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Written by: Steph Gregerson on Aug 10th, 2021

Medifast or Nutrisystem 2021: Weight Loss Systems Compete

If you’ve been hunting for a weight loss meal plan that takes away the guesswork and offers clear solutions, there’s a good chance that Medifast and Nutrisystem have shown up on your search history.

I’m going to break down the major categories of a meal delivery service and help you decide between Medifast vs. Nutrisystem. You may also start to see Medifast referred to as Optavia, as the company is phasing out the former for its new branding.

Medifast reviews show that it’s extremely successful in helping its customers lose weight, but Nutrisystem is more successful in terms of customers keeping the weight off long term. I think it’s easy to see why that is when we break down the different offerings. 

At a Glance: Medifast vs. Nutrisystem


Medifast

Nutrisystem

Dietary preferences

Gluten-free options available

Vegetarian, Diabetes-Friendly

Menu variety

40+ options per menu

150+ options per menu

Starting price

$350 per month

$250 per month

Shipping cost

Free on orders over $250

Free on all orders

Prep time

None

None

Special Discount

N/A

Delivery Rank special discount available – Get 55% off one month and free delivery with Nutrisystem

Learn more

Read our expert Medifast review

Read our full-length Nutrisystem review

Dietary Preferences

Weight loss is obviously a goal here and both services offer multiple options in that realm. But what about meat-free options or gluten-free? If you have additional dietary preferences, it’s important to know your options.

Medifast offers a selection of “fuelings” and snacks, with gluten-free options available within the different fueling categories. 

Fuelings are meal replacements and include shakes, soups, bars, biscuits, pudding, and more. There’s also an information guide available for vegetarians that walks you through the options for swaps and explains which fuelings contain milk and eggs. 

It’s not the easiest to navigate for other common allergens, but the information is there if you read the guide carefully. You’ll find the full product guide below on the website, which outlines all the major allergens to help you select the best choices for your dietary preferences.

When selecting your fuelings, you can also sort and filter by the special diets you have. Just look for the Special Diets dropdown menu. You’ll have to customize your order instead of choosing one of the premade boxes, but it’s possible to accommodate.

Nutrisystem offers a few plans for different dietary needs including a fully vegetarian plan . All of the plans are also available in a diabetes-friendly version. The diabetes-friendly plans include support from Certified Diabetes Educators and a menu full of high protein, high fiber meals.

With Nutrisystem, plans are also tailored differently for men and women. You answer a simple quiz at the beginning to make sure you’re receiving the appropriate number of calories. 

Each meal from Nutrisystem offers an information page like the one shown above. You can find all the ingredients, tags to help identify vegetarian or diabetes-friendly meals, and even a Q&A section featuring answers by Nutrisystem specialists.

The winner here is Nutrisystem because it offers more accessible information as well as multiple plans for different dietary needs. Since Medifast offers meal replacements, it’s a little harder to sort through and filter out ingredients to suit your individual needs.

Winner: Nutrisystem

Menu Variety

From the above, it’s clear that Medifast and Nutrisystem take different approaches to supporting weight loss. 

Medifast does this by providing fuelings and a few meal options and then you supplement with your own meals. Nutrisystem sends all your meals and snacks to last you for at least five days of the week. I’ll walk you through the variety that each offers with the products they send so you can see some examples.

Medifast’s Optavia program provides a selection of over 40 different snacks and meal replacements. You’ll find shakes, bars, brownies, mac & cheese, and more. Each option includes 24 different vitamins and minerals, protein, and is sized to be interchangeable with other fueling options.

The program also includes Lean & Green meals, but you’re mostly responsible for selecting the recipes and purchasing the ingredients for these yourself. I say mostly because there are a few available to purchase on the website. There’s also a Pinterest board with recipes that have all the right macro levels. The benefit here is that you can select from a huge variety of options.

The picture above shows a few example recipes. With the option to select any of the meals from the list, it opens up your options quite a bit so you can enjoy any type of cuisine. 

Nutrisystem operates quite differently because all the meals are included in the plan. You’ll receive breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks. There are over 150 different menu options, so it’ll take a while to try everything.

In the breakfast category, you’ll find a mix of sweet and savory options with meals like buttermilk waffles and turkey sausage sandwiches. Lunch options include soups, sandwiches, quinoa bowls, and melts. The dinner options range from pasta to pizza to different classic meat dishes. When it comes to snacks, here are just a small selection of the snacks offered:

The menu at Nutrisystem doesn’t change weekly, but new items are added regularly. Having a few flex days during the week allows you to stay on the plan but eat meals that aren’t part of the subscription if you want.

I’d have to call this one a tie. Nutrisystem offers all your chosen meals ready to go. Medifast invites you to prepare meals on your own to go with the fuelings it sends, which means there’s an endless number of options for you to choose from.

Winner: Medifast and Nutrisystem

Starting Prices

With so much included in each of the services, you’re probably wondering about the cost. I always try to compare prices to my average grocery budget to see if it’s a good value. Medifast and Nutrisystem are usually purchased monthly, so we’ll use those numbers to compare.

Medifast offers multiple plans and food options. One of the most popular options to get started is purchasing the Essential Optimal Kit shown below. This kit includes 119 servings and costs a total of $364.65 (the online price is listed at $414.60, but that includes a guidebook which you can remove). That breaks down to $3.06 per serving and covers about 20 days worth of food for the month.

If it’s your first order, you’ll receive a collection of free items as shown in the photo below.

If the essential box is too much or you’re a returning customer, you have the option to select boxes of the fuelings a la carte. Most of them cost $21.45 for seven servings, which breaks down to the same per-serving price as the essential box – $3.06. There are a few select options and the six different prepared meal options that cost a few dollars more per box – up to $4.95 per serving.

Nutrisystem outlines all of the available pricing plans using a daily price. The price includes breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for five to seven days a week. It also includes guidance and recipes for meals on your own.

The prices listed are for those customers that elect to do monthly auto-delivery. If you opt for a one-off shipment, the price is almost double at $19.48 per day. You can save even more money if you pay for several months at a time. See the four options below for the Uniquely Yours plan.

Another quick note is on shipping. With Medifast, shipping is free if you place an order for $250 or more. Nutrisystem offers free shipping on all orders. 

When you compare the two, it’s easiest to look at it as a monthly price. Medifast costs $350-$450 and includes meal replacements. You’ll still need to shop for ingredients for the Lean & Green meals and any additional snacks. Nutrisystem costs $250-$360 per month, with the most popular choice costing $300. This price includes three meals a day and multiple snacks. 

For the price category, Nutrisystem wins. You get a little more for your money and there are more options to save.

Winner: Nutrisystem

Delivery and Packaging

When you place an order with either company, you’ll be receiving almost a month’s worth of food at a time. Let’s take a quick look at the delivery and packaging so you know what to expect. 

Medifast orders ship within two business days, so your food will be on your doorstep within 5-8 days from ordering. Everything arrives in one box and everything is individually wrapped. Boxes are all recyclable, but not all of the individual packaging is eligible for recycling programs.

With Nutrisystem, you’ll receive two separate deliveries – one with frozen foods and one with non-frozen foods. The boxes will ship right away and will arrive in under 10 business days. 

The packaging is a work in progress. The coolers for frozen food have recently changed so it’s now 92% biodegradable. Some of its packaging is recyclable, but not all of it. 

Both companies offer a large selection of individually wrapped items, which isn’t great for the environment. The biggest difference is the shipping time advertised. Medifast edges out Nutrisystem on the speed of delivery.

Winner: Medifast

Meal Prep

Both Medifast and Nutrisystem offer convenient meals that don’t require any chopping or sautéing. So, I’ll break down the small amount of meal prep that’s required.

Fuelings from Medifast are ready to eat in seconds. Many options just need to be unwrapped, but there are a few that require a little mixing, like the shakes. 

It’s important to point out here that the Lean & Green meals require cooking if you’re making your own recipes. You can choose from a huge list with different levels of prep and skill required.

Nutrisystem has a color-coded system for meals – orange labels for breakfasts, blue for lunches, red for dinners, and purple for snacks. The meal prep is very simple. For the shakes, you can throw everything in the blender. Everything else is either ready to eat or just needs to be heated up in the microwave or oven.

As you can see, each menu item has a section that describes the prep method required so you can check this out before ordering and decide if the prep is suitable for you.

Because the types of meals are similar between the two services, I would call this one a tie. You have plenty of grab-and-go options as well as a few shakes and microwaveable choices.

Winner: It’s a tie! Nutrisystem and Medifast .

The Bottom Line

Both Nutrisystem and Medifast offer some pretty extensive weight loss plans. The main goal is to help you structure your diet around their proven methods and build different eating habits. 

Medifast uses meal replacements and Lean & Green meals. It seems like a more drastic change if you’re used to eating three standard meals a day.

Nutrisystem offers the three main meals each day as well as snacks, so it’s more sustainable for long-term changes. The variety and selection are huge and each shipment is organized and clearly labeled. It really takes the work out of meal planning and can help you reach those weight loss goals and try some new foods while you’re at it.

At the end of the day, the biggest difference is the amount of thought and planning you want to put into your meal choices. With Medifast, you’ll order the meal replacements offered, but you also need to come up with your own meals and do the shopping, prepping, and cooking. With Nutrisystem, everything is included aside from your flex meals (for the nights you want takeout or are invited to a friend’s place for dinner). Nutrisystem just offers a better value.

If you’re looking for less of a commitment or want to do more meal prep, check out our best weight loss meal delivery services today for other ideas.

Overall winner: Nutrisystem

About The Author

Steph Gregerson

Contributing Writer, Delivery Rank

Steph is a book nerd, rule follower, and pizza lover who can’t get enough of playing outside. She was raised on the ice rinks of MN and currently resides in sunny San Diego. As a freelance writer, she loves research, producing content, and organizing information for a wide variety of clients. She currently has at least 10 browser windows open at all times.

Steph is a book nerd, rule follower, and pizza lover who can’t get enough of playing outside. She was raised on the ice rinks of MN and currently resides in sunny San Diego. As a freelance writer, she loves research, producing content, and organizing information for a wide variety of clients. She currently has at least 10 browser windows open at all times.
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