How to Follow Weight Watchers on a Gluten-Free Diet

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Weight Watchers is one of the most popular structured weight-loss programs, but will it work for someone who has to follow a gluten-free diet? This is a common question and there is good news. Since the program doesn't specify any foods you must eat or avoid, you can include any foods that suit you.

Therefore, the program can work—and may potentially work well for you—if you're following a gluten-free diet due to celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. It also can work if you want to avoid gluten as another way to lose weight in addition to the program.

Weight Watchers encourages slow weight loss, not crash dieting. The program urges participants to reach their goals by adopting healthier eating habits and increasing their physical activity levels. Program members can attend the traditional weekly Weight Watchers meetings (complete with the weigh-ins), or participate entirely online.

Tracking Weight Watchers Points

Weight Watchers works on a points system, called SmartPoints, for the foods you eat. Everyone who joins is given a daily allowance of points. This is based on your current weight, activity level, and target weight. Every food or ingredient is assigned a value under the system.

Therefore, to follow the program, you'll need to track the points value of the foods you eat. This can be more of a challenge when you're cooking lots of meals from scratch, as many who eat gluten-free often do out of necessity. However, Weight Watchers includes apps and other tracking tools that make the task easier.

It's true in theory that you can eat whatever you want while on Weight Watchers, including a huge slice of gooey, sugary gluten-free chocolate cake. But in reality, the program's SmartPoints system discourages simple carb-laden junk food (yes, including gluten-free junk food).

It also penalizes high-fat food choices. The SmartPoints system does this by assigning lower points values to what Weight Watchers considers healthier options—mainly protein-rich and fiber-filled foods, many of which are lower in fat.

Food Selection Limitations

Generally, you shouldn't be any more limited in your selection of foods while on Weight Watchers than you are while following the gluten-free diet.

Weight Watchers also caters to the gluten-free crowd by supplying lists of gluten-free recipes, together with point values. Also, you actually get unlimited quantities of fresh fruits and non-starchy vegetables on the Weight Watchers diet. Since those are gluten-free in their natural states, you can enjoy them without worry.

You might run into a bit of trouble with gluten-free baked goods. For example, it can be tough to find a higher-fiber, gluten-free bread, although several gluten-free manufacturers have stepped up to increase the fiber content in their products.

You can enjoy treats like brownies, though. On Weight Watchers' list of favorite gluten-free products, Udi's Dark Chocolate Brownie Bites come in at two points each.

Consider the Program Itself

Weight Watchers' points system is proprietary and carefully guarded. This means that you will find it difficult or impossible to follow the program without paying for a membership. Since the program does cater to gluten-free dieters, considering the cost should also factor into your decision.

In the U.S., a monthly pass that gives you access to meetings and online tools costs around $40 (depending on where you live). An online membership (program and tools but no meetings) costs around $20 a month, plus a one-time sign-up fee (prices may vary in some areas).

Will the Weight Watchers System Work for You?

Weight Watchers requires you to shop and prepare the majority of your own food. Since this emphasis on careful shopping and frequent cooking is pretty common on the gluten-free diet as well, it makes the two diets a decent match.

Ultimately, Weight Watchers works by cutting calories in the form of simple carbs and fat (although you'll still get at least 1,200 calories each day). If you tend to lose weight more easily on a lower-fat diet, then this might be a good choice for you.

If on the other hand, you lose weight faster on a diet that reduces carbohydrates, such as Atkins or South Beach, Weight Watchers might not be the best match for you. You can tweak the PointsPlus program so that it's lower in carbs, but the program's not really well-designed for the low-carb approach to weight loss.

A Word From Verywell

If you're considering following the Weight Watchers program, it is good to know that it can work with your gluten-free diet. Take the other factors into consideration before deciding whether or not this is the right weight loss plan for you.

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Article Sources

  • Weight Watchers. Our Favorite Gluten-Free Products. 2018.