So, you’re looking for the best weight loss program. Nutrisystem or Ideal Protein? Don’t worry. I’ve done the research and I’ve run the numbers. I’ve analyzed and evaluated each company according to a wide variety of metrics, so you don’t have to.
I declare Nutrisystem as the winner and you can check it out here. But it’s not because Ideal Protein is really lacking in its weight loss program. No, it’s for a far more mundane reason: convenience. Nutrisystem is a meal delivery service. Ideal Protein isn’t.
You can join the Nutrisystem site, order food, alter orders, and track your deliveries from the comfort of your home, or even just with your phone. Ideal Protein is a strictly offline service. And because of that, it can’t compete.
Nutrisystem wins the first category in this comparison, Menu Variety, because not only does it have a fairly extensive selection of meals, they’re all accessible online. Unfortunately, since Ideal Protein isn’t a meal delivery service, although it has a wide selection of products, none of them are available online. So, really, Ideal Protein just can’t compete.
Both Nutrisystem and Ideal Protein developed diet plans to aid in weight loss. In addition to its main weight loss options, Nutrisystem also offers plans for diabetics and vegetarians. In contrast, the Ideal Protein plan stands alone. Although it is, in some respects, similar to a keto plan, it’s not identical. It’s a doctor-developed plan that uses food as a form of medicine to help you lose weight and improve your health.
Nutrisystem offers meals that are perfectly portioned according to gender, caloric intake, and a few other metrics tailored specifically for you. Ideal Protein uses a similar strategy just focused a little differently: so much protein, so many carbs and fat, etc…
Most Nutrisystem meals can be prepared in a microwave in under five minutes. If you don’t want to use a microwave, some of the Nutrisystem meals can be prepared in conventional ovens, others in toaster ovens, and some on the stovetop.
Similarly, the recipes offered on Ideal Protein run the gamut of oven types. Some require only the use of a stovetop while others may require an oven. Generally, they aren’t set on a particular oven appliance. Instead, each recipe uses whichever appliance is the most suitable.
Nutrisystem has a much more extensive menu listed on its website. The menu I looked at (dinner) had a total of 40 options. Of those 40, about 20 were Italian, 12 were American, four were Mexican, and the remaining four were divided up between Mediterranean and Chinese.
In contrast, Ideal Protein provided only a very limited selection of recipes on its site. Basically, since it isn’t a meal delivery service, they don’t need to provide a full menu. Instead, Ideal Protein gives you a sampling. The recipes I saw included six American meals, and one each of Chinese, Moroccan, and Italian.
Both Ideal Protein and Nutrisystem offer breakfast and lunch menus to go along with their dinner menus. Both also offer snacks. However, Ideal Protein also offers drinks, soups, and several specialty items.
The prevailing principle behind Ideal Protein is to approach food as a type of medicine and regard weight loss as a form of healthcare. To that end, the brilliant minds behind Ideal Protein developed its product line with the goal of giving you mastery over your own metabolism. With assistance from dietitians, you can easily follow the doctor-developed ketogenic protocol to lose weight, keep it off, and enhance your quality of life.
Of course, not everything needs to be quite so hardcore. Both Nutrisystem and Ideal Protein offer a few kid-friendly meals to keep your munchkins satisfied. Nutrisystem, for example, offers a Hearty Beef Stew meal and a Mac and Cheese meal.
Ideal Protein offers its own version of Mac and Cheese as well as a meal of Veggie Meatless Patties. And, if you’re interested in a more ethnic twist on the Beef Stew tradition, Ideal Protein offers a hearty bowl of Moroccan Beef Stew. Doesn’t it look delicious?
Again, Nutrisystem wins this category because it's a meal delivery service and Ideal Protein isn’t. Like many meal delivery services, you can’t customize your individual meals at Nutrisystem. However, Nutrisystem provides an extensive filtering tool that lets you customize your overall menu selection.
If you don’t want any meals that have wheat, for example, meals that fit that criterion can be filtered out with a click of the mouse. It’s simple and easy. All told, the Nutrisystem filter will weed out up to 14 different kinds of allergens or dietary exclusions. That’s a pretty decent number compared to most meal delivery services I’ve reviewed.
And that’s just the allergen filter. Nutrisystem’s filter can also sort according to 11 different meal ingredients including chicken, beef, and seafood. So, if you want to look only at meals containing chicken, just check the correct checkbox.
Nutrisystem’s filter can also sort according to special diets. Basically, if you’re diabetic or you’re a vegetarian, you can set the filter so that it only shows you meals from those categories. That makes it quite a handy feature, don’t you think?
All told, Nutrisystem’s filter works on the following preferences: storing condition (frozen or not), the type of meal, dietary requirements, nutritional needs, preparation method, and simple exclusions (allergens, etc…).
As noted above, Ideal Protein, is NOT, at this time, a meal delivery service. As such, you can’t order meals through its website, therefore, you can’t customize meals from its website either. You can only get an Ideal Protein meal at a certified Ideal Protein clinic or center.
This means that if you want to select Ideal Protein meals according to a diet preference or some other criterion, you will, most likely, have to do that manually at the physical location where you purchase the meal. As far as the Internet is concerned, you’re out of luck.
Ideal Protein does, however, offer a sample menu on its site for advertising purposes only. It has a list of 10 different categories each with a handful of food products listed to give you an idea of the fare it offers. There are also several different recipes provided, but you can’t order anything. It’s there simply to whet your appetite.
Again, Nutrisystem wins this category by default because it’s a meal delivery service. You can order Nutrisystem meals, expect them to be delivered to you, and, consequently, you can unbox them. None of that’s true with Ideal Protein – at least, for now.
Placing an order with Nutrisystem is pretty much as straightforward as any other meal delivery service. The only thing is that the plans are larger than most others, requiring the expenditure of at least a few hundred dollars because you typically order for four weeks at a time. However, it does have a la carte options, if that’s more to your liking.
Because Ideal Protein isn’t a meal delivery service, it has no offerings online. However, its offline plan sounds similar to a keto plan, although there are a few differences. The Ideal Protein Protocol is focused on long-term weight loss. The plan comes in three parts: Phase 1: Weight Loss, Phase 2: Stabilization, and Phase 3: Maintenance.
If you need to change an order at Nutrisystem or reschedule a delivery, the process is relatively simple and is detailed in the FAQ. Basically, you must log in and click My Account. From there you must click Edit Next Order. Alternatively, you can call Customer Service (1-800-585-5483).
The one stipulation you must keep track of is to make sure you make all desired changes to your order by 6 pm EST on the day before the order starts processing. If you need help, you can call Customer Service at 1-800-585-5483.
It’s also worth pointing out that Nutrisystem (and Ideal Protein as well) isn’t really offering meals to feed you. Instead, Nutrisystem is offering a weight loss plan – which is why you typically order food on a monthly basis instead of weekly.
Ordering from Ideal Protein isn’t possible (at the time of this writing). It looks like a quality company with a quality product that has the potential to expand into the meal delivery service niche but hasn’t as of yet. So, again, it forfeits this category.
Nutrisystem delivers to the entire United States. That is the contiguous 48 states, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and other U.S. Territories. It also delivers to military addresses, APO and PO Boxes, and Canada. Delivery is free (for qualifying orders) for the contiguous 48.
Delivery typically takes 1-5 business days for the contiguous U.S., two days by air plus another 1-5 for HI, AK, Puerto Rico, and other non-Continental U.S. territories, and 4-10 business days throughout Canada.
A big plus to Nutrisystem is its official companion app called NuMi. It helps you manage your account, orders, and deliveries from your phone. It’s available as a free download from the App store and Google Play. You can also access it from your desktop at numi.com. It's a great way to keep tabs on your weight loss program.
At the present time, all Ideal Protein orders are picked up in person at an Ideal Protein clinic or center. As a result, there are no options for rerouting or changing orders or anything else available through the website.
Likewise, there are no apps or other handy devices to complement your Ideal Protein experience. However, you can get dietary assistance and advice at any Ideal Protein clinic or center or by contacting the company from the Contact Us page on its website.
Nutrisystem accepts orders on a monthly basis. As a result, your first box and every subsequent box should contain a four-week food supply. However, frozen food is shipped separately from non-frozen food. Dry ice is shipped along with frozen food to keep it cold. In fact, frozen food should remain frozen up to six hours after delivery.
All Nutrisystem meals are pre-prepped and packaged. As a result, the meals you get will be ready to be heated upon delivery – there should be no ingredients to wade through or prepare.
Instructions for preparing, heating, and storing the meals are available on the website or the FAQ page. According to the FAQ, frozen foods should be put in the freezer within six, preferably four hours, or sooner, if possible. Other meals can be stored at room temperature as is. Nutrisystem foods typically have a shelf life ranging from 6-18 months.
Complete information about the recyclability of the Nutrisystem packaging is available on the FAQ page. The new coolers that the company uses for its frozen meals are both reusable and recyclable. They’re made with environmentally-sustainable materials and are designed to be 92% biodegradable. As a result, they can be thrown out or recycled – although recycling is preferred.
In contrast to this, Ideal Protein only offers food through its weight loss clinics and its centers. It doesn’t deliver meals to your door. So, there are no boxes or extraneous packaging to worry about.
Again, Nutrisystem wins this category simply because it offers meals on its website that are fully prepared beforehand. In contrast, Ideal Protein has no offerings through its website, although it does provide a few recipes there that you could make use of. Still, that doesn’t compare to what Nutrisystem brings.
Many Nutrisystem meals are frozen and are typically prepared directly from the frozen state. The meals don’t require thawing out. Instead, they can be microwaved, or, in many cases, heated in a conventional oven immediately. The details for each meal are available on the website.
A number of Nutrisystem meals don’t require refrigeration or freezing. They can be heated as is, usually in a microwave. In fact, most Nutrisystem meals can be heated in a microwave – which makes them super convenient. Other meals can be heated in a conventional oven, others in a toaster oven, and still others on a stovetop.
Obviously, the most clean-up-friendly meals are the ones that can be prepared in the microwave. However, meals heated by other methods, like a conventional oven or stove top, usually aren’t much of a problem for clean-up either.
Winner: Ideal Protein
In terms of the Customer Support offered, both companies appear comparable. However, I gave the nod to Ideal Protein in this category because, quite frankly, Nutrisystem dropped the ball. I sent the company an email, and Nutrisystem never got back to me, (All right, it showed up eight days after the fact – see below).
Nutrisystem allows you to contact the company through a chat box, email, or phone. Ideal Protein provides an email form, an email, and a phone number.
I would probably have given the edge to Nutrisystem because of the chat box, but, unfortunately, as I said above, when I tested the company’s email contact, Nutrisystem was very slow to reply. Not good.
The requested email finally showed up, but eight days after the original inquiry. It stated, basically, that all meal recipes are fixed and can’t be altered to remove allergens. The best, and, really, the only way to remove allergens is by filtering out all the meals that contain said allergens. Now, back to the discussion.
Canceling Nutrisystem is pretty straightforward. There’s a question dedicated to it on the FAQ page. According to the information presented there, you can cancel your auto-delivery program whenever you want. The only stipulation is that you do so before 6 pm EST the day prior to your order’s scheduled processing.
To officially cancel, you must call Nutrisystem at 1-800-585-5483, select option one, and then option six. Alternatively, you can contact the company via chat and speak to an agent. There are a few other caveats to take heed of as well.
First, if you refuse delivery or return a non-frozen amount of food, you’ll be charged a $19.99 return shipping charge. Likewise, if you cancel after the seventh day after your first order arrives and before paying for your 2nd shipment, you’ll be charged $125 for the auto-delivery discount you received on your first shipment.
Ideal Protein replied to my email inquiry a little more quickly than Nutrisystem – it took about a weekend. In the email, I inquired about the cancellation process and found out that cancellations and returns were handled by the individual Ideal Protein clinics which are independently owned and operated.
Nutrisystem wins this category, too. Basically, Nutrisystem’s introductory price at $8.54 per serving is about half the cost of Ideal Protein which, according to the website FAQ, costs around $16 a day.
The Women’s Basic Plan on Nutrisystem comes in at $8.92 per day. So, there’s an obvious price advantage if you choose Nutrisystem. Of course, you really aren’t comparing apples to apples here. Nutrisystem and Ideal Protein use very different dietary approaches. If you find that Ideal Protein’s ketogenic protocol suits you better, the price difference won’t matter.
That said, let’s delve into pricing a little more. Nutrisystem offers add-ons like snacks and such that start at around $3.60. You can place orders for individual snacks through the a la carte feature on the site.
However, be aware that any non-plan order or a la carte order on Nutrisystem will be charged the standard shipping fee. This is typically determined by the cost of the order and ranges from $7.99 to $19.99.
For orders above $75, there’s no shipping fee for all parts of the contiguous U.S. For orders outside the contiguous U.S., there’s the standard shipping fee which, according to the site, is set at $49.95.
Weight loss, diabetics, and vegetarians
Keto diets and weight loss
$8.54 per serving
Free for orders > $75, otherwise $20
Ideal Protein products can only be purchased in an authorized Ideal Protein Weight Loss Clinic or Center.
1 a la carte snack or other item (about $3.60+ with a $20 shipping fee)
150+ choices per week
Microwave-ready, conventional oven, toaster oven, stovetop
Allergies catered to
Wheat, milk, lactose, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, eggs, tomatoes/tomato sauce, pork/pork gelatin, chocolate, sugar alcohols, onions, seeds/nuts/corn
None specified, but recipes are given
Diabetes, vegetarian, carb-conscious, weight loss
Weight loss, keto
online chat, email, phone
Email form, email, phone
Nutrisystem wins this match up primarily because Ideal Protein isn’t an actual meal delivery service. As such, it can’t compete with the convenience Nutrisystem provides. With Nutrisystem, you can order, edit, and cancel your service all from the comfort of your living room chair. Ideal Protein requires that you go to a physical location.
At least, that’s the situation at the current time. In the future, maybe Ideal Protein will move into the meal delivery space. Maybe not. If it does, we may have to do a rematch. In the meantime, you can check out Nutrisystem and its offerings to see if it suits your needs.
Nutrisystem offers a large number of frozen meals that simply require heating in a microwave. However, that’s not all that the company offers. In addition to the frozen meals, Nutrisystem offers a fair number of stand-alone shelf-stable meals that don’t even need refrigeration. And it provides the information to sort through these options on its site.
Nutrisystem designs its meals so that they align with the recommended daily allowance of sodium that the USDA stipulates: 2300 milligrams or less per day. If for some reason you need to reduce your sodium intake further, you can use the Nutrisystem meal filter to select lower sodium meals or contact a Nutrisystem Weight Loss Coach for assistance.
Although there are similarities between an Ideal Protein and Keto Diet, they’re not identical. For one, an Ideal Protein diet usually is much lower in fat intake. Second, the Ideal Protein diet offers a complete program with the assistance of dietitians and similar support to help you stay on track. Keto Diets usually don’t do that.