How To Use All Your PointsPlus® Values

It’s true: Some people have told us that they’re finding it hard to meet their daily PointsPlus Target.
How To Use All Your Points Plus Values

It’d be all too easy to be flippant when we heard people complaining that they were finding it hard to reach their daily PointsPlus Target. Indeed, when a couple of people posed this problem on the Message Boards, some posters met the pleas with a slightly envious, “I wish I had that problem!" tone.

And when we read the Message Boards post below, we knew a few tips were in order:

"No matter how hard I try I can not get in all my PointsPlus for a day. When I do, I feel so overstuffed and uncomfortable. Should I go back to eating low-fat foods, instead of fat-free? Please help me out with a few tips that I may be overlooking."

Before we begin: While we have added greater flexibility to the PointsPlus program that allows you to adjust your daily PointsPlus Target downward if you think you need to, we urge you to read on before you make that change.

PointsPlus values: The math
First, let’s look at the nutritional math behind your daily Target. There is a minimum number of PointsPlus values that experts agree should be consumed in order to meet basic nutritional needs; that’s the number we arrived at for your PointsPlus Target Don’t go trying to figure out what the equivalent number of calories is; the PointsPlus formula comprises carbs, protein, fiber and fat, which all make up a calorie. Instead, we look at the amount of these macronutrients you need to make the right nutrition available for your body, and, ta-daa: There’s your Target.

So, who’s struggling? We’ve asked a few of them to tell us a bit more about themselves, and what they’re eating. We saw more than a couple of people, for example, who are taking huge advantage of the zero PointsPlus values fruit. When they’re hungry, they’re reaching for, say, a banana instead of a 100-calorie pack of cookies. That’s a great choice, but it doesn’t end up leaving a dent in their daily PointsPlus Target, yet the banana has filled them up!

This is normally a great thing, and exactly what we hoped would happen on this program! But we have seen people who have stopped eating their favorite snacks altogether — the 100-calorie pack of cookies, granola bars, pretzels, anything with PointsPlus values — even when they have PointsPlus values to spare for these items. We’ll always encourage you to eat fruit because it’s healthy; but we emphatically discourage you from depriving yourself of other foods you like, especially when you can “afford" the PointsPlus values for them.

The Power Food "bargains"
Another potential reason people are struggling to meet their Target is by focusing entirely on the “bargains." Some foods — especially lean proteins — are lower in PointsPlus values per serving than others — say, foods higher in carbohydrates or fats.

If you change the way you eat to limit yourself to the “bargain”foods, then of course you’re going to end up eating a lot of food. So it follows that you might either be struggling to reach your daily PointsPlus Target, or even that you might be struggling to lose weight or maintain at the rate you’re used to.

Remember: Grains and starches play a vital role in overall nutritional health, and shouldn’t be avoided. You should be choosing foods that will give you a healthy, varied diet; not those that allow you to stash as many PointsPlus values away as you can.

Fat facts
The same goes for fat. Our Message Boards poster wondered if she should go back to eating low-fat rather than all fat-free foods. If you’re eating low-fat or fat-free versions of everything and still struggling to reach your daily PointsPlus Target, then yes, consider making some switches. If you’re eating a cup of Greek yogurt, the fat-free version will cost 3 PointsPlus values, while the 2% version will bump it up to 4. You’re not eating anything bad for you; just a creamier version of your high-protein snack.

At the bare minimum, do ensure you’re getting the two servings of healthy oils every day, as recommended by our Good Health Guidelines. And while we don’t recommend glugging glasses of the extra virgin, an extra teaspoon of olive oil on your salad or in your pasta sauce (you are still eating pasta, right?) won’t hurt.

The big picture
Still struggling to figure out how to get there? A story from the meeting room illustrates brilliantly the disconnect that can seem to occur between both halves of the brain. Let’s call her Maggie. (Not her real name, of course.) This is what she told her Leader:

“Most of the things I eat are really low in PointsPlus values, or have zero. OK, my Kashi bar is quite high, but I don’t eat those anymore. You’ve given me all these PointsPlus values, and I just can’t use them all. Help!"

As her Leader tells it, she heard the “Zzzzzzccrch" record scratch when Maggie said she didn’t eat the Kashi bar anymore. Maggie had thought the program was trying to absolutely discourage her from eating it by making it relatively higher in PointsPlus values than, say, a piece of full-fat cheese.

What the program is actually trying to do is to give you room for indulgences (that’s what your extra weekly PointsPlus Allowance is for!) while helping you make healthy decisions about your day-to-day food. As Maggie’s Leader elaborates: “We’ve seen that some of the people who aren’t losing weight, or who are feeling too full to reach their Targets, are depriving themselves. They’re eating monastically. It can be hard to loosen up, but that’s what it means to have a balanced life. Come on — we want to see some wine in those glasses."

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