|Nutrisystem meals are shelf-stable and delivered monthly. The company also offers access to weight loss consultants. (Bradley C. Bower/ Associated Press)|
Weigh costs, options when picking diet meal plan
NEW YORK - The price of losing weight for 22-year-old Thomas Ferraro is about $300 a month.
That’s how much he pays for Nutrisystem to ship low-cal meals to his doorstep. The food is shelf stable, meaning it doesn’t go bad for months even without refrigeration.
“When I first looked at the packaging, I started laughing. It was weird to have everything fit on one plate. It was an adjustment at first,’’ said Ferraro, a recent college graduate who lives with his parents in Long Island and is looking to start his own business.
At 5 feet, 9 inches, his goal is to shed 40 of his 230 pounds by summer. It’s the first meal delivery program he’s tried, but there are plenty of others on the market.
You’ve likely seen the ads in recent weeks, as companies look to capitalize on weight loss resolutions for 2010. Many are running promotions too, or offer ongoing discounts for larger purchases. That’s how Ferraro is paying about $70 less than the advertised price for his monthly shipments.
Below are snapshots of a few major programs, including pricing and what you get in return. The company websites provide a good sense of the food quality to expect. Most programs suggest you fill out the meals with your own fruits, vegetables, and drinks.
In addition to the national distributors listed below, there may be smaller operations that cater to your area.
You have to order one week at a time, but there are no long-term commitments.
PRICE: $19.95 a day ($139.75 a week, $559 a month) plus $19.95 for shipping each week.
WHAT YOU GET: Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack or dessert. You can pick and choose dishes to customize your plan.
OPTIONS: More than 100 meals. There are vegetarian options, but no full plan for vegetarians.
SAMPLE DISHES: Blueberry muffin, chicken flatbread pizza, lemon herb chicken with wild rice and broccoli, Ghiradelli dark chocolate bar.
ALTERNATIVE: As with most meal delivery plans, you can save by picking a five-day-a-week plan. The company is also running a promotion for a free day of food each week. Type in “FREEDAY’’ for the promotion code on the billing page.
PRICE: $59.95 a day, $419.65 a week, or $1,678.60 a month. Shipping is included.
WHAT YOU GET: Breakfast, midmorning detox shake, lunch, midafternoon snack, dinner, mini dessert.
OPTIONS: You can make requests, such as no mushrooms, fish, or tomatoes, but otherwise meals are planned for you. You can set specific calorie ranges and vegetarians can be accommodated. The company says the same meal won’t appear twice in four months, but many meals can be very similar. Think chicken or red snapper with different sauces.
SAMPLE DISHES: Banana and flaxseed pancakes, mahi-mahi fish tacos, osso buco braised lamb, carrot cake.
ALTERNATIVE: The company also has a custom meal delivery program that isn’t for weight loss. You can use it to order a few dishes if you want to get a sense of the food quality before committing. There’s also a five-day-a-week weight loss plan.
The program gives you access to weight management consultations, either over the phone or in person at one of its 571 centers. You also get personalized menu plans and motivational materials.
PRICE: The food is $12 to $18 a day ($84 to $126 a week, $330 to $504 a month). You can buy food at a center. If you get it delivered, shipping costs are $2.32 a day or $65 for a four-week shipment.
WHAT YOU GET: Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack.
OPTIONS: You can pick a planned or personalized menu. There are more than 80 entrees and snacks, and a temporary seasonal item is introduced every six to eight weeks.
SAMPLE DISHES: Oatmeal breakfast square, creamy chicken and corn chowder, spaghetti with meatballs, toffee cookies.
ALTERNATIVE: You can order items a la carte, if you want to try a few dishes first.
PRICE: $369 a month for men, $333 a month for women, plus $18 for shipping.
WHAT YOU GET: Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks (women get one, men get two).
OPTIONS: There are 150 meals, snacks, and desserts to choose from. You can pick and choose your meals, or have a preselected menu.
SAMPLE DISHES: Apple-cinnamon oatmeal, bean-and-ham soup, hearty beef stew, chocolate chip cookie.
Nutrisystem plans are for 28 days, but you can buy items a la carte if you want to test a few dishes first.
PRICE: The costs vary depending on where you live, but should be less than $5 a meal. If there’s a dish you like, stock up when there’s a sale.
WHAT YOU GET: A recent Consumer Reports taste test of 24 frozen diet meals found the quality had improved considerably in recent years.
However, the report found the meals often had very small portions and calorie counts, meaning they should be supplemented with fruit, vegetables, soup, or salad. Sodium content could be high in many meals too.
OPTIONS: Healthy Choice, Kashi, Lean Cuisine, and Weight Watchers each offer an array of options and regularly introduce new items.
SAMPLE DISHES: Kashi chicken florentine, Weight Watchers Santa Fe-style rice and beans, Lean Cuisine Cafe Classics shrimp alfredo.