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Watching Your Weight? Don’t Eat This For Lunch.

Right after I landed in the hospital in my early 20’s and during my health crisis where I found myself very sick and overweight, I searched everywhere for answers. One of the first places I looked was to my friends who were fit and healthy and asked them for advice. At work I sat next to a woman that was on Weight Watchers and she taught me how to count points. I learned a lot from her. A lot of things I never understood until now. She introduced me to the pre-portioned pre-made calorie controlled processed meals you put in the microwave. 

Watching Your Weight? Don’t Eat This For Lunch.

I know that most of you are trying to make the right choices when it comes to your health, and you’re looking for food that’s healthy and quick to make (and maybe even help you shed a few pounds). There are a few “diet” food choices in the frozen food aisle that seem to meet the bill labeled as “Healthy”, “Lean”, and “Smart” – but I’m here to tell ya they aren’t. It’s all too easy to pick these up at the grocery store for a quick low-calorie lunch, but it’s not worth it. As a nation we are consuming these convenience “diet” products every single day, and some of the most popular ones are made by Weight Watchers.

WeightWatchers

Weight Watchers is designed to help you lose weight, but at what cost to your health?

Weight Watchers claims to encourage those on their diet plan to eat unprocessed foods with plenty of fruits and vegetables. That’s great, but then what’s the deal with all of the overly processed packaged foods that they sell in the grocery store? Their products are no different than any other processed food, with many being high in sodium and sugar, while lacking in natural nutrients and fiber. As I talk about in my new book, it’s the same with those “Weight Watchers Endorsed” entrees at Applebees, as they are loaded with sickening ingredients. That’s because the Weight Watchers diet program is really only focused on losing weight, not on health and keeping you in a yo-yo lifecycle so they can keep you as a member!

This is where they’ve missed the ball. 

It’s one thing to lose weight – but it’s entirely another thing to lose weight, feel great, and help your body prevent illness by eating healthy foods and avoiding ingredients with known health risks. The fact that the Weight Watchers “Smart Ones” brand enjoys about $380 million dollars in sales every year, all while fooling people into believing their products are “good nutrition” is just sad – and wrong.  

“… we’re focused on providing you with good nutrition, delicious recipes and great advice to help you make smarter choices” ~ Weight Watchers Smart Ones Website, March 2015 (EatYourBest.com)

There’s nothing “Smart” about Weight Watchers Products.

Weight Watchers products consist of dozens of chemical additives (some of which are addicting) blended together with the “correct” ratios of protein, carbs and fats, with some synthetic vitamins and fiber mixed in to make them look healthy on the “Nutrition Facts” label. Unfortunately, the “Nutrition Facts” label doesn’t tell the real story, and you’ll get a whole lot more than you bargained for when you choose to eat these foods. They’ve got some of the worst rated packaged foods in EWG’s Food Scores database which rates thousands of products based on how healthy they really are, and whether they use potentially harmful ingredients. 

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What you’re REALLY getting when you buy Weight Watchers products:

Genetically modified (GMO) ingredients – Weight Watchers uses a lot of ingredients from crops that are predominantly genetically modified (soybeans, canola, sugar, cottonseed). These crops have contributed to more toxic pesticide usage since their inception, which is unhealthy for us and the environment. The consumption of GMOs has been linked to health disorders, such as kidney and liver disorders and allergies. As recently reported, despite Monsanto’s aggressive PR efforts “GMOs are largely untested, and their long-term effects on our health and our planet are still unknown; they promote the use of dangerous chemicals, and they pose a significant threat to organic agriculture”

When you see any of these ingredients on the label they are likely derived from GMOs: Sugar, Maltodextrin, Corn Starch, Corn Syrup, Soy Sauce, Soy Flour, Soybean Oil, Oil, Canola Oil, Cottonseed Oil, Vegetable Shortening, and Hydrolyzed Protein (complete list here). We asked Weight Watchers if they use any GMO ingredients and they said: “Heinz [Weight Watcher’s parent company] has implemented a policy that prohibits the use of ingredients from GMO sources in regions where such use is not approved by regulatory authority. Heinz also refrains from using GMO ingredients in markets where consumers have expressed low acceptance of foods with GMO ingredients”. When we asked them to confirm specifically whether they use GMO ingredients in their Smart Ones brand in the U.S., they didn’t respond to several emails.

Hidden MSG ingredientsThese should especially never be in a “diet” food because MSG ingredients trick your brain into eating more and have been linked to headaches, obesity, depression, and mental disorders. Many of the Weight Watchers “Smart Ones” frozen meals are loaded with hidden MSG ingredients like hydrolyzed proteins and autolyzed yeast extract.

Preservatives – The preservatives used by Weight Watchers (phosphates, nitrites, BHT) are on EWG’s dirty dozen food additives list of the most dangerous ingredients in our food. The typical American diet is full of phosphate preservatives because they’re found in most heavily processed foods, and regular consumption is associated with chronic kidney disease. The nitrites used by Weight Watchers in their “Smart Beginnings” Canadian Bacon English Muffin Sandwiches (and other products with cured meats) have strong links to cancer. Just like Kellogg’s and General Mills, they add BHT to some varieties of Weight Watchers cereal, which is associated with cancer in some animal studies and believed to be an endocrine disruptor that messes with your hormones (which can also lead to weight gain!).

Partially Hydrogenated Oils – It’s outrageous that a seemingly nutritious brand would stoop to using partially hydrogenated oils in their products considering they are linked to 7000 deaths! These oils contain harmful trans fats, which are really unsafe to eat and the FDA is considering a ban. I found partially hydrogenated oils in some Weight Watchers frozen dinners, snack cakes, and ice creams.

Unhealthy Oils – Cheap oils like soybean oil are processed to death, hexane-extracted, and loaded with omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids that promote the risk of inflammation, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and autoimmune diseases

Caramel Color – There are 4 levels of caramel coloring and “Level IV” caramel coloring is the most widely used. It’s created in a laboratory by reacting corn sugar with ammonia and sulfites under high pressure and temperature, which produces the byproduct 4-Mel. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) petitioned the FDA to ban caramel coloring in 2011 due to safety concerns and the cancer risk of allowing this ingredient in our food. We asked Weight Watcher’s Smart Ones (via email) whether the caramel color in their products is Level IV, and they didn’t respond. If I don’t know which type of caramel color is in a product, I refuse to buy it.

Fake Flavors The substances used to make these flavors are kept secret from the public, so you don’t know what’s really in them. Artificial and natural flavors are complex mixtures of chemicals added to manipulate the taste and smell of processed food. These flavors also can be designed to have addictive qualities, that leave you unsatisfied and wanting to eat more. Nearly every Weight Watchers product I looked at contained a “flavor” ingredient. 

Added Sugars – Weight Watchers really piles on the added sugars, using different types which you might see on the ingredient list labeled as sugar, dextrose, high fructose corn syrup, maltodextrin, molasses or corn syrup. One of the worst is high fructose corn syrup. Not only is it generally made from GMO corn, but it’s been shown to contribute to the development of diabetes

Enriched Flour – This really has no redeeming qualities and is essentially dead food. It’s been stripped of fiber and nutrients, and then artificially enriched with synthetic vitamins and minerals. Wheat has been heavily hybridized to make it easier for the food industry, is believed to be contributing to an increase in celiac disease, and may be sprayed with Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. 

Carrageenan – Even this “food grade” carrageenan is linked to intestinal inflammation and can be contaminated with degraded (non-food grade) carrageenan. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer and the National Research Council of the United States have both determined that degraded carrageenan may cause cancer.

Parabens – You’ve probably heard about parabens in cosmetics, but may not realize they’re in food too. Parabens are endocrine-disrupting chemicals that are linked to breast cancer (sources: 12, 3, 4) and reproductive problems. Weight Watchers uses paraben ingredients in some of their desserts, like their Red Velvet Cakes and Coffee Cakes.

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Does it ever take 100 ingredients to make lunch?

I kinda lost count, but there’s over 100 ingredients in the “Weight Watchers Smart Ones Salisbury Steak” meal, loaded with GMOs, preservatives, unhealthy oils and hidden MSG ingredients, making this one of the absolute worst processed products I’ve ever seen (and that’s saying something).

Should you be counting points or counting chemicals?

Weight Watchers Smart Ones Salisbury Steak*:  Cooked Salisbury Steak Patty (Beef, Pork, Water, Onion, Textured Vegetable Protein Product [Soy Protein Concentrate, Caramel Color], Seasonings [Maltodextrin (Corn), Salt, Hydrolyzed Soy And Corn Protein, Dry Onion, Dry Garlic, Flavoring, Yeast Extract, Spice, Disodium Inosinate, Disodium Guanylate, Extractives Of Rosemary, Beef Extract, Modified Corn Starch, Flavor (Triacetin, Butter Acids, Flavorings, Butter Esters), Rendered Beef Fat, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean And Cottonseed Oil], Soy Protein Concentrate, Bread Crumbs [Bleached Wheat Flour, Salt, Dextrose, Yeast, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean And/Or Cottonseed Oil], Caramel Color) Gravy (Water, Modified Cornstarch, Beef Base [Beef Concentrate (Roasted Beef And Concentrated Beef Stock), Hydrolyzed Corn And Wheat Gluten And Soy Protein, Yeast Extract, Salt, Corn Oil, Sugar, Corn Maltodextrin, Chicken Fat, Flavor, Dextrose Soy Lecithin], Dehydrated Onion, Burgundy Wine [Burgundy Wine, Salt, Sulfites], Mushroom Base [Sauteed Mushrooms, Sugar, Salt, Canola Oil, Flavoring, Onion Powder, Potato Starch, Hydrolyzed Soy & Wheat Proteins, Caramel Color], Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein [Corn Gluten, Soy Protein, Wheat Gluten], Xanthan Gum, Chicken And Beef Stock Flavor Blend [Potassium Chloride, Corn Syrup Solids, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Dehydrated Beef Stock, Dehydrated Chicken Stock, Corn Maltodextrin], Granulated Garlic, Spice, Caramel Color), Cheese Sauce (Water, Stabilizer [Modified Cornstarch, Maltodextrin (Corn), Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Xanthan Gum, Guar Gum, Mono- And Diglycerides (Soy), Annatto And Turmeric Extract], Nonfat Milk, Whey Powder, Cheese Powder [Granular And Blue Cheeses (Milk, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes), Whey, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil Whey Protein Concentrate, Lactose, Maltodextrin (Corn), Salt, Sodium Phosphate, Citric Acid, Lactic Acid, Yellow 5, Yellow 6], Salt, Flavor Blend [Salt, Lactic Acid, Citric Acid, Natural Butter Flavor (Modified Corn Starch, Corn Syrup Solids, Butter Flavor, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil), Disodium Inosinate, Disodium Guanylate, Spices], Cheese Flavor [Enzyme Modified Cheddar Cheese (Cheddar Cheese [Milk Cultures, Salt, Calcium Chloride, Enzymes], Water, Disodium Phosphate, Enzymes, Salt, Xanthan Gum), Corn Maltodextrin, Whey, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Salt], Flavor (Water, Cream (From Milk), Salt, Butterfat, Natural Flavor, Propylene Glycol, Xanthan Gum], Butter Flavor [Whey Solids (Milk), Enzyme Modified Butter, Corn Maltodextrin, Salt, Dehydrated Butter, Guar Gum, Annatto And Turmeric (Color)]), Cooked Enriched Macaroni Product (Water, Enriched Semolina [Semolina, Niacin, Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid]).

*Red indicates that the ingredient is an unnecessary additive, a non-organic/conventional animal product, a synthetic vitamin or mineral, or is possibly derived from GMOs. 

Don’t worry, great alternatives exist and I’ve made it easy for you!

I don’t think eating these processed frozen meals are healthy for anyone. You owe it to yourself to stop buying these toxic products. Even when you’re super busy, it pays off to take some time out on the weekends to prep some food that’s ready to eat during the week. You can put some of these in the fridge or freezer and have them ready to put in your lunch bag before you head out the door. Here’s several quick recipes that you can whip up with fresh ingredients at home and are easy to pack:

If you’d like more help with meal-planning and delicious organic recipes that can help you lose weight (or simply feel great), check out my monthly Meal Plans for Health program. This program blows the Weight Watchers processed-to-death meals out of the water. Watch the video, and see what the program is all about here

If you know someone who is on Weight Watchers and consumes these processed foods or needs to re-do their lunch box, please share this post with them!

Xo,

Vani 

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144 responses to “Watching Your Weight? Don’t Eat This For Lunch.

      1. I agree, thank-you for posting such helpful information! It is definitely better to just eat whole foods and organic when possible. It’s even difficult to do that in today’s world. Who knows what’s being used to grow produce, unless you grow your own.

    1. Thanks for sharing such amazing and useful information! I look forward to reading your insightful articles and posts. You’re pretty amazing, Food Babe!

  1. Same thing can be said for all those packaged “diet” foods in the frozen section. Healthly Choice hotdogs are NOT healthy at all!!! Just the smell when they are being cooked during the manufacturing process is enough to make you sick!

  2. This is great, but there are still many people out there who don’t have much time to cook, or dislike cooking (or both). Could you please recommend some store-bought, healthy alternatives? Like Amy’s products, maybe? Thanks!

    1. Blake’s Frozen entrees are non-GMO, and are made with ingredients you have in your home. Plus they are SOOOOO much better than any of the other frozen entrees. You can get them at Target.

    2. I tried Blake’s frozen entrees last wee, and love them! They are non-GMO, and made only with ingredients you’d find in your kitchen. They have them at my Target right now – not sure if they’re nationwide yet, but worth a try for sure! I actually like them much, much better than Amy’s.

    3. Kim – How about Hilary’s Eat Well Burgers? They come frozen and you can pop them in the Toaster and top them off with avocado for a quick lunch. I have many more ideas for healthy on-the-go lunches that are store-bought in the Eating Guide too – check it out: https://foodbabe.com/eat

      1. Please,I need to know about the Adkins frozen meals. We just found out my husband is diabetic. I try making all homemade healthy meals. I’ll even make meals ahead of time. But for when there isn’t time and he needs to grab something for work quick,are the Adkins meals ok? We need some low carb and low sugar frozen meals desperately.

    4. You don’t think about things like: gnaw on a carrot. Tear a head of leaf lettuce and put organic salad dressing on it. Open a can of seasoned beans you like and eat them even cold: I like Cuban flavored black beans. The ingredients may not be perfect but they are better than what we are looking at here. Toast some Dave’s Killer Bread, or something like that, and put some, maybe, goat cheese on it, or even some peanut butter or quality preserves or marmalade – or both. Boil a dozen eggs and put them in the cooler at work if they have one. Have an avocado in your purse. That’ll get you started. You don’t have to cook, even.

      1. I was craving a sweet treat & a piece of Killer bread covered with jam & raw cashews really hit the spot! I tried raw walnuts, too. I say for a quick naughty snack, try your fave jelly w/raw nuts on a slice of healthy bread. Quick, easy & portable.

      1. where are you getting your information Kim? Amy’s doesn’t use any GMO ingredients and in a search online can’t find anything to support your statement. If you go to http://www.inspirationgreen.com/vote-yes-on-37
        that they are in support for gmo labeling in addition to their website which has additional information on what they are doing to fight for gmo labeling

    5. You dont have to cook to immediately starting eating healthy meals on the go. Think hard boiled eggs, avocado, raw carrots, brocolli or cauliflower, hummus dip, organic yogurt cups, organic strawberries, blueberries, red grapes etc, or raw salads with Chicken breast available at so many food chains now like Panera, au baun pain, Wendy’s, Starbucks, Whole foods bar, Trader Joe’s organic products, and most restaraunts for pick up. As an easy rule look for anything not prepackaged – so less likely to have perservative chemicals- and look for the organic label. Healthy food choices are readily available now just take an afternoon and look around you for convenient ‘go-to’ choices. Choosing healthy empowers you!

  3. I just joined Weight Watchers last week. I think going to the meetings will be beneficial to me, since I have a hard time motivating myself, and the weigh-ins will help keep me accountable. That is the good part about Weight Watchers. The bad part is the diet itself and the way they encourage you to buy their packaged snack foods at the meeting. I went to my first meeting last week, and the first thing the leader did was tell us about some snack cakes that were on sale. Then she gave us each a sample. This sample was for a little coffee cake snack cake that was worth 3 points on the points scale. It was about the size of a tic tac container. We are only allowed about 26 points per day. I was shocked how many women opened them up and started eating them during the meeting. I could barely hear the leader due to the crinkling of the packaging! As for the diet itself…the points system doesn’t totally make sense to me. If I make my own salad dressing, one tablespoon of olive oil costs me three points. But I can drink a can of diet soda for zero points if I wanted to (I don’t!). Or I can eat 10 jellybeans for 1 point (I admit it, I did!). Wouldn’t you think that something as good for you as olive oil for cost you fewer points than something really bad for you like diet soda?! That being said, you pick your own meals on Weight Watchers. I am going to stick with real food, fresh food, organic and GMO free food. I’m going to pick the foods that I know to be healthy for me, but use the tracking function on the Weight Watchers website to keep track of what I am eating. And I won’t eat any of their products! It’s so weird that you posted this today, since I was just thinking of sending you a message asking you to look into their products. For a company that actively markets itself as helping people get healthy, it’s very hypocritical of them to promote such terrible foods. During the meeting, I was also struck by how many people said they were repeat members. If it’s such a great way of life, why is it so hard to stick to? I think we know… Well, thanks for all you do!

    1. Karen – Thank you so much for being brave and sharing this! I truly believe this program could be better – I hope you speak up the next meeting you have or share this post with your fellow members!

    2. Karen, I used to attend WW (years ago). I agree, they promote too much of their own junk food. For the past couple of years I’ve been keeping up with my food intake through an awesome application, “My Fitness Pal” (you can download it via your smart phone, laptop or desktop computer). It has a huge food database and is totally free. I’ve lost 25 lbs., which put me at my goal weight. FoodBabe has been very instrumental in my success (thanks Vani). I will maintain my weight with the help of FoodBade and logging in my meals on My Fitness Pal. God bless…

    3. Hello there, I have been with WW a few years now and totally is an essential tool for me to track resturant foods as I am a Regional account executive that travels 5 days a week. Use the tracking in monitoring your fast food meals as well. You’ll be surprised to know that a Starbucks latte had the same points as a quarter pounder!! The tracking just helps you make better choices. I have never purchased their snacks or chooses to eat packaged foods. We are all smarter to know the simple food babe rules;
      Simple, earth grown, clean and pronounceable!!

    4. I had a successful experience with WW in that I did lose 30 lbs (and have mostly kept it off, for 14 yrs). Agree that having the weekly accountability with weigh-in is great, and motivating. However, I almost never ate the foods they suggested, and was appalled at how many of the women were fixated on getting the same tastes they loved (like bacon) in some stripped and processed way, such as the WW snacks. It is such a backward way of thinking of food.

    5. Hi! I am a Weight Watcher leader and I do think our program is the answer. I don’t do packaged foods and I don’t think additives and all that are good. If someone that has a lot of weight to lose comes in and eats a boxed pizza that has 8 points instead of a large pizza, that is a good thing. I think the packages are tools per se and I never talk about them. The meetings are about emotioal eating, holiday eating, planning, getting activity and group support. I lost 40 pounds in 2005 and love it. So your approach to WW and whole healthy foods is perfect! Good luck! Cindy

      1. Cindy, I completely agree with your take on WW.

        It appears to me that the author is somewhat missing or ignoring the point of those foods. WW is a business – and never promotes itself as a charity or anything else – they’re in it to make money. If they want to get in the business of pre-packaged foods, they must realize there’s a massive market for it and that people feel they “need” quick meals.

        Many people when they start WW have no idea what ‘healthy’ portions look like or understand anything about balancing nutrition. In my view, the products are there to help you get started, and minimize the overwhelming feeling of a complete lifestyle overhaul. I suspect that most people will, like I have, phase out the prepared foods altogether once they are more comfortable with portion control and are more confident in their understanding of nutrition and balance.

        I also think WW is a very easy target, when in reality it’s the food industry and the GENERAL acceptance on our part of “food-like products” that’s really to blame. Of all of the weight loss programs out there that profit from people’s misery, WW seems to me to be the most “lifestyle” focused. I’ve dropped nearly 20% of my body weight over 18 months, without relying on their food. You aren’t forced to buy it and they don’t shove it down your throat – especially if you’re an online member – but it’s an option that many appreciate.

        Just to add, there are 3 women in my family who took off significant weight with WW at various times in the last 25 years. All have maintained. I actually can’t think of a single example of someone who had similar success – in both the loss and the maintenance phases – with anything else. Including the paleo/whole30 trend right now.

    6. Weight Watchers is a bit like a cancer charity. If they actually did what they promised, and cured cancer or obesity, they would destroy their own, highly profitable market. It is the most egregious and dangerous example of conflicting interests.

    7. Karen, I so understand your frustration. Regarding that olive oil, WW is all about calories and since olive oil (and all other oils) has 120 calories per TBS, I’m guessing that’s why they give it so many points. Have you ever checked out Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s book, “The End of Dieting” ?… his programs literally saved my life; all whole food, mostly plant-based way of eating. Just a suggestion!!! Have a blessed day.

      http://www.drfuhrman.com/shop/End_of_Dieting.aspx

    8. too am a lifetime WW member, but I currently lost 54 pounds by going to TOPS (Take off Pounds Sensibly). It’s much cheaper than WW, there are no points to count. Their primary focus is on the “exchange system”, but you can use any “diet” that works for you. I achieved my goal through tracking everything I ate, and some moderate exercise. There was noting difficult about it. You are to be congratulated for taking the steps to bettering your health. Just do what works for you, be mindful of the products they sell, and know there are better alternatives out there. Success to your weight loss journey.

    9. Weight Watchers basics is a good program when it involves “Real Food.” I lost 55 lbs on the program and became a leader. But I was sick & tired all the time! When I researched I found out it was the ️so called “healthy junk” I was eating/drinking. When I changed my eating,I changed the way I led my meetings. I didn’t promote WW products. Well my supervisors didn’t appreciate it. It came to the point when new members would ask which “smart ones” or “snack bars” do you eat?” I would respond w/ “none.” They would look at me puzzled. After some time my meetings were slowly taken from me for not “promoting weight watchers” and I evently left my job. It’s sad because WW has great potential if they only would promote with “real food” not processed foods!

      1. Chris, Wow, I can’t believe they treated you that way! But it doesn’t surprise me. I could quickly see that my leader had to promote these items. Handing out free samples was clearly intended to entice the people in the meeting to purchase some for themselves. I never planned on buying any of the packaged snacks, and knew to expect that they would push these items, but was still taken aback by the lack of subtlety! I really do believe you can both succeed at Weight Watchers and eat a clean and healthy diet. I just feel sorry for the people there who are not as informed about diet and nutrition, since there is a lot of room to perpetuate unhealthy eating choices. I don’t think they are horrible, but there is room for improvement.

  4. I think over the years I have tried a lot of different diets including Weight Watchers and Nutrisystem. Can’t telly you how much money I have wasted and then gained the weight plus more back. Eating healthy and without all the added chemicals is the only way I am going to loose weight and get healthier. I’m so glad that I grew up in a big family and mom taught me how to cook from scratch!

    1. Hi Laura: I’m sure u wasted lots of money trying different diet programs. Who
      hasn’t?? But gaining the weight back should not be blamed on the different
      diets….we have only ourselves to blame for THAT! I find the WW Point System
      the best thing that ever happened to me! I especially like the idea of fresh fruits
      being “free.” Don’t touch any of their packaged foods, but using the Point system and my own good judgement has proven miraculous to me and highly
      recommend it. Love being 115/116 from a high of 145/150 (for more than 5 years)
      and it’s all due to the WW Points-Plus plan. …

      1. Unfortunately while using Nutrisystem and Weight Watchers I ate mostly the prepackaged foods and didn’t bother to learn to cook using the point system. Now after the loss of my husband and a job I am no longer physically able to perform, I’m living on retirement and an income less than half of what I was used to. So part of the weight gain could also be blamed on mild depression. But I have got my butt in gear. Moving from Maryland to Tennessee this summer where my money will go further and I can start buying healthier food than what I have been. I’m making major life changing plans in my life!

      2. I totally agree with you Helen, WW does help! I don’t usually do the frozen foods myself. For all those haters out there…WW helps you understand and think of what you are eating. Encouraging people to eat the right portions, right foods like fruits & veggies and other nutritious and yummy foods is what they teach, so I ask “how could that be wrong?” All I’m saying is that it works!

  5. Keep up the great work, Vani. I want the world to hear what you have to say. I love your book!!!

  6. My sister has been a member of Weight Watchers for years and I have seen how it has affected her eating habits. Her eating is based on a point system to the point where she justifies eating desserts because she only has had so many points for the day. She eats a lot of processed foods and loves her sugar. She goes for her weigh ins and then gets depressed because her weight has plateaued. And when she’s depressed, guess what she does – eat. It’s a constant up and down. I can’t talk food to her because she only goes by what she has heard at Weight Watchers. I am so sick of those damned points. They totally take the focus away from what is really important and that is whole foods and their nutrition.

    1. I know some people with who I can’t talk food because they only go by what they read on foodbabe.com… At least the weight watcher stuff is made in collaboration with dieticians.

      That being said, I know some people who just needed to monitor a bit the amount of calories they were ingesting, and this program did that just very well. I’d say this is a first step towards becoming more conscious about our food habits, a first step that may lead to healthier living, which is always a good thing.

      1. Seb:
        Most all of the mainstream and conventional “dieticians” and “nutritionists” out there are NOT taught about GMOs, chemical additives, toxic ingredients, etc….everything that FoodBabe educates people on. It’s “taboo” but hopefully this will change someday SOON.

  7. I have been a WW member for 21 weeks, and have lost 39 lbs. In addition to following the WW disciplines I have been following Food Babe, and a number of other folks also promoting a non-GMO, non-chemical additive, truly healthier lifestyles. I havent bought any WW food products, as a result of following FB’s label evaluation tips. With an additional focus on walking/hiking (13,000 steps/day) I have dropped my resting heart rate by 12 bpm and feel much better. I believe WW has a role, but it is only part out front the story. I am learning a lot from FB that I ignored previously and have paid the price. I hope WW will get on board and rebuild their food products with careful consideration of her recommendations.

    1. Jack – Congratulations on your healthy journey. Thanks for sharing your experience. I hope you inspire more members with your knowledge!

      1. Never expected a personal reply, thanks. I do believe in your efforts to raise consciousness about the additives in what we eat. I always remain skeptical about the latest “program du jour” but believe you will make a big difference for many people. I see some people question your scientific credentials, and even financial motive, but most of your advice appears spot on. I also think changing habits is a journey, to make better choices each month rather than trying to completely alter your buying habits all at once.

  8. I totally agree with you that in general frozen meals are bad news. However, I have maintained a 35 lb weight loss for over 5 years through the WW program. I have always felt encouraged to choose healthy whole food and never pressured to buy the WW brand items, although they are available. The more you go to meetings the more you learn and it is a journey and transformation. The points value does not equate to the ultimate judgment on a food, it is simply one piece of information to help you plan and make decisions about food. Also, almost all fruits and vegetables are zero points so I think that speaks volumes about what the program emphasizes! Keep up your great work as a food advocate and thanks for hearing my perspective!

  9. I have joined WW at least 20 times in my life if not more. I am so discouraged about my weight. I am about 120 lbs over weight. I have even had weight lose surgery and lost 125 lbs but have put 45 lbs back on. I am addicted to sugar and carbs and can’t seem to break the cycle. I also have cancer that is in the watch and weight stage but should be eating better because of that. I wonder, what will it take for me to get on the stick. I am 61 and would like to live many more years to enjoy life.

    1. Please learn about Dr. John McDougall’s way of eating. He has been advocating this and helping people for decades so it isn’t some latest fad, and it really works and really helps people cure ailments. Carbs have gotten a bad rap and with this way of eating, you can eat all the starches you want, you never count calories or points or anything, and no it isn’t too good to be true. Please believe me, your life could depend on it.

  10. I to agree with amy I have maintain a 23 lbs weight loss with weight watchers for the last 8 years.. I do agree some of the products are not good and I too have choosen to eat whole foods . They weight watchers make it about choices and coming to the meeting helps with accountability. And like amy said fruit and veggies are zero. I also feel less chemical should be a whole lot less. I love your website and the great information it has helped me a lot.

  11. What are your thoughts on the companies that offer vegetarian options such as morning star, Yves, Boca, Amy’s & Gardin? Would especially like your feedback on the breakfast sausages from Morning Star Farms.

  12. hi Vani,

    I’d really like to know your thoughts on Amy’s frozen organic line.

    Can you do a feature on that??

    Best,
    Kelly

    1. Amy’s is a great line. No preservatives, artificial ingredients, etc. Just real food. I eat Amy’s almost every day for lunch and I am a Registered Dietitian (and they DO teach us about GMOs by the way).

  13. I am a Lifetime member of Weight Watchers, I am also employed by them as a leader. I lost 62 pounds and am going into my 14th year at goal. The beauty of this plan is that we promote eating healthy wholesome foods. You never have to buy any WW products, it’s the first thing I tell new members. I rarely bought WW products and still use them sparingly. But we do carry products for members that do want to use them for convenience. We encourage members to make it to Their goal weight and to stay at that weight. Some people are just not going to shop, prep, and cook no matter what. I would love to have healthier options for myself and my members who I care very much for. Show us some better alternatives and I would be happy to share that information with my members. I live a healthier lifestyle with Weight Watchers.

  14. i was a weight watcher customer for years until I realized that they are a scam. They want you to eat their poison food – that prevents you from loosing weight whcih keeps you on their program longer. If the founder Jean Neigish was alive- she would have a fit.

    Weight Watchers is a scam that poisons people

  15. Hi, so glad you wrote an article about this. When I first started teaching, I would eat these everyday for lunch–I gained about 25 pounds in a year and I didn’t understand why because they were “healthy”. When I cut them from my diet, I felt so much better, now I can’t see how I ate them with all the chemicals and the plastic. I guess it was just easy at the time-but they are so bad for you! Wish more people knew that!

  16. Vani,

    So True. I just read about LUVO frozen meals and they look pretty decent. No GMOs and looks like a fairly clean ingredient list, but I would like to hear your take on them.

  17. I have been a WW member for four years. I dropped 40lbs in the space of a year, and have kept if off for the last three years. In all that time, I have never eaten ANY of their prepackaged food, frozen or otherwise. This includes all the products sold at their meetings. I eat fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, wholegrains, and exercise at least 4-5 times a week. Losing weight, and keeping it off, is completely possible on WW, as long as you stay away from
    ALL prepackaged and processed foods, not just WW brands.

  18. I have done weight watchers several times. It was a very effective way for me to lose weight. The emphasis is on calories in/out as well as fiber intake. I think that the idea that chemicals cause weight gain is a fairly new concept and not embraced by the mainstream. I eat a completely whole foods diet now and I am Mich healthier for it. When you eat a whole foods diet the weight just falls off and counting is unnecessary. Weight watchers is in the business of making money, not making people healthy. They know they can sell their diet foods to consumers to replace the foods they love. They don’t have incentive to make it healthier unless people demand it. Thank goodness for people like Vani for educating the public about food. I have learned so much from her!

  19. Hi there,

    Just wondering what all the hype is about Skinny Fibre promoting weight loss. Can you investigate and let people know? Thank you so much for your honesty and dedication.

    1. Yes I would love to know your thoughts on this as well. Love all you are doing for our food world

  20. I started Weight Watchers in an attempt to shed some post partum weight. I liked the idea that fruits and veggies were “free.” But, I was APPALLED that they endorsed consuming low-fat or fat-free dairy products, as well as things like Light Progresso soup. I read something a long time ago that has really stuck with me…when you see the words “non-fat,” “fat-free,” “sugar-free,” etc., think to yourself “chemical s*&% storm.” And it’s so true. I would rather indulge (in appropriate portions, of course) in a little bit of full fat “real” cheese then gorge myself on some chemically-laden alternative just because it’s “diet approved.” It’s sad that so many people are so clueless to what’s really going on with the food in this country. Keep fighting the good fight, Food Babe! Your army is behind you!

  21. a PERFECT report.
    Love your work.
    Thanks so much for educating the world on the most important lesson of all… protecting and nourishing the machine that is the body. xo

  22. This is funny, people need to take accountability for their weight and actions. Weight Watchers promotes a diet of choice. It’s designed for people to make their own food. Unlike other programs like NutriSystem and Jeni Craig. On WW you decide, and if you eat their food, all of their products list the ingredients. So saying they are poisoning people is silly, blaming them for your weight and poor food choices is ridiculous! People are heavy and eat poorly because they choose to. They choose convenience over healthy, they choose ignorance about ingredients over education. People need to be honest with themselves and own up to the fact that they don’t want to think about it, and they don’t have self control.

  23. Vani, great exposure of such a prominent organization.

    Your next stop…how about exposing the Girl Scouts and their annual campaign of selling their cookies?

  24. Hey Vani! I just completed your book…..LOVE IT and have made it my food how-to book. Amazing how much my thought process has changed when chosing foods – like the frozen “diet” meals discussed above that I wouldn’t dream of eating now. I travel a LOT for work so I am still struggling with how to battle that. I try to pack as much as I can but it never fails, I am stuck eating a fake sandwich from a kiosk running through an airport . :/ blah.
    I would love a forum, or list, of healthy options in different airports. Maybe something the Food Babe Army can help with! i.e. Atlanta Harstfield has a Juicing restaurant with organic and fresh juices and smoothies.

  25. I cringe whenever I see people eating this crap. I work for doctors and they eat this too.

  26. These guys (WWs) are totally Old School. I’m so glad you are exposing this nonsense.

  27. Everything you have said is 100% true about the Weight Watchers branded food. Yes, I agree 100%. I’m a WW Lifetime member and can happily say I have not purchased their food. Now, I haven’t been to a meeting in a while, but while I was losing, I went every week (now I just go and weigh in monthly to keep me on track). I can say with 100% certainty that the WW food has never, ever been promoted at any meeting I have been to. Weight watchers is different than something like, say, Nutrisystem, where you have to buy their food. WW teaches you how to eat. I will agree with you that there is little guidance with their current “points” system on nutrition UNLESS YOU ATTEND THE MEETINGS. For an outsider, I can see that you may not understand the nutrition guidance that members get in the meeting (and from a good leader— some are better than others). I will also agree that there is not adequate education on sodium intake. When I asked my leader about sodium, she said the WW recommendation is 1500 mg per day (I haven’t found this listed in the literature). So while there is definitely room for improvement on the WW program, it’s not quite the way your article portrays it.

  28. I would love to see you look into Girl Scout Cookies – the FAQ page from their site is just begging for someone like you to tear it apart! (http://www.girlscouts.org/program/gs_cookies/faq.asp)
    My family gets them every year and thanks to you and others I’m paying more attention to what I’m eating than ever before. So of course I didn’t like what I found on the side of those boxes. It’s pretty sad how the young girls of America are being encouraged to sell such a questionable product in order to teach them valuable life lessons. And I’d have to assume that most Girl Scouts are eating the cookies themselves too. I think someone like you would have a real shot at creating some serious change and impacting a lot of young girls and consumers! Ok – that’s the end of my rant about cookies…Thanks for all you do!

    1. You are so right and I hadn’t thought of that. They are being taught the core value in our country – Greed – do anything to make a buck.

  29. Are Nutri System and Jenny Craig foods as bad as Weight Watcher foods? Let me know. I’m thinking of trying one because I just can’t lose on my own. I need a structured portion controlled diet I think.

  30. I couldn’t paint a better picture myself at this sham of an organization! What a racket they run keeping all their sycophants under their thumb! (You ought to next expose the chemical feast that is Nutrisystem!) What a racket these companies run, fooling the overweight into thinking that these plans are actually healthy, when the foods that got most people overweight to begin with are the same foods that these companies feature…just in moderation!

  31. Hi! I am a leader for Weight Watchers. I have worked for them for 9 years. I lost 40 pounds in 2005-2006 and have kept it off. I currently have 500-700 members and I tell them about you and your blog.
    I DO NOT talk about our packaged foods. I follow you and have your lifestyle and that is all I talk about! No additives, GMO, fake sugar, nothing fat free etc..
    I do agree that is not “food” but maybe a start to go from a large pizza to a controlled portion. I see them more as tools. But I do not even enter that stuff into my meetings. We talk about emotional eating, holiday issues, planning food, and most importantly we talk about “Power Foods” that are basically whole foods. So while I don’t agree with packaged food of any kind, Weight Watchers is not being properly represented. You are amazing and I love your work! Thank you! Cindy

  32. Once again the warrantless attack on MSG, a naturally occurring substance in food (it’s in broccoli and mushrooms, and nature put it there). I agree with a lot of what the food babe has to say, but on this we don’t agree. The original scare about MSG was a baseless conjecture, and science has since proven that MSG in the amounts found in food is not harmful. And it does make for enjoyable eating . . .

    1. Bruce, Low levels of MSG are not cumulative but most additives with MSG in them can tear you up chemically brain-wise. The glutamate portion of MSG converts to glutamic acid in the body and a shaker loaded with the stuff will knot the brain of most people with a monster headache, a heightened heart rate and in large quantities (a tablespoon in your chop suey) can cause seizure and using to dump into foods as a taste enhancer should tell you something about the insensitivity of your taste buds. You might want to add some BHT laced lard to that order, that’s pretty tasty and of course about 45 grams of refined ribose sugar in your ice tea will give it a boost. Leave your steak in a solution of the stuff overnight and see if you can find it the next day. Coke a Cola is good for you too, I’d suggest about a quart a day.

      1. LOL!! The “glutamate” portion?? Ok, I’ll let that one go. But you’re correct that MSG dissolved in water will produce glutamic acid. It’s a non-essential amino acid, meaning that your body will make it’s own glutamic acid if it runs short, but you do not need to supplement with it. A chicken breast, organic or not, had about 8-9 grams of glutamic acid. The only headaches that MSG causes are listening to people talk about MSG, who do not know what they’re talking about.

      2. @Gary – some (few) people actually do get headache and blushing cheeks (i have a reference from the Danish health authorities (in Danish) and the Danish Dental society also in Danish) but so does common sodium chloride (salt). I wonder if its the sodium but i’m not a physician just a chemical engineer. But generally i agree that the fear of MSG in itself seems a bit over the top. But to me the essential problem is that its used as a way to hide general poor quality and preparation methods that destroys most of the “natural” taste and thus means that this must be “amplified” using e.g. MSG.

      3. @Morten – I totally agree with you about using MSG to mask poor quality food, it’s the complete fear of MSG that I’m questioning. I do not work in the chemical or health industry, but I do have a degree in it, but most of all I’m a certified gym rat/strength athlete. I’ve experimented with many supplements over the years. The one thing I’ve found, and these are well documented, is that certain amino acids in excess, on an empty stomach will have very different effects on the body. For example, L-Tyrosine first thing in the morning will really fire up your brain and concentration. Alpha-Lipoic Acid will make you more insulin sensitive (and give you a slight headache), Beta-Alanine will alter your skin’s sensory inputs and make you feel like ants are crawling all over you, just like niacin does. NONE of these supplements are harmful, as a matter of fact ALL of them have been shown to have multiple benefits (especially ALA – very potent anti-oxidant). So even if we get a headache from MSG, should we be worried that it’s killing us? I could argue that the “high” the MSG gives our taste buds probably contribute to a better overall brain chemistry (dopamine, etc.), and could in fact help with depression, Parkinson’s, etc. Whey is another item that has been singled out. I have added over 35 lbs of muscle to my frame, gained strength and a better immune system, partly due to Whey protein…that I drink on a daily basis.

        Cheers!

        Gary

  33. A few people have asked about Amy’s Organics. I would also love to get your opinion on them. I HATE to cook, and I eat them every day for lunch. I know some of them can be kind of high in calories and carbs but I at least feel like being organic and minimally processed they aren’t nearly as bad as some of the other frozen foods.

  34. You go girl…..call out Weight Watcher’s! I admire your courage and passion for good healthy food. People have been brain washed by Big Food..Big Agra and Capitalism and hopefully are waking up to the truth. With brave young leaders such as yourselg, maybe this planet and its inhabitants still have a fighting chance.
    From one food passionate gal to another ” Vani dear, please keep up the good fight”

  35. Ahhhh….THANK YOU! I lost 50 pounds on weight watchers in 6 months. I was also losing my hair and felt like I had to eat things like fiber one bars instead of nuts and other more healthy alternatives to keeps the points down. I got frustrated and stopped and gained half of the weight back. I’m no longer counting points but am trying to remove the additives from my diet and eat clean and healthy.

  36. Thank you for this article and all the research that goes into this and all other posts! You are inspiring and a truth seeker. I am a careful food consumption consumer and I try to put only good things in my body. The key for me is preparing all my meals ahead of time and having them multitask. So the cabbage slaw I make in the beginning of the week becomes turkey taco filler for dinner and then mixed with kale and tuna for lunch and then becomes part of my stir fry with fresh veggies and chicken the third time. I’m not always prepared so once in awhile I buy Artisan Bistro entries. They seem legit. What do you think?

  37. Two things:

    1. So happy to see this! I’ve always wondered why these companies don’t take the time to teach their members how to cook healthy, quick meals. You know, that whole “you can teach someone to fish …” thing.

    2. I know someone who was in the program, and he said that they encouraged Diet Soda. Whaaat???

    Thanks for all you do!

  38. I was on Jenny Craig for about a year and lost about 50 lbs but felt like crap most of the time because of the processed foods. I am a member of Weight Watchers now but don’t eat any of their food. I only use the points tracker which has helped me drop another 10 lbs. What I like about their tracker is it does “reward you” by taking less points out of your daily points allowance when you eat healthier foods vs. processed foods (ex. fruits and veggies have zero points for the most part). Their app has helped me with portion control but I would not eat any of their food.

  39. I. Need help., i have received So much knowledge/information from folks like yourself, by reading what is good eating vs what is not. And it is crucial to a healthy life style and basic survival. I am on the committee for my family reunion for next year. How do I go about replicateing the meals that my family was raised on with the same menu but prepared in a more healty way?i. Listed below is an example of the menu:
    Fried/baked /, barbecued chicken, ribs, fried fish, macaroni and cheese, collard greens flavored with turkey meat, candied yams, backed beans , potatoe salad, cole slaw and rolls. dessert: sweet potatoe pie, banana pudding, chocolate cake, yellow cake , peach and apple cobbler and, red velvet cake. Need to find a caterer to work with me on this but I need to know how to communicate all this. Please help me. My conscience won’t let me , knowing what I know , allow my family to eat unhealthy on my watch!

  40. What are your thoughts on Shakeology? They seem good to me, but with all the tricky marketing out there, I don’t want to be fooled!

  41. To know what foods you eat and what they do to you, read any or all of these 3 books. 1. Wheat Belly by William Davis, MD who is a cardiologist. 2. The Calcium Lie II by Robert Thompson MD and 3. Grain Brain by David Perlmutter, MD. All 3 written by Doctors who have many years experience in medicine and how food is processed by the body. You would love these books Vani. I love your emails and the comments at the end, agree and disagree.

  42. This is so true! I was a member of Weight Watchers for 11 years. Yes, I lost weight, but it did not stay off for long. When I first joined in 2001, my focus was on losing weight, not on health, so I ate low “points” foods – including their “2-point bars.” One day waiting in line to pay for the bars, I read the ingredients list, and I never ate them again!

    I left WW about a year and a half ago and my weight fluctuates; however, I lost 10 pounds when I did the 100 Days of Real Food Challenge! Real Foods – Yay!

  43. Dear Vani,
    I am a member of Weight Watchers. Thank you for sharing this article. I never eat their food for the very reasons you published. The foods are full of chemicals. High sodium, cheap oils, and additives that are not on their labels. I have a sensitivity to MSG and get facial flushing, and a tachycardia and increased blood pressure.
    More people need to be aware of what they are eating.
    When weight watchers first started you made your own food now it is a mega business and only interested in making money at the expense of their members.

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