Diet fads come and go, but Weight Watchers has been helping people lose weight for more than 50 years. The program uses a points system to help you make healthy food choices and control calories for weight loss, which still allows you to eat what you like. Weight Watchers is continually updating their diet based on the latest scientific research, and in December 2015, the plan changed from PointsPlus to SmartPoints based on the most current data for safe, healthy weight loss. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet.
SmartPoints versus PointsPlus
The Weight Watchers PointsPlus system includes protein and fiber to calculate points, while SmartPoints includes calories, protein, saturated fat and sugars to calculate points. The protein content of a food lowers the number, and sugar and saturated fat increase the number. The goal of the new SmartPoints plan is to help dieters eat more lean protein, fruits and vegetables and less sugar and saturated fat. Weight Watchers notes that protein and fiber help make you feel full longer, which is one of the reasons for the focus in both PointsPlus and SmartPoints.
Weight Watchers 0 Point Foods
Like PointsPlus, almost all fresh fruits and most fresh vegetables have 0 points on the SmartPoints plan. So no-point selections include apples, bananas, oranges, melon and berries, along with non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, lettuce, cauliflower, carrots, celery, green beans, asparagus and Brussels sprouts.
Black coffee and tea, sugar-free drinks and diet soda are also 0 point foods on the Weight Watchers SmartPoints plan. Fat-free broth, sugar-free gelatin and sugar-free frozen flavored-water also have 0 points. Both fresh and dried herbs and spices are also free, including garlic, rosemary, basil, cinnamon and five spice powder. Other free food flavorings include vinegar, soy sauce and lemon and lime juice. Serving size does not matter; you can eat as much of these foods as you want, and the point value remains 0.
Weight Watchers Points for Starchy Foods
Starchy foods, such as bread, grains, pasta, cereal, potatoes, peas and beans, are a little higher in calories than fruits and vegetables and have varying point values, depending on the item. While it's healthier to go for whole grains, Weight Watchers points are the same if you're eating the refined-grain or whole-grain version. For example, one slice of bread, whether white or whole wheat, has 2 points, while 1 cup of cooked regular or whole-wheat pasta has 5 points. It's the same for white and brown rice, which has 6 points per cup. One cup of cooked oatmeal has 5 points, the same serving of ready-to-eat whole-grain cereal has 4 points, and 1 cup of cereal sweetened with sugar substitute has 3 points.
Starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, peas and corn, are not free like other vegetables on the Weight Watchers plan. A 1/2 cup serving of peas has 2 points, a 1/2-cup serving of sweet potatoes or a medium ear of corn has 3 points, and a medium, undressed baked potato has 5 points.
Split peas and beans, such as kidney beans and chickpeas, have 3 points per 1/2-cup serving. Two tablespoons of hummus has 2 points.
Weight Watchers Points for Protein
As you might guess, lean sources of protein are low in points on the Weight Watchers plan. For example, a 3-ounce portion of chicken breast has 2 points, and 3 ounces of sirloin or lean pork has 3 points. Fish is even lower in points, with 3 ounces of plain shrimp, lobster, tuna steak or tilapia with 1 point each. A can of water-packed tuna is also 1 point. Oil-rich fish, including salmon and herring, are 4 points per 3-ounce serving. One egg has 2 points, and three egg whites or 1/2 cup of egg substitute has 1 point.
Meats higher in calories and saturated fat have higher point values. A 3-ounce New York steak has 5 points, a 3-ounce bratwurst has 9 points, and one beef or pork hot dog has 6 points. Regular bacon also has a higher point value, with 5 points for three slices, versus 3 points in the same serving of turkey bacon.
For non-meat eaters, Weight Watchers also has a number of low-point items that are 1 point each, including 3 ounces of firm tofu, 1/2 cup of meat substitute or 1/2 cup of soy cheese.
Weight Watchers Points for Fats
Fats are a concentrated source of calories and have higher Weight Watcher point values than some of the other food options. For example, 1 tablespoon of canola oil has 4 points, while a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil has 1 point. A tablespoon of regular mayonnaise also contains 3 points, while the same serving size of a reduced-fat version contains 2 points. Nuts and nut butters also have higher point values, with 4 points in a 1/4-cup serving of almonds and 6 points in a 2-tablespoon serving of peanut butter. Avocados are also a healthy fat and contain 3 points per 1/4 of the fruit.
Although they both contain the same calories, 1 tablespoon of butter is worth 5 points, while the same serving of margarine is 4 points. The point difference is because of the saturated fat in butter. A tablespoon of lard or shortening also has 5 points.
Weight Watchers Points for Milk Products
According to a 2011 study published in The Journal of Nutrition, getting more dairy foods in your diet can help you lose fat and preserve muscle, so don't skimp on the milk on your Weight Watchers diet. One cup of nonfat milk has 3 points, while the same serving of whole milk has 7 points. Yogurt is a good source of calcium and protein, too. To save points, go for nonfat plain Greek yogurt, which has 3 points per cup, versus 5 points in the same serving of regular nonfat yogurt. Greek yogurt is higher in protein than regular yogurt, which explains the difference in points. If you enjoy cheese, you may want to consider the low-fat version when following Weight Watchers, which has 1 point per ounce, versus 4 points in the same serving of the full-fat version.
For non-milk drinkers, consider soy or almond milk. A cup of soy milk, whether fat-free or regular, has 3 points, while the same serving of unsweetened almond milk has 1 point.
Weight Watchers Points for Fast Food
What makes Weight Watchers so accessible is that you can eat anything on the program, although, if you like fast food, it may cost you all your points for one meal. A small fast food hamburger has 7 points, while a large burger has 13 points. A regular cheeseburger has 12 points, and a serving of french fries ranges from 7 points to 11 points. A six-piece serving of chicken nuggets has 9 points, while a fried chicken breast with the bone has 11 points. If you like pizza, a slice of cheese from a 14-inch pie with a thin crust has 8 points, and pepperoni has 9 points. Tacos make lower point options for the Weight Watchers dieter, with 4 points in a soft-shell taco and 5 in a hard-shell taco.
Weight Watchers Points for Sweet Treats
Like fast food, sweet treats are also allowed on the program, but it will cost you. One cookie, whether chocolate chip, oatmeal or sugar, has 3 points. A fun-size chocolate bar has 4 points, while the full version has 12 points. If you like ice cream, you'll save points eating the sugar-free fat-free version, with 3 points per 1/2 cup versus 7 points in the regular version. Apple pie is also high in points, with 12 points per slice. And a piece of iced cake, with 23 points, may cost you most of your daily points.