Will The Weight Watchers Brand You With High Blood Pressure?

Apr 7, 2003

The Bottom Line The Weight Watchers Brand contains a lot of sodium and many products have a lot of sugar. The frozen meals are excellent and convenient.

This commentary focuses on the brand of foods made by Weight Watchers. I have already reviewed the diet Weight Watchers 1-2-3 Success Community Meetings and am a huge fan of Weight Watchers.

What you need to know:

Before I talk about the brand itself, it is important to understand just a bit about the program. Weight Watchers works on a point system. For example I can eat between 18-23 points a day. All Weight Watchers products tell us how many points they have so there is no guessing. If you buy food (and you will since, unlike Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers food is not mandatory at all) that isn’t the Weight Watchers brand, you will figure out how many points it has with the point finder you will get at meetings. (or you can sign up online)

You also must understand that the more fiber a product has, the lower the points will be. Weight Watchers food is counted first by looking at how many calories per grams of fiber a food has and then looking at the fat in a product. That will give me the number of points food is.

There are many foods that are not Weight Watchers brands but are promoted by the program because of their low points. Most vegetables have no points. One cup of light yogurt, one small glass of wine and a slice of high fiber bread with a thin apple slice and one slice of fat free cheddar cheese are all only 2 points.

The Brand:

What I said above might give you a clue that some foods you may be avoiding, such as sugar and salt, are not considered at all in the Weight Watchers brand. During one meeting, my leader said the scientists were working to lower the sodium content in Weight Watchers food, but for now, they are very high. Weight Watchers frozen meals are very popular with teachers and are eaten every day. Weight Watchers Four Cheese Frozen Pizza has 8 points, 7 grams of fat and 400 calories. It is a great option if you want pizza. It isn’t your local pizza pie from the sub shop down the street but for 8 points, it is a decent tasting product weighing 6.56 ounces. It has 660 milligrams of sodium! From http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_11991.html

“The average American consumes 4,000 milligrams of sodium per day, far exceeding the maximum of 2,400 milligrams recommended by USDA dietary guidelines and major health organizations such as the American Heart Association. These days, only an estimated 25 percent of daily sodium intake is added at the table. The remainder is unseen, consumed in restaurant and processed foods. Take a look at the food labels on common grocery items. A half-cup of Ragu's Old World Style spaghetti sauce contains 780 milligrams of sodium. A Weight Watchers Smart Ones frozen entree may be low in fat and calories, but it's not so light in sodium. The fire-grilled chicken and vegetables entree packs in 780 milligrams of sodium."

Ok so we know that the sodium content is very high. If you have high blood pressure that can be a real problem, so I would suggest limiting your frozen Weight Watchers meals. Let’s look at a few other products.

A delicious new product is the Garden Veggie and Mozzarella Smartwich. Each one has 5 points, 7 grams of fat and 600 mg. of sodium. The frozen meals do not have much sugar – but the desserts do! A product like this has 270 calories, 38 grams of carbohydrates and 14 grams of protein. Remember, though, all that matters if you are eating the Weight Watchers way is how many points that converts into, not how many calories, fat or cholesterol is in the product.

Personally I love the Ravioli Florentine frozen meal which has 220 calories, 5 grams of fat and only 4 points. With 510 mg of sodium, though, I don’t eat this every day and my blood pressure is very low so I can be a bit less careful according to my doctor than others. Please before you engage in any diet, talk with your doctor first.

I also have eaten and have a box currently of Smart Ones Blueberry Muffins. They have 3 points, 160 calories, no fat, 290 mg of sodium, 38 carbohydrates, 15 grams of sugar and 3 grams of protein. They aren’t bad if I am in a hurry before work.

Since sugar isn’t an issue with Weight Watchers, my husband and I have ice cream and desserts every night. The Weight Watchers Cheesecake is excellent but I don’t care for the Eclairs. For the few points, though, if your sweet tooth is aching, this will stop the ache. More often than not, though, we eat the 2 point sundaes and Weight Watchers Smart Ones Giant Fudge Bars. These are made by Eskimo Pie and are only 1 point. They are each 4-ounces, with 80 calories, no fat but with 16 grams of sugar, you will eat your daily allotment of sugar with this one. Of course, if you are eating the Weight Watchers way as I said, sugar and salt content can be looked at and you can certainly avoid both, but it is difficult if you like sweets and if frozen foods sound more appealing than cooking.

Also a favorite are the Smart Ones Round Low Fat Ice Cream Sandwiches and the English Toffee Crunch (2 points and delicious). You will pay a premium for these ice creams but, for example, the Fudge Bars which cost $4.49 have 6 in them which is about $.75. These are worth the $.75. The frozen meals vary by type. They range in price from $2.50 - $3.00 give or take a few pennies depending on the size of the meal and what it is. If you go to meetings and get the journal there is always a $1.00 off coupon for 4 Weight Watchers items. If you get Weight Watcher magazine, you will find a lot of coupons in there for Weight Watchers items.

You can find these items in any grocery store. Much harder to find are some specialty items that Weight Watchers makes such as small one serving bags of peanuts and something that resembles cheese doodles. Neither is delicious but they are great to throw in your bag if you are in a hurry or want to have a snack with you. You can also find Weight Watchers popcorn and candy bars in some stores but at meetings you will learn what other products work fine on this diet. None of these is delicious but will do in a pinch.

Other than on eBay
you cannot buy Weight Watcher items on line. You can buy a few items at meetings. One product I buy is the Weight Watchers Just 2 Points Nutritional Snack Bar. Currently I have the Chocolate Fudge and Fudgy Peanut and Chocolate bars. There are 4, 1.41-ounce bars in a box. I have paid both $5.00 and $6.00 for a box depending on where I go to a meeting. That’s not any different than most nutritional snack bars you’ll find. They are quite good have about 140 calories, 3 grams of fat, 65-115 mg of sodium, 25 carbohydrates, 6 grams of protein and 14 grams of sugar. These bars provide the daily vitamin and mineral supplement recommended by the Weight Watchers program. You will also find 2 Points All Day Breakfast Bars, which are edible.

My personal thought on the Weight Watcher Brand is that the foods are not as healthy as I would like to eat. I would much prefer the way of eating I often refer to and that is Bill Phillips’ plan. His plan is not a diet, just healthy foods, low in sugar and salt for the most part but not necessarily totally free of them. (Yogurt is on his plan and has a lot of sugar, for example.)

Could I do the Weight Watchers program without the brand? Probably not. I depend on the foods for a quick meal and although there are other products that are low points such as Skinny Cow, they don’t tell me how many points are in them so I have to figure it out in the grocery store. That is true of other “healthy, low calorie” type brands as well.

Some tips:

Weight Watchers is about points and these points take into consideration serving size. Eating 4 ounces of a Weight Watchers product will be different than eating 6 ounces. It may add 1 or 2 points to your daily count. In order to figure out what a serving is you can use your hand if you don’t have a scale.
~Your fist equals 1 cup or 1 medium whole fruit.
~You’ll find 1 ounce of meat or cheese by looking at your thumb – the tip to the base is 1 ounce.
~One tablespoon can be measured by looking at the tip to the 1st joint of your thumb.
~One teaspoon is also the top to the 1st joint but not of your thumb but your fingertip.
~One inch can be measured with the 1st to 2nd joint of your index finger.
~Your cupped hand equals 1-2 ounces of nuts or pretzels and your palm (without your fingers) equals 3 ounces of meat, fish or poultry.

My final thoughts:

I think the Weight Watchers program is excellent and although I would like to be eating less sugar and salt, for now it is working for me. I think the frozen meals, for the most part are actually delicious, as are many of the desserts. I wish I could buy more Weight Watcher brand products, but unlike other diets, there are a minimal amount of foods and no Weight Watcher’s store unlike the Atkins diet.

The company has a quality pledge and welcomes questions or comments about their products. They ask you to call a 1-800 number or write their parent company, Heinz Frozen Foods. They want you to have the stamped code on the package if you call or let them know what it is if you write. This information is on the package.

Please feel free to leave a comment or ask a question.

You may also want to read:

Body for Life by Bill Phillips- the book
The Atkins Diet

Weight Watchers

Get With The Program" (Bob Greene - Oprah's mentor)

Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution- the book
Body for Life- the diet

Weight Watchers Magazine

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