In 2010, Weight Watchers released its revamped formulas for calculating food points. The new formulas reflected changes in nutrition and weight-loss research since the advent of the former system in 1997. The new formulas take into account that fruits and vegetables are healthier than processed food with similar caloric contents. For example, an apple and a cookie might contain the same number of calories, but the apple contains more nutrients.
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Generally, the Weight Watchers approach to dieting is to work with customers to develop an eating plan that provides sufficient nutrients and calories, yet promotes weight loss. To do this, customers have a personalized balance of points they can eat in a day. Weight Watchers uses proprietary formulas to calculate the numbers of points different foods have. As of 2010, the lowest amount of points Weight Watchers assigns is zero.
The overhaul, made public in 2010, led to the designation of most fruits and vegetable as zero-point foods. Only clients can access the full list of qualified fruits and vegetables; however, most seem to be included on the list. The change reflects the fact that fruits and vegetables generally are healthier choices for dieters. For example, these foods typically have a high fiber, nutrient and water content, but relatively few calories. Consequently, fruits and vegetables are an effective part of a low-calorie diet. The new points system is called PointsPlus.
Another factor that inclined Weight Watchers toward designating fruits and vegetables as zero-point foods was the variety of options these foods present to the average consumer. Most people are too busy to hunt down a variety of healthy foods to match the latest diet craze, according to President and CEO David Kirchoff. But shopping for a variety of fruits and vegetables is a fast and convenient way to include nutrient-rich and filling foods in your diet.
The fact that fruits and vegetables are now zero-point foods doesn’t mean you can eat them indiscriminately. A basic tenet of the Weight Watchers diet plan is you must stop eating when you’re satisfied, not stuffed, according to a December 2010 article in “The New York Times.” The article discussed the public reaction to the system overhaul. Ms. Lauren Cohen, a Weight Watchers group leader, “warned her clients that, points or no points, even fruits and vegetables had their limits.”
Foods and beverages that have few or no calories also might qualify as zero-point foods. Only clients have access to the food database, which explains the point-value of various foods, but examples might include water, tea, coffee, artificial sweeteners and diet drinks. Also, if a serving of a low-calorie food or beverage is small enough, Weight Watchers might classify it as a zero-point food. For instance, a 2-tbsp. serving of a low-calorie whipped topping has a PointsPlus value of zero, though you cannot combine multiple zero-point servings in one meal. Weight Watchers recommends limiting yourself to five zero-point foods a day to keep your overall calorie intake low.