- Can be costly.
- Counting points can be tedious.
- Weekly weigh-ins are necessary.
- Too much freedom for some people.
- May lead to unhealthy dieting.
With the ketogenic diet and WW (formerly Weight Watchers), weight loss is a numbers game. For keto, you subtract carbs from your diet and add in foods rich in fat. For WW, you carefully tally food points to keep within your individual target.
Sticking with keto is challenging and it may work better as a short-term strategy than a long-term diet solution. However, with WW, you might come to lose weight and stay for the ongoing support.
WW (Weight Watchers) Overview
WW is a commercial diet focused on weight loss, along with healthy eating and lifestyle habits. WW is classified as a balanced diet in the U.S. News Best Diets rankings.
Program options rely on the SmartPoints system, which assigns a point value to every food and beverage based on its nutritional content. Within that system, numerous dietary options (like fruits, vegetables and certain lean proteins) can count as zero points.
Your SmartPoints target is based on your sex, weight, height and age. In WW’s newer line of customized plans, “Blue,” “Green” and “Purple” plans are matched to members’ eating styles, food preferences, activity levels and lifestyles.
“Our program takes a very inclusive approach to food,” says Michelle Cardel, director of global clinical research and nutrition for WW. “Each member has their own zero-points food list to ensure that they reach their goals while eating food they truly love. And importantly, no foods are off-limits.
In contrast to that, the ketogenic diet restricts carbohydrates, which is a whole food group that is part of a healthy pattern of eating, including things like grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes.”
WW (Weight Watchers) Basics
Overall, the SmartPoints system encourages members to eat foods that are lower in calories, saturated fat and sugar, and higher in protein. Here’s a sample of daily menus from weightwatchers.com:
This plan has a large SmartPoints allowance, and members can incorporate fruits and veggies from ZeroPoint food options.
- Breakfast: Mini bagel with whipped cream cheese and sliced tomato, and orange juice.
- Lunch: Curry lime chicken salad.
- Snacks: Latte made with low-fat milk, and basil-spinach dip with pita chips.
- Dinner: Roasted chicken with squash and peppers.
This plan offers moderate SmartPoints, and members can choose to add ZeroPoint fruits, veggies and lean proteins.
- Breakfast: Steel-cut oats topped with pomegranate and pistachio.
- Lunch: Honey mustard chicken salad on a whole-wheat sandwich and pretzels.
- Snacks: Parmesan-herb popcorn, and apple slices drizzled with honey and cinnamon.
- Dinner: Asian-style fish-and-veggie bowl.
This plan has a modest amount of SmartPoints. Members can incorporate fruits, veggies, lean proteins and whole grains from the ZeroPoint foods list.
- Breakfast: BLT on cheese toast with an orange.
- Lunch: Pulled chicken chili and black bean soup with tortilla chips and homemade guacamole.
- Snacks: Sliced pear or apple with almond butter, and buttermilk-herb dip with crudités.
- Dinner: Beef and vegetable stir-fry with brown rice.
You can find many versions of the keto diet. Some people stay on keto indefinitely, whereas others cycle in and out. Keto is classified as a low-carb diet in the U.S. News Best Diets rankings.
Keto emphasizes weight loss through fat-burning. You slash the carbs you consume and fill up on fats instead. By doing so, you safely enter a state of ketosis, according to diet proponents.
In ketosis, your body breaks down both dietary and stored body fat into substances called ketones. Your fat-burning system now relies mainly on fat – instead of sugar – for energy. That can lead to quick weight loss.
Urine or blood test results, fruity breath, reduced hunger, changes in exercise performance and weight loss can all indicate ketosis.
In general, keto plans call for restricting carbs to about 15 to 20 grams daily. Fat intake makes up roughly 70% of daily calories. In comparison, the 2015-20 Dietary Guidelines for Americans call for 130 grams of daily carbs and fat intake ranging from 25% to 35% of daily calories.
One issue is weight-loss maintenance. “The keto diet is a highly restrictive food plant that puts your body in a state of physiologic ketosis,” Cardel says. “When you eliminate an entire food group – in this case, carbs – you’re left with way fewer food options. You’re therefore likely to eat less overall as a result. And much of that initial weight loss is due to water loss, which is immediately reversed, basically, when carbs are reintroduced to the diet.”
Another issue is whether would-be keto adherents are truly reaching a state of ketosis. “A lot of people think they’re doing keto but they’re not,” says Carrie Dennett, a Seattle-based registered dietitian nutritionist. “They’re not actually eating low enough carbs and high enough fats to go into ketosis.”
Keto Diet Basics
Keto flips traditional thinking on diets because it encourages high-fat consumption. Here’s how a keto diet might look:
- Instead of skinless poultry and lean cuts of meat, protein sources include rib-eye steak, skin-on chicken thighs, pork roast and snacks like bacon.
- Whole-dairy foods are encouraged.
- You counter sugar cravings with desserts like dark chocolate and nut butter.
- For a salad, greens such as spinach, kale and lettuce, along with broccoli, cauliflower and cucumbers, are OK, but starchy veggies such as corn and sweet potatoes are too high in carbs.
- Salad dressing could consist of oils like avocado, olive, canola, flaxseed and palm, or even mayonnaise.
Within both keto and WW, there’s room to make healthy food choices among permitted foods. However, it’s also possible to obsess over Keto carb counts or WW food points and sacrifice nutritional variety.
Weight Loss Effects
WW claims you can shed up to two pounds weekly. With keto, initial weight loss is more dramatic. You could potentially lose up to 10 pounds on keto in the first week – however, that includes water weight, which can quickly return.
Immediate weight loss is an early keto attraction, Cardel notes. “It’s very reinforcing to see the scale go down so quickly, particularly in the first week, even if (followers) know that it’s due to water weight loss,” she says. “But, still, it’s positive to see that happen so quickly on the scale.”
Evidence backs WW for longer-term weight loss. WW participants have lost roughly 10 to 15 pounds in a variety of studies lasting from several months to a year. (Some participants may lose much more.) Again, for keto, there’s little evidence so far to support (or refute) its effectiveness for longer-term weight loss.