Thursday, October 17, 2013

Website Review: Vitacost, Netrition, and Amazon

Adopting a new way of eating can be difficult, particularly when it comes to a way of eating that departs from the Standard American Diet (SAD).  The adage, "Shop the perimeter of the grocery store," is certainly practical advice and channels your food purchases to produce, fresh and frozen meats and fish, dairy, and frozen produce which are all (or mostly all) amenable to a low carb lifestyle.  However, there is more to life and eating than simply these things.  If you want to have low carbohydrate sweets you'll need to find some alternatives to flour and sugar.  Maybe you want some items that you can grab and go on those mornings where you can cook or make a proper breakfast (think, breakfast bars).  Or maybe you want to supplement your yogurt or shake with some additional protein in the form of protein powder.

Some or all of those things can be found in supermarkets or specialty food stores in major, urban areas.  But sometimes the selection is quite limited or you may not live in an area that has stores with those items.  What do you do then?  The answer, as in many cases in the 21st century, is to go on-line.

There are many choices of on-line outlets for specialty food items.  I'll review the three I've used in the past and provide what guidance I can on selecting the right one for you.  Those three outlets are:  Vitacost, Netrition, and Amazon (of course, Amazon).

Vitacost is an online health food, vitamin/supplement, and healthy lifestyle merchant.  They have a huge selection of items ranging from sweeteners, protein powders and green foods, flour alternatives (almond meal, flaxseed, etc.), olive oils and other fats, and even canned food items like black soybeans or diced organic tomatoes.  If you are looking for cleaning products or healthy pet food or pet care products they have those too.


  • Free shipping with purchases over $49 and they provide "thank you, come again" coupons in their shipments to entice you back.
  • Each product description includes nutrition information and customer reviews.
  • Vitacost has a smartphone app that works great and provides all the functionality of the website including detailed nutrition information and product reviews.
  • They have a wide variety of products and I love that I can even get pantry type items such as canned goods that are high-quality and at great prices.  Black soybeans are a favorite of mine for chilis and my local markets don't stock them.
  • The breadth of "healthy" products they offer spans more than just food and supplements.  If you are looking for healthier alternatives for laundry detergent, cleaning products, or pet care, chances are you'll find them at Vitacost.
  • They offer both keyword and brand name searches for their product search.
  • They run frequent sales and promotions which can often be the lowest price on that product anywhere (if you happen to catch it on sale).
  • They carry coffee and tea if you are looking to try something different than what you can get at the local market.
  • They also offer exclusive content such as blog posts, videos, and recipes.


  • Their stock can be limited--a number of times I've gone to the website and found I can't order items because they are out of stock, or worse, have ordered an "in stock" item only to find out later that it is now back-ordered.
  • They don't have many bread replacement products.  They do stock a few mixes, but nothing like low carb tortillas or bread.
  • Selection on sweeteners and some other items is somewhat limited in both variety and sizes offered.  For example, they only have one brand and size of erythritol (1 lb) and it always seems to go out of stock.
Netrition is an online health food and vitamin/supplement merchant.  Their products are really focused around food and health and do not include items like cleaning or pet care.  That being said, they carry certain "fresh" items like bread and tortillas.  They also classify their products according to your dietary needs such as "low carb", "muscle building", etc.

  • Netrition offers flat rate shipping of $4.95 no matter the size of your order.
  • Netrition generally has the same or better prices on products (not always, but probably 50-60% of the time compared to Amazon or Vitacost).
  • Each product description includes nutrition information and customer reviews.
  • As noted in the summary, they offer "fresh" items like low carb tortillas and bread.
  • Their selection of low carb baking mixes items is HUGE!


    • Netrition does not have a mobile-enabled website or smartphone app.  So, if you use your phone as much as I do, you'll have to use the full version of the website which is difficult to view on a small screen.
    • They don't carry olive oil.  In particular, I get olive oils from California which have been shown to be genuine unlike nearly all imported or supermarket olive oils (including organic!).
    • They don't carry coffee or tea like Vitacost.
    What can I say about Amazon that hasn't already been said.  Yes, the on-line merchant you use to buy e-books, stream videos, and do all your Christmas shopping also has a large grocery and health food section.

    • The Amazon name and brand--they stand behind everything that is sold and will make it right should your purchase go wrong.
    • They have a smartphone app which gives you access to product information and reviews though I don't really like it that much.
    • Some items can be shipped for free if you are a Amazon Prime member (NOTE:  Shipping costs are HIGHLY variable as there are many Amazon resellers which offer the grocery and health food items.)
    • Selection is generally as good or sometimes better than either Vitacost or Netrition.  You want to choose betwen a 1, 2.5, or 5 lb bag of Xylitol?  Amazon, has it.
    • Generally the items lack nutritional information or labeling viewable on the website.  Sometimes you are lucky and that information is in one of the product photos, but generally it is not.
    • Prices are usually the highest on Amazon (and the shipping can also be expensive as you will not be buying all your items from one merchant).
    Based on the Pros and Cons listed above you may have guessed that I prefer Vitacost and Netrition over Amazon and you would be correct.  The nutrition and ingredient information is critical, particularly when starting out on this new lifestyle.  In addition, they generally have better pricing and more favorable shipping as you are purchasing everything from a single vendor.  Choosing between Vitacost and Netrition is more a personal decision.  I gravitate toward Vitacost because of the olive oil and I'm not interested in things like bread or the baking mixes.  I also find that Vitacost has the lower prices on Atkins bars which I use to supplement my diet.  My suggestion is to go to both websites and search for products that you are interested in and compare the selection and pricing.  Also consider items that you may be interested in the future and see which merchant has a better selection and pricing on those as well.

    1 comment:

    1. Very nice product review.. Comprehensive. Possible articles I'd be interested in reading abt -
      1) buying natural organic - where/how
      2) website reviews