Nutrisystem, headquartered in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, is a commercial provider of weight loss products and services. Initially, the company offered weight loss counseling and products in brick and mortar centers. In 1999, the company moved to a direct-to-consumer business model, selling its products and programs over the Internet and through a company 800 number. Nutrisystem’s programs have been sold on the QVC television home shopping network since 2001 and in Costco stores since 2009.
The company states that its mission is to provide a weight loss program based on quality foods and a nutritionally balanced meal plan. The foundation of all Nutrisystem programs is the home delivery of portion-controlled entrees and snacks. Customers supplement these packaged foods with grocery foods, including vegetables, fruits, and dairy items. When followed, the diet is low in glycemic index and provides nutrition consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans – 2010. Resources are also available for increasing physical activity and obtaining behavioral support.
Separate plans are offered for women and men, at calorie levels that support a weight loss of 1-2 lb/week (approximately 1200 calories per day for women and 1500 per day for men). Approximately 57%, 23%, and 20% of calories come from carbohydrate, protein, and fat, respectively. All plans contain at least 30 g of fiber per day, and have no more than 85 g of sugar, 170 mg of cholesterol, and 2300 mg of sodium per day. Four categories of plans are available: Basic, D, Silver, and Vegetarian. Basic is the core weight management program, which is designed to meet nutrition recommendations for the general population. The D program is designed for people with diabetes and has a nutrition profile that aligns with the recommendations of the American Diabetes Association. The Silver program is marketed to men and women aged 65 years and over. The Vegetarian program supports a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet. The nutrition content of each of these programs – including macronutrient distribution as well as fiber, sugar, cholesterol, and sodium content – is summarized on Nutrisystem’s website for healthcare professionals.
Currently the Nutrisystem program provides over 150 menu choices in four categories: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks/desserts. Most options are shelf-stable products which include bars, muffins, pretzel snacks and pancake mix, as well as microwavable soups and dinner entrees. All shelf-stable microwaveable entrees are developed through retort preparation, which uses heat and pressure to cook food in a strong, sealed package (like a can or pouch). This preparation method allows for safe holding at room temperature and minimizes the need for added preservatives or sodium. Overall approximately 75% of Nutrisystem products have no added preservatives. Nutrisystem also has a line of frozen food choices available called “Nutrisystem Select.”
The Nutrisystem products provide approximately 60% of daily calorie needs. The remaining 40% of daily calorie intake comes from grocery foods, which the customer purchases separately. These grocery food additions include fresh fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy and protein sources. The program provides specific guidance on how to choose and when to use these grocery additions.
Nutrisystem encourages, but does not require, customers to increase their physical activity (dietary intervention is the main focus of the program). Customers who choose to set exercise goals are given targets for aerobic and strength training activities at the beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels. Online resources in support of customers’ activity goals include sample workouts, articles, discussion boards, tips, and exercise trackers. Nutrisystem recommends that customers consult with a health professional before beginning a new fitness program.