If you’ve been searching for a weight loss plan, you’ve probably come across both Nutrisystem and Lean Cuisine. Both are popular options, and they’re both aimed at helping people lose weight through balanced, portion-controlled meals.
Lean Cuisine offers a range of frozen ready meals that you can buy at just about any grocery store and cook within minutes.
Nutrisystem delivers a week’s worth of prepared meals to your door at a time, specifically designed to kickstart your weight loss over the space of a month. You also get access to the NuMi tracking app for support. It’s one of the most convenient ways to manage weight loss, but it comes at a hefty price tag.
So, which is the better service to help you meet your weight loss goals? This in-depth comparison, focusing on menu variety, pricing, weight loss strategy, and more, will help you decide.
Gluten-Free, Carb-Conscious, Low-Calorie, High-Protein, Vegetarian
Vegetarian, High-Protein, Wheat-Free, Low-Glycemic
$3 per serving
$9.29 per day
Three to five minutes
Three to five minutes
Both of these weight loss giants have options for customers with dietary restrictions, however, Nutrisystem takes things up a notch by offering specialized menus for different needs, including a Vegetarian and Diabetes plan. It doesn’t offer any vegan, dairy-free, or gluten-free plans.
The first week on a Nutrisystem plan is designed to kickstart your weight loss, so it's slightly more restrictive than the following weeks. During this week, you’ll be required to only consume the brand’s own meals and shakes, after that, there is more flexibility and you can start to incorporate your own home-cooked meals.
You can pick up Lean Cuisine meals which are gluten-free, vegetarian, low-carb, and high in protein, but the brand doesn’t offer vegan-friendly dishes or meals specifically designed for diabetics.
In fact, if you’re vegetarian or have other specific requirements, such as a dairy intolerance, you might struggle with the lack of variety when it comes to dining on Lean Cuisine. There are currently 66 meals to choose from, only 12 of which are meat-free, and many of them aren’t able to meet niche requirements.
While both Nutrisystem and Lean Cuisine can meet a few different dietary needs, the nature of these prepared meals means there are limitations – so you lose the flexibility you would have if you were cooking.
Nutrisystem pushes its varied menu as a major selling point. Let’s face it, losing weight is hard enough as it is, and it’s even worse if you have to deal with eating the same foods every day. That’s why Nutrisystem has enough options that you’ll rarely have to repeat a meal.
There are more than 150 meals available from Nutrisystem, and that’s without the additional snacks and desserts. That’s miles above the 66 meals available from Lean Cuisine.
Nutrisystem also offers structured meal plans, which Lean Cuisine doesn’t. It goes without saying that a more structured plan means you’re less likely to eat the wrong things – leading to more effective weight loss.
Lean Cuisine meals are sold at grocery stores, so you’ll be required to plan and shop, and the selection can be limited based on where you live. It’s worth checking your local grocery store’s website to see what’s available.
But let’s not give up quite yet! Lean Cuisine still has a couple of cards up its sleeve. For one, the brand is in the process of launching new products. Take its new line of cauliflower pasta bowls, for example, which includes dishes like Fettuccini with Meat Sauce and Garlic Parmesan Alfredo with Broccoli. Each bowl is delicious, nutritious, and under 400 calories.
The prices for Nutrisystem and Lean Cuisine are tricky to compare.
Nutrisystem plans are billed monthly, starting at $8.54 per day, or about $279.99 per month. However, that’s the price you’ll pay if you opt for auto-shipments. If you want to order month by month, you’ll be paying a lot more ($472.71 for women and $545.44 for men, to be exact).
Keep in mind, too, that these prices are for the most basic Nutrisystem plans. They don’t account for any snacks or customizations.
But how much should you expect to spend with Lean Cuisine? Meals average around $3 per serving. Lean Cuisine doesn’t offer breakfast dishes, so for two meals a day, seven days a week, that’s around $42 a week, or $168 per month.
It’s worth noting, too, that the cost is just for two meals per day. You’ll have to factor in the price of additional foods from the grocery store for breakfast, plus any snacks, fruits, vegetables, and dairy products.
Winner: Lean Cuisine ekes out a win with a slightly lower base price.
When it comes to delivery, there isn’t much to compare between these two companies. For one, Nutrisystem is the only service of the two that actually offers delivery. The meals arrive in an insulated box every week, and the packaging is almost entirely recyclable or biodegradable.
Lean Cuisine meals can be found in the frozen section of most major grocery stores. The meals come in single-serving boxes, which can be handy but also lead to a lot of waste. Fortunately, the cardboard outer packaging is recyclable, but the plastic tray will be a bit trickier. You’ll have to check the number on the bottom to see if it can be taken to your local recycling center for disposal.
Now, just because Lean Cuisine doesn’t offer its own delivery service doesn’t mean you’ll have to venture to the grocery store every week to get your meals. You just have to get a little creative! Apps like Instacart can have them delivered to your door within the hour – but, of course, it comes at an extra cost.
Many grocery stores are offering their own delivery service or parking-lot pickup nowadays. If you’re short on time, both of these are great ways to streamline your weekly shop.
Nutrisystem and Lean Cuisine both offer prepared meals, so the prep time is similar. The frozen meals can be ready in around three to five minutes when heated in the microwave, and Nutrisystem also offers some ready-to-eat meals like granola bars, as well as snacks and desserts, including crackers and cinnamon rolls.
Another thing to keep in mind with Nutrisystem is that once you get past the first week, you can choose to order fewer meals and are encouraged to cook for yourself a few times a week. This is designed to help you learn about healthy eating and to ensure your diet is sustainable, so you don’t come out of the plan relying on prepackaged foods.
This is great for long-term weight loss, but not so great if you struggle to find the time to cook. Most of its recommended recipes will take around 30 minutes to make, so you’ll have to plan accordingly. Suggested recipes can be found on the Nutrisystem blog, The Leaf, or on the NuMi app.
Winner: It’s a tie
Nutrisystem and Lean Cuisine make pretty similar products overall, but they have completely different strategies when it comes to healthy living and weight loss. Nutrisystem is backed by a comprehensive and structured weight loss plan, while Lean Cuisine puts the planning directly into your hands.
Ultimately, there’s no denying that Nutrisystem comes out on top when it comes to menu variety, convenience, and catering to dietary preferences.
Lean Cuisine did have one win: its slightly lower price point. Though I personally feel the higher cost of Nutrisystem is worth it for all the extra perks, including a meal plan that can lead to more effective weight loss.
There is one scenario where Lean Cuisine could be the better choice for weight loss, though. If you want to mostly cook for yourself and you just need a little help with healthy, fast lunches or dinners a few times a week, then Lean Cuisine is a good low-cost, commitment-free option.
If you still haven’t made up your mind on a meal delivery service, take a look at our list of Best Weight Loss Meal Delivery Services of 2021 for even more options.
Overall winner: Nutrisystem
14 meals a week with Lean Cuisine will run you around $168 a month, whereas the cheapest monthly plan with Nutrisystem will cost around $280. The Nutrisystem plan includes all meals and snacks, whereas Lean Cuisine has no breakfast or snack options. And Nutrisystem delivers to your door, saving you the temptations of a grocery store trip.
If you are serious about starting a diet, Nutrisystem is the best choice. Nutrisystem is a complete weight-loss plan that provides a variety of tasty low-calorie meals, snacks and shakes designed to help you lose weight and avoid hunger pangs. Lean Cuisine is a good and commitment-free diet helper, but we give Nutrisystem the award in this contest.
While both Lean Cuisine and Nutrisystem offer low-calorie fully-balanced meals designed by nutritionists, Nutrisystem offers a diabetes-friendly plan and a vegetarian option that offers more variety than the 12 or so vegetarian meals in the Lean Cuisine line.