What is the WeightWatchers Points system?

The science behind our award-winning formula.
Published 29 November 2021

There’s lots to cover about our program, but let’s start here: It emphasizes overall diet quality, not particular foods—and no food or drink is off-limits. Instead, consistent with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, it’s designed to guide members toward a healthier pattern of eating and promote a healthy rate of weight loss.

As they live the WeightWatchers program, members are encouraged to choose foods higher in fibre, protein, and unsaturated fats and lower in added sugar and saturated fat. We also know that success goes beyond the scale, so members can also add Points for activity.

The science behind the Points formula

WW makes healthy eating simple by boiling complex nutritional information down to one easy-to-understand number—a Points value—so members can just eat and track.

Here’s a look at how our updated food algorithm calculates a food’s lPoints value:

  • Calories (kilojoules) are factored into an item's Points value.
  • Added sugar increases the Points value.

    • The WW program focuses on added sugar instead of total sugar because the type of sugar makes a difference. Many foods with naturally occurring sugar can be part of a healthy pattern of eating, like fruit and non-fat dairy; however, foods packed with added sugars are typically less nutritious and eating too much of them can have a negative impact on overall diet quality and weight.1 2
    • Independent of weight loss, reducing intake of added sugar reduces the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and dental cavities.3
  • Saturated fat increases the Points value, while unsaturated fat lowers the Points value.

    • Fats are an essential part of any diet, but not all fats are created equal. A healthy pattern of eating is often higher in unsaturated fats and lower in saturated fats.4 Eating less saturated fat is associated with reduced total cholesterol and LDL, and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.4 What’s more: Replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.5
  • Protein lowers the Points value.

    • Research shows that protein intake supports a weight-loss journey by promoting changes in body composition and preventing the loss of lean body mass.6 It’s also associated with improved weight loss mantainence.7
    • Independent of weight loss, increasing intake of protein helps individuals feel more satisfied (compared to fats and carbohydrates).3
  • Fibre lowers the Points value.

    • Fibre-rich foods are nutrient dense, meaning they contain additional vitamins and minerals that are important for good health.4 Research shows that eating more fibre is associated with lower cholesterol, a lowered risk for heart disease, decreased risk for type 2 diabetes, and improved digestive health.8 Fibre consumption is also associated with increased feelings of satisfaction and satiety.9

How WW members use Points

When a member joins WeightWatchers, they answer a few questions, and then they’re given a customised Points Budget along with a ZeroPoint foods list—foods that they don’t need to weigh, measure, or track. Members can use their Points Budget on any food or drink.

The calculation for each member’s Budget is rooted in the most accurate energy-requirement prediction model available—the Mifflin-St Jeor equation—taking into account their metabolic rate, as determined by their age, sex assigned at birth, height, and weight, and adjusted based on whether the member wants to lose or maintain weight.

ZeroPoint foods

On WW, there are hundreds of ZeroPoint foods ranging ZeroPoint foods are nutrient-, vitamin-, and mineral-packed, and because of this, they’re recommended by national and international guidelines (including WHO) to be consumed often as part of a healthy pattern of eating.

To encourage members to continue reaching for them often, they don’t have to weigh, measure, or track their ZeroPoint foods. This gives members freedom when building meals and snacks along with the flexibility to have satisfying meals no matter how the day or week went.

Adding Points

Members can also add Points by moving more: Any physical activity ups their weekly Budget.

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1. Louie JC, Tapsell LC. Association between intake of total vs added sugar on diet quality: a systematic review. Nutr Rev. 2015;73(12):837-57.

2. World Health Organization. Guideline: Sugars intake for adults and children. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2015. https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/149782/9789241549028_eng.pdf

3. Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. Advisory report to the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Secretary of Agriculture. First Print, February 2015.

4. U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020. Available at: https://dietaryguidelines.gov/

5. Mozaffarian D, Micha R, Wallace S. Effects on coronary heart disease of increasing polyunsaturated fat in place of saturated fat: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. PLoS Med. 2010;7(3):e1000252.

6. Kim JE, O’Connor LE, Sands LP, et al. Effects of dietary protein intake on body composition changes after weight loss in older adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutr Rev. 2016;74, 210–224.

7. van Baak MA, Mariman ECM. Dietary Strategies for Weight Loss Maintenance. Nutrients. 2019;11(8):1916.

8. Dahl WJ, Stewart ML. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Health implications of dietary fiber. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2015;115(11):1861–70.

9. Wanders, AJ, van den Borne, JJ, de Graaf, C, et al. Effects of dietary fiber on subjective appetite, energy intake and body weight: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Obesity Reviews. 2011;12, 724–739.