sports nutrition coach (Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certified).

2 Comments
  1. Not one of those items look healthy or tasty.

    • @Stephen

      Nope.

      They don’t look very good, and the presentation is not good at all. No food porn here! (Admittedly, it’s hard to make anything look good when served in a throw-away container.)

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