Even when on a weight-loss diet, it's best for women to eat at least 1,200 calories to avoid decreases in metabolism. The Weight Watchers system streamlines calorie counting by having you count points – assigned to each food depending on its calorie and nutrient content – not the calories themselves. The points you need differ based on your activity level, age and gender.
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Points Versus Calories
Points are calculated based on more than just calories. They take into consideration the carbohydrate, fiber, protein and fat content of foods. Weight Watchers tries to encourage people to eat more of the healthier foods and less of the foods that aren't as nutritious by making the better-for-you foods lower in points.
For example, even though both a chocolate chip cookie and an apple have 95 calories, the cookie is 2 points while the apple uses up none of your daily points. For this reason, a 1,200-calorie diet could have a range of points values, depending on the foods you eat.
Fresh fruits and non-starchy vegetables are all 0 points, encouraging people to eat more of these filling, nutrient-rich foods. Although these foods have a few calories, they also contain plenty of water and fiber, which help fill you up so you eat less. Dried fruits, starchy vegetables and fruit juices aren't free foods, however, and fruits and vegetables still contribute to points values in mixed dishes. Other foods with no points include broth, diet soda, sugar-free gelatin, hot sauce, reduced-calorie fruit-flavored ice pops, ketchup, kim chee, mustard, pickles, pico de gallo, salsa, seltzer, sauerkraut, steak sauce, soy sauce and vinegar. These foods add flavor without a lot of calories.
Points are allotted based on your current weight, age, gender and height, and the minimum per day is 26. You'll also have 49 extra points to use whenever you want during the week, and can get more points through increasing your activity level. You may use these extra points the same day or roll them over for later.
Weight Watchers fits into the definition for a safe and effective weight-loss plan, because it doesn't forbid foods, is balanced, emphasizes a slow and steady rate of weight loss, and encourages exercise.
Although you aren't counting calories, the principles behind the point system help steer you toward healthy, filling foods that will help you lose weight while still having a treat now and then so you don't give up on your diet due to cravings.
- Weight Watchers: What Can I Eat
- U.S. News & World Report: Weight Watchers Diet
- Western Virginia University Extension: Characteristics of Safe and Effective Weight Loss Plans
- Weight Watchers: The PointsPlus Program and WeightWatchers.com: 15 Essentials
- Weight Watchers: Zero PointsPlus Value Food List
- American College of Sports Medicine: Metabolism is Modifiable with the Right Lifestyle Changes