Nutrisystem and the Gluten-Free Diet

Can you follow the Nutrisystem diet if you're also gluten-free?

Nutrisystem diet is not gluten-free-friendly. © Jane M. Anderson

Question: Can you do the Nutrisystem weight loss program if you're also gluten-free?

This question came in from a reader: "I've just been diagnosed with celiac disease. I had been planning to go on Nutrisystem to lose some weight—I've put on about 25 extra pounds!—but now I'm concerned about whether Nutrisystem can accommodate my brand-new gluten-free diet. Can I try it anyway? I like Nutrisystem because it's so convenient—are there any alternatives?"

Answer: I've got good news and bad news for you.

First, the bad news: Sadly, Nutrisystem isn't going to work for anyone who's gluten-free, and especially for someone with diagnosed celiac disease. Nutrisystem—a weight-loss program that includes mainly prepared food—requires participants to purchase their meals directly from the company. Almost all those meals contain gluten ingredients, placing them completely off-limits to those who must follow the gluten-free diet for medical reasons.

Nutrisystem breakfast choices include an assortment of muffins, donuts and pancakes (none of which are gluten-free, of course), lunch features lots of pasta dishes, noodles and sandwich melts, and dinner offerings include pizza, mac and cheese and more pasta dishes.

You might be able to cobble together a few days' worth of meals that include no obvious gluten ingredients. But a customer service representative told me (honestly) that those meals weren't intended for those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

Therefore, the Nutrisystem company manufacturing the products doesn't protect any "no gluten ingredients" meals against gluten cross-contamination in processing.

You May Lose Weight Anyway

Now, the good news: Since you've just been diagnosed with celiac disease, you may not be aware that you may lose some weight once you go gluten-free.

That may seem far-fetched, but it's absolutely true (there's research backing it up)—people who are overweight when they are first diagnosed tend to see their weight "normalize" after a few months of following the gluten-free diet.

Now, there's no guarantee that your excess pounds will magically disappear—while the research shows people often lose weight, your mileage may vary. 

Fortunately, there are some tried-and-true weight loss strategies that people who follow the gluten-free diet swear by. I list those here: 5 Tips for Gluten-Free Weight Loss Success

Unfortunately, there's no easy gluten-free substitute for the convenience of the Nutrisystem program. 

Many consumers have requested that Nutrisystem begin to offer gluten-free meal choices, and Nutrisystem may develop a gluten-free program (possibly along the lines of its weight loss program for diabetics or its program for vegetarians) sometime in the future, the company's representative told me. But for now, it's unfortunately not an option for the gluten-free community.

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