By Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD
WebMD Expert Review

Out with the old and in with new. In 2010, Weight Watchers retired its old points system and started a totally new program, called Points Plus, to keep up with the trends and science behind successful weight loss.

Weight Watchers Chief Science Officer Karen Miller-Kovach, RD, describes the program as a complete makeover. It is not a hybrid but an entirely new approach to safe, effective, and steady weight loss that takes advantage of cutting-edge weight loss science.

“With the old points system, you could use your points anyway you like. But we now know if you use your points wisely by eating foods rich in protein and fiber — these foods fill you up, keep hunger at bay, and help you lose weight in a healthier and more nutritious way,” Kovach says.

Calories, Fat, and Carbs

Calories still count in the Points Plus program because the bottom line in weight loss is creating a calorie deficit — burning more calories than you eat.

But there is so much more to successful weight loss, and where those calories come from makes a big difference.

Even when the calories are the same, protein- and fiber-rich foods get fewer Points Plus to encourage dieters to eat more filling food for their allotted Points Plus.

Calorie-dense foods that have more fat and simple carbs are assigned more points.

One new feature: You get unlimited quantities of fresh fruits and non-starchy vegetables.

“Most adults don’t eat enough fruits or vegetables. So our strategy was to allow these as free foods to encourage more consumption of these super-nutritious foods that are among the lowest in calories and very filling,” Kovach says.

The old points may be gone, but the heart of the Weight Watchers program remains unchanged.

“We may be counting differently with the new Points Plus program but the foundation of Weight Watchers’ successful model of scientific evidence, healthy, slow weight loss, exercise, behavior modification, and support remain the same,” Kovach says.

Weight Watchers Points Plus: What You Can Eat

Much like the old points system, Points Plus maintains that all foods can fit within the calorie allotment.

Connected to 2010 Dietary Guidelines, Points Plus encourages people to eat a wide variety of healthy foods — split between three meals plus snacks within an individualized calorie level.

Dieters are encouraged to maximize their Points Plus allowance by choosing more “Power Foods,” such as whole grains, lean meats, low-fat dairy, and unlimited quantities of fresh fruit and nonstarchy vegetables. “Power Foods” are the healthiest, most filling foods.

Fruits and vegetables are especially filling and nutritious foods that should be the foundation of every weight loss diet.

Decadent foods can still be worked into the calorie budget, but the new program limits the amount of these extras.

Dieters can check the Points Plus value of foods using a pocket guide that lists 500-700 most popular foods, an online database of 40,000 foods, a mobile phone app, or purchase a Points Plus calculator.

Weight Watchers Points Plus: How It Works

ThePoints Plus program is based on Weight Watchers’ proprietary formula that calculates the positive and negative attributes of food that considers the following:

  • how much harder your body works to process protein and fiber compared to carbs and fat
  • filling foods
  • healthy foods
  • sugar, saturated fat, total fat, sodium, and fiber content of foods

Choosing foods that are rich in the most satisfying nutrients but not loaded with calories is the primary goal to give dieters the weight loss edge.

Focus on eating more Power Foods as an easy way to fill up on the healthiest low-calorie options.

To get started, dieters fill out a form with age, gender, height, and current weight to get their assigned Points Plus daily allotment along with a weekly allowance.

You’ll get at least 1200 calories daily. The distribution of those calories between carbs, protein, and fat are within the Institute of Medicine’s acceptable ranges.

Calculating Points Plus

The new program contains an entirely different counting system with changed values that is simple to follow, Kovach says.

For example, if the old point system provided 22 daily points and 35 weekly allowance, Points Plus would assign 30 daily points plus and 49 points plus weekly allowance.

Options for participation are the same — in person, online, or a combination.

There is no increase in fees and no extra charges for the Points Plus program.

Weight Watchers Points Plus: Expert’s View

Keri Gans, MS, RD, author of The Small Change Diet and a New York weight loss consultant, gives the program a thumbs up.

“I always loved the peer support aspect of the Weight Watchers program but it concerned me that the old points could be used for anything,” Gans says. “The new Points Plus program addressing where calories come from is a huge improvement.”

Gans says she loves the flexibility of the plan, which makes it easier to sustain long term, and the encouragement to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables. “Our nation is not overweightbecause we eat too many fruits and vegetables but anyone who struggles with overeating needs to be careful because you could pack away plenty of calories if you eat too much fruit,” Gans says.

All foods can fit into a healthy diet, Gans says. Eat healthy, filling foods most of the time, get regular exercise, and you will be able to work in your favorite treats on the new Points Plus program.

Weight Watchers Points Plus: Food for Thought

Change is good and in this case, Weight Watchers has improved its plan to incorporate state-of-the-art science along with a tried-and-true formula for the best approach to weight loss.

The Points Plus program is a guiding system that should help dieters make better choices with their calories and take advantage of the most filling and satisfying foods.

Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, is director of nutrition for WebMD. Her opinions and conclusions are her own.


Keri Gans, MS, RD, author, The Small Change Diet.

Karen Miller-Kovach, MS, RD, chief science officer, Weight Watchers International.

Edited on July 18, 2011
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Comments: I liked this article because it told you the way the diet is really structured and gave information to make a more educated decision of what is best for you!
Dr Pat