Replacing NutriSystem With Your Own Foods - Complete Weight Loss Plan


Are there free or less expensive weight loss programs that you can do on your own

I have used the NutriSystem Weight Loss program and though I am not one to promote fast weight loss diet plans, was pleased with the how quickly I lost weight. 

Because the program may be too expensive for certain people, ideas for less expensive alternatives to NutriSystem are provided on this page.

Some prepackaged meals that you buy in the supermarket or online are better than what I was eating when on NutriSystem. Personally, I can no longer eat their foods because there are too many things in them that I am sensitive too now...gluten, dairy, etc., so I need alternatives. I also am not thrilled with how much sodium is in prepared foods. Perhaps one day changes will be made to accommodate those of us who have food sensitivities. If this were to happen I may try their program again.

The most important aspect of any weight loss program is having an organized plan to follow, so I am attempting to put one together here, for myself and anyone else that might be interested.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Use a NutriSystem Meal Planner to Record Your Meals

If you would like to use the NutriSystem Meal Planner to record your meals, they are often available here. You have to scan through the list of items to find them, but it's easy to do. There are planners for women and men, and occasionally different programs, like the Silver program that was available when I joined, but these result in only minor changes in the planners. What is available at any given time may vary.

Free online tools to track your progress losing weight

Anyone can sign up with NutriSystem and use the weight management tools, even if you don’t purchase their foods.
Sparkpeople has great tools to make sure you are getting all the nutrients you should, as well as exercise programs with videos, and much more, it’s a wonderful resource. 

You can also use what I have provided below as a guide. You should have enough information right here to know how much you should eat at each meal, and between meals.

Free printable diet food exchange list, Meal Plan Checklist and Fast Food Guide  

Below you will find a direct link to a complete food exchange list that I found online, as well as a fast food restaurant guide that you might find helpful. The Food Exchange List has all the food groups and portion sizes for each individual food on the list. It also has a free foods list, foods that you can eat unlimited amounts of...when "free foods" is mentioned anywhere on this page, it is referring to that list.

Don't be put off by the fact that the list is created for diabetics, in fact you will lose weight using the list, and who doesn't want to prevent diabetes...a very common disease that can be caused by poor eating? When one of my husband's doctors wanted him to lose weight years ago, he was given this very list.

ALSO if you aren't using one of the food trackers mentioned above this section, please feel free to print my meal checklist (please note there is a typo on the checklist, there should be only one section to record your lunch...until I correct you can cross out the extras.) to keep track of your foods as you eat them. A checklist for each meal and snacks between meals are included:

Click here to print the checklist in PDF format. All you need is the free Adobe Reader to view and print it...available online if not in your system. Most computers come with this installed.

Food Exchange List System - This is a complete food exchange list. Don't be put off by the fact that it is a Diabetic meal planner, it is a wonderful list and will be very helpful with portion sizes, and provides guidance as well. I have this printed out and taped inside one of the cabinet doors in my kitchen.
Fast Food Restaurant Food Guide - This link will lead to a guide that will help you as you plan eating meals out at fast food restaurants.

Book explains how the NutriSystem Program Works 


Though it is not necessary that you buy this, if you want to learn more about the details behind this weight loss program, the book may be helpful. 

There may be other books related to this featured on the same page when you visit this link for more information

Image Credit - Amazon


How to Track the Diet Plan that Follows


You will want to print out the Meal Checklist PDF as a way of keeping track of what you eat, and the Food Exchange List discussed above as a way of knowing what foods you can choose from in each category, and how much equals a portion. 

You will be surprised at how small a portion really is! This is the hardest thing to get used to in our "super size it" society, but it's worth it for your health and well-being.

REMEMBER, whenever I mention "free foods" below, it is one of the food lists to chose from on the Food Exchange List printout.

Breakfast and Weight Loss/Management 


Breakfast doesn’t have to be anything fancy for me, but I like it to be healthy. Foods and portions are listed below, you will find how much a portion is on the Food Exchange List printout, and check off the foods on the Meal Checklist printout discussed above.   

Breakfast Suggestions:

- 1 Meat or Dairy Portion (ie. 1 egg)
- 1 Starch (ie. 1 slice bread)
- Tea or Coffee (free foods if no cream/sugar/honey is added)
- "Free Food" okay anytime.

I do use a little sugar-free creamer. If you like your tea sweetened, you can use a natural no-calorie, no-carb herbal sweetener called Stevia. Visit this link and enter "Stevia" in the search field for more information. I do receive a little compensation for purchases made through this link, and some of the other links on this page.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Mid-Morning Snack Ideas


Before I learned I was Lactose intolerant, I would have a cup of yogurt or a cheese like string cheese. You can also have 8 oz. skim milk if you prefer to drink something. Lately I have been having my fruit and sometimes a piece of Lactose Free Cheese at this time of day.

Snack Suggestions:
- 1 Fruit (see food lists)
- 1 Dairy


Planning your Weight Loss Lunch

Lunch can be a prepared easily from the food groups suggested below. If you work and eat out, the Restaurant Guide and may be helpful to you, but for a time, to get used to what to eat and what quantities, you may want to carry your food to work.

Lunch Suggestions:

- 1 Meat or Dairy 

- 2 Low Starch Vegetables (salad is what I like, feel free to use lettuce, celery, cucumber, peppers, tomatoes freely.)
- 1 Starch (ie 1 bread, 2 brown rice cakes, etc.)
- 1 Fat
- Any Free Foods.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Mid-Afternoon Snack:

I like the 100 Calorie packaged foods, it makes it easy to keep the calories down. 

BUT it is even better to learn to portion foods, this means reading what a portion is on the particular snack you want to eat. For example, if I decide I want corn chips, I count out how many it says a serving size is on the bag, which is usually much less than I would have eaten without checking what a serving size is. This is also helpful for foods that you have a hard time finding on the food lists I've provided above.

Image Credit

Weight Control Dinner Plans

For dinner, consider the foods listed below. See the low-starch vegetables on your food list.

You can have a nice big salad, in fact you can eat salad any time you like if you use fat-free dressing in moderation, or just squeeze a little lemon or sprinkle with Balsamic Vinegar for flavor without the extra calories. Avoid adding high-starch vegetables to your salad unless that is how you are using the starchy vegetables already suggested listed below.

Here are dinner suggestions:

- 3 Meat and/or Dairy (ie. 3 oz. meat)
- 1 Fruit or High Starch Vegetable
- 1 (or more) Salad with dressing as described above
- 1 Starch
- 2 Fat – could be a couple of teaspoons of butter on potato or rice, or oil in salad, or see food lists for suggestions.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Dessert or Evening Snack 

If you prefer having something to eat between dinner and bedtime, you will want to save your mid-morning or afternoon snack until should have 2 snacks a day.

I often spread out the foods suggested for dinner to make a 3rd snack. For example, the fruit can be saved and eaten as a snack. 

Evaluating Your Progress


After you have been eating this way for a week or two, if you find that you are not losing, or heaven forbid, gaining, you will need to remove items from the menu.

OR, you should increase your exercise. You should be doing some form of exercise daily anyway, even if it is walking each day.

How much you lose is affected by various much you exercise, your age, or how fast or slow your metabolism is.

Questions? Please feel free to ask any questions in the comment section below.

Portion Control Tools to Help Maintain Lost Weight


There are many inexpensive items you can purchase to help you maintain your weight after you have lost it, and even lose weight if you choose to use portion control dishes and utensils to manage weight.

I have created a page sharing some of my favorite portion control tools here. 

Easy Diet Plan Using Store Bought Frozen Meals


I was reading the reviews for "The Simple Diet: A Doctor's Science Based Plan" and noticed that many said it was easy, and similar to other programs that provide you with meals, except it tells you what frozen diet meals to buy from the supermarket, and what additional foods to eat, similar to what I have provided above. You may want to take a look at the reviews by clicking the book image below:

You may also be interested in another article I have written - "How to Start the DASH Diet with Free Printable Tracking Charts", I diet that states that it may help reduce blood pressure as well as weight.

Updated 1/3/22


  1. It looks great as well as an easy way to track your foods and calories.
    I need a food tracker, but to ensure that I get enough food in a day, not to lose weight.

    1. Thanks for your visit, Marsha. It is still okay to use what is provided to help you eat balanced, and if you find that you either maintain or lose, you would simply increase quantities. Many would love to be in your shoes:-) But I guess it can be a concern one way or the other. Thanks again for stopping by.

    2. There's a great app for iOs and Android called Fat Secret (not affiliated) terrible name, but great app. You can scan bar codes of the packages your food comes in, enter fruits and vegetables, and it knows most foods at most restaurants. I've found it really helpful in keeping my protein levels up when I'm working out regularly - while still keeping calories down.

  2. Oh, wow! I have been searching for a mid-afternoon snack that would not add tons of calories. Thank you for suggesting one. I also appreciate all of the suggestions and directions you have given here. I know the snack was not the primary focus of the article, but it just happened to be what I needed most right now.

    1. Cynthia, controlling snack portions and how often we eat snacks is so key to weight loss and maintenance...many are able to control meal portions, but it's all the additional snacks that get them into trouble. Glad it was helpful! Thanks for visiting.

  3. Thanks for the great information!

    1. Your very welcome, I'm glad that it was helpful. Please let me know if you have any questions.

  4. I love your article, but I'm not seeing the Free Food List that you've mentioned several times. I must have overlooked it. Can you tell me where it is, please?

    1. In the section just above the blue book explaining how NutriSystem works. You will find links to various resources, including the one you mentioned, read the section and you'll see it. If you continue to have trouble, let me know. I'm glad you enjoyed the article!

  5. I am quite a picky eater when it comes to vegetables, woukd you recommend a low-sodium vegetable/fruit juice such as V8 Fruit Fusion or would that be too much sugar, calories, etc.?

    1. Any vegetable juice that does not have a lot of added sugar, corn syrup, etc., would be appropriate. In fact you may want to learn to juice or liquefy your own vegetables using a juicer or NutriBullet or Ninja. I have used NutriBullet and am not using the Ninja, I like to have the pulp of the fruit or vegetables with my drink.

  6. Thanks for all the great info! I don't see "desserts" on the diabetes list and would rather not use the 100 calorie packs; can you tell me what makes up a mid-afternoon meal? Like protein, dairy.... Thanks so much.

    1. Yes, you can do the same thing as the mid-morning snack. I just provide a dessert option for those who enjoy their sweets to show that you can still eat them in moderation and lose weight.

  7. Hello again. I don't eat dairy other than yogurt which I'm including in my meal paln; is there a dairy substitute when it calls for 1 dairy? Thanks.

    1. The only option that comes to mind right now is soy yogurt. I drink almond milk as labels to see how the almond or soy milk compares to dairy. Sometimes it is better. I am lactose intolerant, so always look for dairy that is lactose free. This is easier to do with cheese, especially appreciate the cheeses made by Cabot, almost all if not all are marked lactose free. Kraft shredded Mozzarella is also lactose free.

  8. Is this good for someone who wants to lose more than 100 pounds? I would like to try this, but it seems like I would be eating more calories. I will try this when my nutrisystem ends though.

    1. Depending upon your age and how much you have to lose, it may actually be beneficial to start out eating what seems like more, I would try the suggested amounts, and depending upon how things go for a week, adjust accordingly. You can come back here and let me know how it goes and I can see if I can help you. So many things affect our weight loss, exercise, age, etc., and so there is no "one size fits all", but this gives a good foundation to start from.

  9. Glad I stumbled upon this! On the printed daily check list it has two lunches per day. Is this a typo or two separate meals?

    1. It is a typo! Oops! I am not sure when I'll get around to fixing it, but thank you for making me aware of it.

  10. I was on the NutraSystems diet and it worked great. One - among many - bad eating habits of mine was drenching salad in dressing then eating the remaining dressing (I know, that's disgusting and I'm ashamed). When I discovered salsa was a free food, I started using it for dressing. It worked great and, even after discovering this treat seven years ago,I still use it. I figure I haven't used a full bottle of salad dressing in all of that time. There are lots of sauces that can be substituted for salad dressing. I've tried several just for some variety, but mild salsa is my go-to option.

    1. That is a great suggestion! It is amazing how such a little habit can dramatically affect weight loss. I love that you figured this out and have found a great solution!

  11. I want to thank you for having the link to Spark. I'm on a diet and I have a problem with portion control. It helps when I can see how much I'm eating and how much I should be eating.

    1. They are a great resource! I'm glad you are being helped in your weight management journey.



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CONTENT SOURCE CREDIT: Certain posts contain information from an educational series offered by Wholefood Farmacy with personal insights added or more current information added when updating. All such information is used with permission.


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