How to Convert Calories to Points in Weight Watchers

Weight Watchers, now called WW, updated the way followers track their food in 2015 when the company replaced its original PointsPlus system with a new approach called SmartPoints.

Per the WW plan, all foods have a SmartPoints value, though most fruits and vegetables are worth zero points. Credit: Dzevoniia/iStock/GettyImages

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While SmartPoints takes calories into account when calculating a food's point value, it's not a one-for-one type of system. SmartPoints values also consider a food's sugar, protein and saturated fat content to calculate the final number. And if you're trying to a maintain a healthy diet, tracking saturated fats is important, says the American Heart Association. Your best bet is to aim for a diet that includes just 5 to 6 percent of calories from saturated fat.

What Are SmartPoints?

SmartPoints are the method used by WW to track food and its nutritional value. "The SmartPoints food plan — part of the WW Freestyle program — makes healthy eating easy by putting complex nutritional information into one simple number," says Jenny Zimmerman, director of public relations at the company, who notes that members are assigned both daily and weekly SmartPoint targets based on their age, gender, weight and height.

Each person gets at least 23 SmartPoints a day, plus additional weekly points to use as they choose. WW encourages members to eat three meals a day and at least two snacks.

WW offers an app for both Apple/iOS devices and Google/Android devices that contains a food database. Rather than trying to calculate points yourself, you can scan a product with a barcode or search the database to quickly determine the food's SmartPoints value.

Read more: Is Weight Watchers Right for You? Here's What You Need to Know

How Points Are Calculated

Calorie-tracking website CalorieLab analyzed nutrition data to come up with a potential formula for SmartPoints, which provides an estimation of how many points each food is worth. This formula is helpful to those who follow the WW plan on their own or who don't have access to a WW food database, which can give an accurate value of SmartPoints for each food.

Ready for a little math? Here's how to calculate the SmartPoint value of a certain food:

Step 1: Look at the nutrition label of the product or look it up on a trusted nutritional database, such as the USDA's Food Composition Database. Write down the number of calories in the food.

Step 2: Multiply the grams of sugar in the food by four.

Step 3: Multiply the grams of saturated fat by nine.

Step 4: Multiply the grams of protein by 3.2.

Step 5: Add the numbers from the first three steps together. Subtract the number from the fourth step.

Step 6: Divide the final number by 33 to arrive at the final SmartPoints value, rounding up or down as necessary to get a whole number

For example, a cup of dry whole-wheat penne pasta has 334 calories, 2.6 grams of sugar, 0.47 grams of saturated fat and 13.18 grams of protein. Following the formula above, this food is worth 9 SmartPoints.

Zero-point foods, such as fruits and vegetables, don't have to be weighed, tracked or measured. Credit: serezniy/iStock/GettyImages

Zero-Point Foods

With the introduction of SmartPoints, WW revamped its zero-point foods list to include nearly all fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as a number of lean protein options. Here are just a few choices from the long list of zero-point options, which can be eaten without being weighed, measured or tracked:

Most fruits: All fruit except avocados and plantains are zero-point foods. This includes watermelon, tangerines, grapes, strawberries, melons, apples and more.

Most vegetables: With the exception of olives, parsnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams, vegetables are zero-point foods.

Yogurt: Nonfat, unsweetened yogurt — both plain and Greek varieties — are zero points.

Some proteins: Chicken breast, eggs, tofu, fish and turkey breast are zero points, as are a number of legumes.

Read more: How to Find the Best Weight-Loss Diet for You

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