Tuesday Totals, and Are Veggies Really Free?

6 Sep

A big bonus for me when choosing to sign up for Weight Watchers was that fruits and vegetables are “free”.  They count for zero points plus and you can eat them to your heart’s content.  Essentially, this helps you to make good food decisions by filling up on healthy foods while staying within your points allowance.  The way I’ve seen it said around the website is “Nobody ever got fat on fruits and vegetables”.

However, it seems that there is one instance in which these zero points foods are more than zero points – in recipes.  When you add a vegetable in the recipe builder tool it lists as zero points, but when the builder calculates the total points per serving, it suddenly includes points for the vegetables.  So, a meal that you thought would be about eight points is suddenly more like eleven.  What gives?  There is a link at the bottom of the recipe builder that says “Why is this total higher than what my ingredients add up to?”, and the link takes you to this statement:  “PointsPlus values for ingredients may add up differently in the Recipe Builder than the PointsPlus Tracker.  This is because the nutrition information per serving for the entire recipe – including fruits and vegetables – is calculated before the Points Plus value is applied.”

To me, it doesn’t add up, literally.  It doesn’t make sense that vegetables eaten alone or in combination, such as in a salad, count for zero while those in a recipe count for more.  For instance, say you make a salad with one cup each lettuce, carrots and tomatoes.  Aside from any dressing or other toppings you add, that’s a zero point salad.  Now, say you make a big salad with four cups each lettuce, carrots and tomatoes and eat one fourth of it.  How is that any different?  Or, say you eat a serving of macaroni and cheese with steamed broccoli on the side.  You would enter the macaroni and cheese recipe and incur the points for that, and the broccoli would count for zero.  If you decided to add the broccoli into the macaroni and cheese as part of the recipe, why would it then count for points just because it’s mixed in?

A little more digging on the Weight Watchers website reveals their reasoning.

“It has always been our policy at Weight Watchers to incorporate the nutrients of vegetables (and now fruit) into recipes. Why? A few reasons.

1) Vegetables and fruit add fiber and other nutrients, and without including them it can impact the Points value.

2) Our recipes are often featured in articles and magazines nationally and as a result we need to disclose this info to ensure the appropriate calories and nutrient content are displayed if evaluated by organizations outside of Weight Watchers.

3) Since many non-Weight Watchers recipes include nutritional information these days, we want our calculations to match those you may do for recipes you find in other places. We don’t want to unfairly advantage our own recipes.

4) Once you start combining vegetables and fruits with other foods, you change the experience of eating them. Few people “pig out” on carrots but might on carrot cake. To ignore them in recipes would place our member at risk for abuse potential.”

So, the reason is essentially that their recipes need to be consistent in national magazines, and so I don’t binge on carrot cake?  It still doesn’t entirely make sense to me.  I choose recipes with lots of vegetables specifically to bulk my meals up without adding lots of calories, and I don’t feel that they should count for more than their assigned zero points just because they’re combined with other ingredients and cooked a bit.  This is my singular points of contention with the Weight Watchers plan so far, as I just don’t agree with their logic.

There are a few suggested solutions.  First, you can choose carefully whether to enter individual ingredients, save a group of ingredients as a meal, or use the recipe builder.  Fruits and vegetables are still zero when entered individually or saved as a meal.  If you want to use the recipe builder but not have vegetables count, you can just skip them while entering the recipe.  I use either of these strategies depending on the meal.  For example, for tonight’s dinner I made a big stirfry to be divided into four portions.  I make stirfry differently every time and I didn’t want to save it as a meal or recipe, so I just entered each ingredient in the portion that I ate.  For now, I will continue to count all vegetables as zero even when used in a recipe.  If at some point I start to fail to see weight loss results I might revisit this decision.  I wanted to give the information above in case anyone else is baffled.

Tuesday, 9/6/11

breakfast – 1 cup vanilla sunrise cereal with almond milk and raspberries
AM snack – banana, coffee with french vanilla soy creamer
lunch – whole wheat spaghetti with mushroom marinara, sauteed zucchini with tofu ricotta
PM snack – strawberry soy yogurt
dinner – stirfry (peanut & sesame oils, onion, broccoli, red bell pepper, carrot, celery, cabbage, edamame, tamari, ume plum vinegar and white pepper) over brown rice

Exercise – 28 minutes yoga

Daily points used:  27
Activity points earned:  2

Totals for 8/31-9/6

Daily points used:  201/203
Weekly points used:  49/49
Activity points earned:  20
Activity points used:  18
Points left on the table:  4

I had intended to leave more points unused this week, but that didn’t work out.  We’ll see how I weigh in in the morning!

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One Response to “Tuesday Totals, and Are Veggies Really Free?”

  1. karen February 27, 2012 at 6:47 am #

    I also found that odd. For instance, this morning, I blended 4 strawberries (0 pts), a cup of grapes (0 pts), 1/2 cup of blackberries (0 pts), and half a banana (0 pts). I decided to put them into the recipe builder to save as a breakfast recipe and it came out a whopping 6 pts!! So odd.

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