Since its inception in 1963, WW International — formerly known as Weight Watchers — has continually modified and updated the way it encourages people to track their food to lose weight. In late 2015, WW introduced its "Beyond the Scale" program, which replaced its PointsPlus system with SmartPoints with the overall goal of focusing more on healthy habits rather than just weight loss.
Although SmartPoints takes calories into account when calculating a food's point value, it's not the end-all, be-all of the system. SmartPoints values also consider a food's sugar, saturated fat and protein content to come up with the final number.
What are SmartPoints?
SmartPoints are the method that WW uses to track food and its nutritional value. "The SmartPoints food plan — part of the WW Freestyle program — makes healthy eating simple by putting complex nutritional information into one simple number," according to Jenny Zimmerman, a media representative from the company, who noted that members are assigned both daily and weekly SmartPoint targets that are based on a person's age, gender, weight and height.
Each person gets at least 23 SmartPoints a day, as well as weekly points, which can be used if you go over your daily allotment. WW encourages its 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. The app also tracks your fitness goals, converting physical activity into FitPoints.
How Points are Calculated
Calorie-tracking website Calorie Lab analyzed nutrition data to come up with a potential formula for SmartPoints. While it's not official, the formula provides an estimation of how much points each food is worth. Keep in mind that nearly all fruits as vegetables, as well as some lean proteins, such as chicken breast or Greek yogurt, don't have any SmartPoints.
This formula is beneficial to people who are trying to follow the WW plan on their own or don't have easy access to a WW food database, which can give an accurate value of SmartPoints for each food. To calculate the estimated SmartPoint value of a certain food:
Step 1: Look at the nutrition label of the product or look it up on a nutritional 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, this food is worth 9 SmartPoints.
With the launch of Beyond the Scale and the introduction of SmartPoints, WW International revamped its zero-point foods list to include nearly all fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as a number of lean protein options. Zero-point options, which can be eaten without being weighed, measured or tracks, include:
Most fruits: All fruit except avocados and plantains are considered 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 free from SmartPoints, as are a number of legumes, such as beans of all sorts.
- CalorieLab: Weight Watchers SmartPoints Formula in Detail: A Step-by-Step How-To
- WW: Understanding SmartPoints
- WW: Weight Watchers Introduces the Beyond the Scale Program: A Personalized Approach to Eat Healthier, Discover Fitness That Fits, and Fuel Inner Strength
- WW: Our Impact Manifesto
- U.S. News and World Report: What is WW (Weight Watchers) Diet?
- WebMD: WW (Formerly Called Weight Watchers)