What to Know About Diabetes and ZeroPoint™ Foods

ZeroPoint foods are the no-track backbone of any WeightWatchers® plan. But if you’ve got diabetes, you’re likely wondering, "How do they affect my blood sugar? Can I eat them whenever I want?" A WW nutritionist answers your top questions.
Published July 28, 2022 | Updated November 21, 2022

ZeroPoint foods are the stuff that (nutritional) dreams are made of: Since they have 0 Points®, you never have to weigh, measure, or track them. But how does that change if you have diabetes and need to prioritize blood sugar management? Read on to learn everything about how ZeroPoint foods can put you on a path to healthier eating and help you reach your wellness goals on the WW Diabetes-Tailored Plan.

OK, so what exactly are ZeroPoint foods?

Everybody gets a Points™ Budget—a number of Points you’re allotted each day. Sticking to that Points Budget will help you reach your wellness goals. ZeroPoint foods are nutrient-packed superstars that you don’t have to factor into your Budget. They are nutrient-, vitamin-, and mineral-rich, making them the foundation for your healthy eating plan. A key part of the WeightWatchers program, ZeroPoint foods are chosen based on the nutritional makeup, the latest research, and top recommendations by respected organizations, such as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health & Human Services and guidelines by the World Health Organization. Think of ZeroPoint foods as a great way to add flavor and bulk to your meals and snacks, so you can stay satisfied longer.

Because these foods make it easier to stick to your Points Budget, they can also help you stay on track with your weight-loss goals. “Weight loss is a journey,” says Angela Goscilo, M.S., RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist and the senior manager of nutrition at WW. “Having a list of ZeroPoint foods that you can always turn to makes things feel a little easier.”

Are ZeroPoint foods different for people with diabetes?

If you have diabetes, your list of ZeroPoint foods will look a little different than the list of someone without diabetes. That’s because diabetes affects the way you break down carbs into energy.

Here’s a quick primer: Whenever you eat, your body turns a food’s carbs into sugar, which is then released into the bloodstream. This rise in blood sugar causes your pancreas to put out insulin, a hormone that brings that sugar into your cells to use as energy.

“If you have diabetes, your body doesn’t produce enough insulin, or the insulin it produces doesn’t work as well as it should,” says Goscilo. As a result, you may have too much sugar in your bloodstream, which, in time, can lead to health issues such as heart disease and nerve damage.

To keep blood sugar levels down and reduce your risks for any future complications, people with diabetes often need to adjust their patterns of eating. The American Diabetes Association recommends eating more non-starchy veggies and whole foods, and less added sugar and refined grains. And, says Goscilo, “WW’s ZeroPoint foods for members living with diabetes ladder up to these recommendations.”

So foods that might be a ZeroPoint staple for other members, such as potatoes, won’t appear on diabetes-specific lists. You can still enjoy them as part of your Points Budget—you’ll just need to track those foods in the WW app, including the portion sizes.

So what foods are included on the ZeroPoints list?

“For members with diabetes, their ZeroPoint lists feature foods that are less likely to have a major impact on their blood sugar levels,” says Goscilo. These include:

  • Poultry: Including boneless, skinless chicken and turkey breast, poultry is packed with protein, which helps keep your blood sugar steady. Plus, research shows that filling your plate with lean protein supports a heart-healthy pattern of eating—key because diabetes increases your risk of heart disease.
  • Fish and shellfish: Seafood is another great source of protein. Oily fish, like salmon, also serve up omega-3 fats, shown to improve good cholesterol. One study in Circulation found that women who have type 2 diabetes and ate fish two to four times a week were 36% less likely to develop heart disease compared to those who rarely had fish.
  • Eggs: Sunny-side up or scrambled, one large egg serves up six grams of protein and less than a half a gram of carbs, so eggs are less likely to spike your blood sugar.
  • Non-starchy vegetables: Carrots, mushrooms, tomatoes, and leafy greens are all lower in calories and carbs, and high in vitamins, minerals, and fibre. (Fibre slows the release of sugar into the bloodstream.) Fresh veggies work, but so do frozen and canned—as long as they don’t have any other added ingredients.
  • Beans, peas, lentils, and chickpeas: While legumes do contain carbs, they’re teamed up with fibre and protein. This makes them a smart choice for people living with diabetes, since fibre and protein slow digestion and help buffer potential blood sugar spikes. In fact, research shows that regularly eating legumes may help people with diabetes improve their blood sugar levels.

What are some smart ways to use ZeroPoint foods?

Just because something is a ZeroPoint food doesn’t mean you should think of it as a free-for-all. A better approach: Keep the amounts to your usual portion sizes, says Goscilo. “If you normally have two eggs at breakfast, stick with that,” she says. If you’re hungry later, you can always have another egg as part of your snack or meal. Here are four key ways to use ZeroPoint foods throughout the day—with WW member- (and staffer-) favorite tips that will help you get started.

Build meals around them. Use items from the ZeroPoint list as a base for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

  • WW member tip: At lunchtime, Kelly Q. starts with kale, cucumbers, tomatoes, and bell peppers, then tosses them with cheese and ground meat for a healthy spin on a taco salad. “I use only four flavoured tortilla chips to crush over the top” she says.

Use them to add flavour and volume. ZeroPoint foods can turn what would otherwise be a small bite into a much more satisfying meal.

  • WW member tip: Rebecca R. folds non-starchy vegetables into her eggs to make a plate-filling omelet Provençal. She sautés celery, broccoli stalks, and onion in olive oil; adds a little Gruyère cheese; and then folds it all into two eggs beaten with soy milk and herbs. “I’m finding vegetables at each meal really helps with my blood sugar,” she says.

Swap them in for higher-Points foods. Let ZeroPoint staples pinch-hit for foods that clock in with more calories and carbs.

  • WW staffer tip: Heather Zeitz, R.D., a registered dietitian and the VP of digital healthcare at WW, has started using spaghetti squash in place of, well, regular spaghetti. “All I do is cut the squash in half, scrape out the seeds, spray with avocado or olive oil, and put it in the air fryer for 20 minutes at 360 degrees,” she says. Then she serves the squash with tomato sauce and cooked shrimp or ground turkey or leftover chicken. The same approach can be used when topping your toast: Instead of butter, members suggest using ZeroPoint foods, such as avocado, tomatoes, and eggs.

Have some go-to dishes made from ZeroPoint foods. Whipping up an entire entrée with ZeroPoint foods can give you more wiggle room with your Points Budget during the rest of the day.

  • WW member tip: “I love to start my day with an egg white omelet with spinach, mushrooms, and scallions,” writes Joanne F. She also makes an Asian-inspired soup with mushrooms, scallions, spinach, and cubed chicken breast. These ZeroPoint recipes can serve as a quick snack or a filling addition to a meal when your Budget is low on Points.