I get variations on these questions fairly frequently. People asking this question seem to think that finding substitutes at a grocery or health food store will save them a little money. They usually hope to find frozen or ready meals that are just as effective in losing weight as the Nutrisystem meals. This will indeed be a very tall order for a number of reasons. I will go into more detail on this in the following article.
The requirements you would have to meet to find anything comparable to Nutrisystem meals in a supermarket or grocery store: In short, they want you to eat between 1200 and 1500 calories a day. This includes three main meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), dessert, snacks, and the fresh side dishes you add to each meal. Of course, since you eat so often, all meals, desserts, and snacks provided by the diet must be low in calories. Most breakfasts, desserts, and snacks are between 100 and 150 calories. Many of the lunches and dinners are well under 300 calories each. This range is hard to find in grocery stores and this doesn’t even tell the whole story.
Because calories aren’t the only thing that’s going to be important. The diet’s meals are also very low in carbohydrates and sugar while maintaining high levels of protein, fiber and nutritional value. This is just as important as the calorie count. The reason is that this ratio helps you burn both fat and calories because you’re reducing the carbohydrates that your body often uses for fuel. There’s a technical name for it (ketosis), but the main idea is that you lose both weight and fat by eating fewer carbs and calories.
It is very difficult to find foods in the supermarket that are so low in calories, carbohydrates and sugars and at the same time high in protein and fiber. Many diet foods add some sugar to hide the taste. Lean quick shakes are a good example. Some of them contain up to 18 grams of sugar.
But it’s really at lunch and dinner where you see the biggest difference. For example, if you were to compare Nutrisystem’s pizza to a lean kitchen pizza, you would see that there is a big difference. The lean cuisine product has around 320 calories and a whopping 53 grams of carbohydrates. This is in stark contrast to the 220 calories and 28 carbohydrates found in the Nutrisystem product. When you add up these differences for even three of the five meals, it can make a big difference in your calorie and carb intake for the day.
When I asked myself this very question, I simply browsed through many of the diet products in the grocery store and compared them to similar products from Nutrisystem. I can’t think of a product that was comparable on all variables (calories, carbs, protein, sugars, and fiber). Instead, many of the products contained far more calories, sugar, and carbohydrates, and not nearly as much protein and fiber. Many of the store products were also quite high in sodium and contained questionable ingredients like high fructose corn syrup.
It’s a fairly easy task to check this yourself. And I often have to say that you may not save as much money as you had hoped. Generally, when you buy a Nutrisystem package with coupons, you pay a little more than an average of $2.10 to $2.25 per meal. Many diet products cost more than that, not to mention the gas and time it takes you to accumulate all of this. So while you can certainly try whatever foods you want, I personally don’t think they would be that effective, but that’s just my opinion.
Thanks to Ava Alderman