Weight Watchers yields better weight-loss results when compared to self-directed weight-loss programs, concluded research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2015. The program helps you monitor your food intake by assigning you a certain number of points, called SmartPoints, based on a calculation of your metabolism and weight-loss goals. Every food you eat is then assigned a point number derived from its nutritional makeup. Weight Watchers isn't about strictly counting calories, but about making quality food choices that promote overall health as well as weight loss. A point isn't equal to a certain number of calories, however, as multiple nutrients help determine point values.
How SmartPoint Numbers Are Derived
A food's SmartPoints value depends on how it scored according to an algorithm that takes into account calories, protein, saturated fat and sugar content. The SmartPoints value depends on the type of fat in a food -- options high in saturated fat gets higher points, for example. Sugar also raises a food's points value. On the other hand, protein lowers the number of points in a food.
On the Weight Watchers plan, most vegetables and fruits have zero points, even though they contain calories. This means a banana with 105 calories registers the same zero points as a 1/2 cup of cooked broccoli with 27 calories or a cup of romaine lettuce with 8 calories. Weight Watchers wants its members to benefit from the nutrients and fiber found in fresh produce. By making fruits and most vegetables "free" foods, you're encouraged to eat more of them.
How to Manage SmartPoints
You may spend your personalized SmartPoints budget on any food you like. You'll hit your limit quickly, however, by choosing foods high in sugar or high in saturated fats. Surprisingly, high-sugar, and thus high-in-SmartPoints, foods include orange juice, fruit smoothies, chai lattes and packaged tomato soup.
The SmartPoints budget doesn't roll over daily, so you can't save points for use the next day. You do get a weekly SmartPoints allotment in addition to your daily points though, and the weekly ones can be distributed as you see fit. If you go over your daily allotment, use some of your weekly SmartPoints to stay on track. As you progress with weight loss, your daily points will change.
SmartPoints Drive Smart Choices
Weight Watchers' SmartPoints system is designed to help you make the healthiest choices possible. Entrees with equal numbers of calories can register with very different SmartPoints, depending on what's in the meal. For example, a 300-calorie breakfast that consists of Greek yogurt with berries has only 3 points, but a 300-calorie breakfast consisting of high-sugar chocolate chip pancakes with maple syrup has 11 points, according to the Weight Watchers website.
High-sugar and high saturated fat foods "cost" a lot of points, so you're likely to limit them to stay within your daily allotment. Weight Watchers steers you to high-protein foods to "stretch" your SmartPoints budget. These foods point values don't correlate with their calorie counts, however. For example,1 cup of non-fat plain Greek yogurt has 130 calories, but 3 SmartPoints; 1 egg has 72 calories and 2 SmartPoints; and 3 ounces of lean pork has 178 calories and 3 SmartPoints per serving.
Alternative to Counting Calories or SmartPoints
Weight Watchers offers an alternative to tallying your days-worth of SmartPoints. It's not based on calories, but, again, on making quality food choices. You choose from a list of nutritious foods that help fill you up. You're directed to opt for portion sizes that make you feel satisfied, but not overly full.
Foods on the list include fat-free dairy; fresh fruits; watery, fibrous vegetables; unflavored, unsweetened whole grains; and lean proteins without excessive sodium, breading or oil. You're also encouraged to have 2 teaspoons of healthy oils, such as olive or safflower, on a daily basis on this plan.