Weight Watchers has long assigned a point system to foods for dieters.
The idea is to encourage people to stay away from less healthy items, like a slice of cake, by making those account for more of a person’s daily food-intake total. Foods that are perfectly healthy to eat in abundance, on the other hand, get a low point value.
According to the the weight-loss giant’s rubric, some vegetables have always counted for zero points. But now Weight Watchers says dieters need not count points anymore when it comes to many other fruits, veggies, and nutrient-rich proteins. In December, Weight Watchers released an updated list of more than 200 zero-point foods that followers of the diet plan can eat in unlimited quantities. The list of zero-points items even includes things like eggs and fish.
That idea might seem counterintuitive, since many people assume that dieters are at risk of overeating.
“These foods form the basis of a healthy eating pattern,”Gary Foster, Weight Watchers’ chief scientific officer and an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s medical school, told Business Insider. “Very few people come to Weight Watchers because they’ve had a problem overdoing it on salmon, legumes, beans, and chicken.”
In other words, people just don’t tend to binge on satiating, healthy foods. And Weight Watchers doesn’t want any feelings of guilt to be associated with eating an extra helping of salad or another bite of fish.
The no-points-list includes apples, mushroom caps, scallions, and tangerines. Here are some of the most surprising entries on it, and the nutrition research that led them to be included.
Eggs, including the yokes
- Unsplash/Joseph Gonzalez
Recent research has shown that for most healthy adults, eggs don’t have a huge effect on blood cholesterol levels. And if you like your breakfast eggs topped with a little red salsa, go wild. That’s a points-free food now, too.
Many kinds of beans, including black, butter, navy, white, and fat-free refried beans
Beans and legumes are categorically low-fat, high-protein sources of fuel that give you lots of potassium, magnesium and filling fiber. Green beans, garbanzo beans, and kidney beans are point-free too, as are lentils.
Caviar and shellfish
- Tom Oliver
If your wallet can handle it, you can have as much caviar as you like. In fact, most fish and shellfish – like crab and lobster – are fine to eat with abandon.
According to Weight Watchers, people don’t tend to overeat seafood, so it’s simply not worth measuring out into gram-specific servings. They’d rather have clients eat these types of proteins until they feel satisfied.
Most varieties of fish, including anchovies, cod, salmon, tuna, and whitefish
- Reuters/Thomas Peter
Lots of fish are high in doses of polyunsaturated fats, which can help lower your “bad” LDL cholesterol levels.
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Chicken and fish have less saturated fat per serving than red meat, and both chicken and eggs have omega-3 fatty acids. These “good” fats help repair and build our cells, reduce instances of heart disease, and can also have anti-inflammatory effects. They are essential fats the body can’t produce on its own.
Although Weight Watchers encourages people to eat lots of chicken breast, the American Heart Association says it’s still best to enjoy chicken and fish in moderate doses. The AHA suggests eating no more than six ounces per day, which is about the size of two decks of cards.
Any kind of mushrooms, including brown, button, crimini, Italian, portobello, and shiitake.
- Shutterstock/ Vastram
Mushrooms do much more than add a savory, earthy flavor to your plate.
Wild mushrooms grown in the sun can also be a great source of vitamin D.
Artichokes are a great bud to fill up on, because they’re packed with dietary fiber and protein to keep you satisfied for a while.
Artichoke leaves are great for your liver, and they can also help keep your body’s cells healthy because they are packed with antioxidants. In 2004, the US Department of Agriculture found that artichokes have a higher antioxidant count per serving than any vegetable around. The only plants with more are blueberries, cranberries, and some beans.
Lemons and limes
Lemon juice is an excellent way to bring more flavor to your dishes and dressings without adding any cholesterol to them. The vitamin C-rich fruit can also help your body absorb more of the iron that’s present in other foods.
Another reason that lemons are part of some successful weight-loss plans may simply be that they help people stay hydrated by consuming more citrus-flavored water. A 2016 study of more than 18,000 people in the US found that those who drank more water were consistently more satisfied and ate fewer calories on a daily basis.
- William Felker/Unsplash
Cherries, which aren’t technically berries, are fine as well.
In fact, fruits in general are now points-free, including fruit cocktails, unsweetened fruit cups, and fruit salads.
Fiber-rich fruits can be more expensive than cakes or candy, but they’re a much better way to satisfy a sweet tooth. A single cup of strawberries will provide you more than an entire day’s recommended dose of vitamin C, while eating a peach is arguably as good as swallowing a multivitamin.
Dates and figs
Yes, even these natural sweets are fine to eat as often as you want. The honey drizzled over the figs in this image is certainly not points-free, though.
Unsweetened, nonfat Greek yogurt and plain yogurt
- Unsplash/Peter Hershey
Yogurt is good for your bones, can aid digestion, and carries just as much protein as meat. The cultures in yogurt can even help you lose weight, a team of Harvard researchers found.
Almost every ingredient in a homemade stir-fry
Those ingredients include broccoli, carrots, peppers, peas, onions, and tons of other leafy veggies.
The benefits of vegetable-rich meals extend beyond your waistline. Researchers have discovered that plant-based diets are good for keeping aging brains sharp and can reduce a person’s risk of developing deadly conditions like heart disease and breast cancer.
Given recent research, it’s not a surprise that the updated Weight Watchers list includes so many wholesome foods that nutritionists champion.
- Shutterstock/Pablo Calvog
Dietitians and food scientists are increasingly pointing to a Mediterranean-style, veggie and legume-rich eating plan that’s high in fiber and low in sugar and red meat as one of the best for keeping people wise, trim, and energized.
Whether or not you like the points model Weight Watchers uses, its guidance about eating as many fruits, veggies, and healthful proteins as we like is probably a good rule to follow.