WW (Weight Watchers) vs. Ketogenic Diet

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Written by Brenda Peralta, Registered Dietitian and medically reviewed by Abby Courtenay

Imge of WW (Weight Watchers) vs. Ketogenic Diet

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The beginning of every weight loss journey can be a little overwhelming, especially if you don’t know which diet is most suitable for your lifestyle. WW (formerly known as Weight Watchers) and keto are two of the most popular diets found on the market.

While they both are intended for people to lose weight and can offer similar results, they have very different approaches. WW is based on a point system where you can eat anything as long as you keep your point score within the target, while on keto, you limit the number of carbohydrates you eat so your body enters ketosis for fat burn.

At the end of the article, you will have a clearer perspective on each diet to determine which is more suitable for you.

 

What is the WW (Weight Watchers) diet?

WW is a popular weight loss program built around counting points. You don’t need to count calories since the points given to you are based on your weight loss goals and how many calories you need to achieve that goal.

Previously WW used to work based on color groups. Once you answered their questions to get a personalized eating plan, you were placed in a green, blue, or purple program depending on your intended weight loss.

  • Green. More SmartPoints per day and over 100+ ZeroPoint foods (fruits and veggies).
  • Blue. Moderate amount of SmartPoints per day and over 200+ ZeroPoint foods (fruits, veggies, and lean protein).
  • Purple. Fewer SmartPoints per day, with 300+ ZeroPoint foods (fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains).

The new program is based on Personal Points. The points that you get are based on your goals and favorite foods. Thus, it is said that there won’t be a meal plan that is the same. You get to spend these during the day depending on the recipes that you make. Additionally, you still get ZeroPoint foods, which are foods that are unlimited for you to consume.

Another modification they have done in the new version of the WW program is that it gives you extra ZeroPoint food points for positive habits. For example, suppose you walk your dog or choose healthier fats (unsaturated) over unhealthy (saturated). In these cases, you are given more points to spend.

WW redesigns their program about every two years, so you may want to visit their website to check out the latest version, which was rolled out in November 2021.

If you choose, you can do keto on Weight Watchers. When you are filling out the WW questionnaire, you can select which types of foods you want to include. Thus, you can choose more fats and fewer carbs for your plan, and keep track of your carbs for keto while you’re counting points for WW. However, one of the main goals of WW is to eat all types of foods.

 

Similarities between the WW diet and keto

Although they have different approaches, there are some similarities that you can find between these two diets.

Keto vs. WW on weight loss

Both are excellent options for people looking to lose some weight. These two diets have extensive scientific research stating the benefit of weight loss.

There can be a 1-2 pound weight loss per week in both cases, although it varies for each person. With keto, it’s common to lose more weight in the first week due to water loss.

Ketogenic diet vs. Weight Watchers on cravings

When doing keto, you might experience more cravings during the first week. Since you are restricting carbs, including sugar, it takes some time for your body to get used to not having them. However, you experience less cravings and less hunger after these days have passed.

Also, there seems to be a decrease in hunger levels or cravings with WW.

WW diet and the ketogenic diet on chronic disease

Since both diets focus on weight loss, they can decrease the incidence of chronic illnesses in which being overweight plays a role. Risk factors for type 2 diabetes and heart disease can both be reduced by either of these diets.

However, it seems that keto could be a better approach for insulin sensitivity.

WW or a low-carb high-fat diet on calorie counting

Neither requires calorie counting. WW is based on a unique points system, in which each food is assigned a number of points based on calories and nutrients. On the other hand, with keto, you keep track of your carb intake to stay under your daily limit.

 

Difference between the keto diet and WW

While they have some similarities, there are more differences between these diets.

Compare Weight Watchers to keto on support

When it comes to support, WW is the definite winner.

Although there are many groups, communities, and pages dedicated to a ketogenic diet, WW has a whole community where you are involved once you sign up. You can also opt for face-to-face meetings or one-on-one coaching. This can be a huge deal for some when maintaining their new lifestyle.

Keto diet versus WW on macronutrients

Finally, the most significant difference is how the three macronutrients (carbs, proteins, and fats) are balanced in each diet. On Weight Watchers you only count points, not macros, so it’s up to you to find the right balance in nutrients.

On the other hand, on a ketogenic diet you keep track of your macros to ensure your eating plan is low in carbs, moderate in protein, and high in healthy fats.

 

Pros of WW and keto

Besides the benefits stated previously, there are several other advantages of doing WW and keto. Here is a list of the most common benefits you can get from them.

  • Weight loss. In both cases, you can experience weight loss. Although you might lose more weight in the beginning from doing keto (water loss), you can achieve a similar weight loss per week in both cases.
  • Reduces inflammation. Both can be good options to reduce inflammation as long as you choose natural and less processed foods.
  • Decrease in chronic illness. They can potentially reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

 

Cons of Weight Watchers and a ketogenic diet

The most significant side effects can be seen when following a ketogenic diet. Here is a list of the most common side effects you might experience.

  • Keto flu. You might experience fatigue, headache, nausea, and foggy brain during the first days.
  • Constipation. Since carbs are reduced, you can potentially be reducing your fiber intake, which leads to constipation.
  • Decreased performance. While your body adapts to working with ketones during the first few days, you might find it harder to work out. Make sure to decrease the intensity of your training during these days.
  • Difficulty in a social gathering. Since certain foods are restricted, it can be difficult to find things to eat during social events.

Since WW doesn’t decrease any macronutrients, you might not get a lot of side effects from following this diet.

Also, weight regain is common in many diets, including WW and keto. The biggest problem seems to be sustainability. The diet you will be most successful on is a diet that you can stick to.

 

WW vs. keto: foods to eat and avoid

Another difference between these two diets is the foods that you should and shouldn’t eat.

Remember that in WW, the food list is tailored according to your preferences. Thus, some foods are allowed in some cases, while they might be restricted in others.

FOOD KETO WW
Beans and legumes In moderation Allowed
Condiments and sauces

Allowed
(low-carb)

Allowed
Dairy

Allowed
(low-carb)

Allowed
Sugar-free drinks Allowed Allowed
Sugar-sweetened beverages Not allowed Allowed
Alcoholic drinks Allowed
(low-carb)
Allowed
Eggs Allowed Allowed
Fish and seafood Allowed Allowed
Fruits Allowed
(moderation)
Allowed
Grains and starches Allowed
(moderation)
Allowed
Herbs and spices Allowed Allowed
Meat and poultry Allowed Allowed
Nuts and seeds Allowed Allowed
Oils and fats Allowed Allowed
Processed foods Not allowed Allowed
Sugar-free sweeteners Allowed Allowed
Natural sweeteners Allowed
(low-carb)
Allowed
White and brown sugars Not allowed Allowed
Starchy vegetables Allowed
(moderation)
Allowed
Non-starchy vegetables Allowed Allowed

 

In WW, all foods are allowed (but with a preference for lower-calorie foods) as long as you count them into your daily point budget. This means that you can eat processed foods, alcohol, or sugars as long as you stay within budget.

On the other hand, a ketogenic diet has a more restricted food approach, where you need to carefully control your carb intake thoroughly. This means restricting and even eliminating certain foods. See our guide to keto foods for a better understanding of what is keto-friendly and what is not.

 

Which diet is cheaper, keto or Weight Watchers?

Keto wins this round since it is less expensive. WW is a paid program where you can choose different memberships according to your budget. There are currently four versions of the membership.

  • Digital. Starting at $3.38/week.
  • Digital 360. Starting at $4.61/week.
  • Unlimited workshops and digital. Starting at $6.92/week.
  • 1-on-1 coaching and digital. Starting at $11.08/week.

This means that you pay between $14-44 per month just for the program. You then need to take into account the price of the groceries.

On keto, while you can choose to buy a guided program or meal plan, it’s also possible to calculate your personal macros for free and do your own planning. Then, you only have to buy groceries.

 

Which diet is better, WW or keto?

Overall, both are healthy options for weight loss as long as you eat mostly whole, unprocessed foods and reduce your intake of highly processed products.

Suppose you eat more veggies, fruits, and whole grains. In that case, you have more vitamins, minerals, and fiber, which are all good nutrients for your body.

The new approach of WW, where it gives you extra points for physical activities (like exercising or walking), can also incentivize more people to build healthy habits while improving diet.

Both a ketogenic and a WW diet can be great options for a healthy lifestyle.

 

The takeaway

Both WW and keto can be effective for people looking to lose some weight. Which is better for you depends on whether or not you’re willing to give up certain foods.

If you don’t see yourself limiting the number of carb-based foods you eat daily, WW might be the best option. You can eat anything you want, albeit in smaller quantities to stay under your points limit. Keep in mind that it is more expensive than following a keto diet.

On the other hand, if you want to decrease your intake of sugars and additives, you don’t mind switching to alternative versions of pizza and pasta (cauliflower crust, zucchini noodles, etc.), and prefer to eat more fat-based foods (avocado, nuts, seeds, and olive oil), a ketogenic approach might be the best option for you.

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to weight loss. The best option is the one that you can see yourself doing for a very long time.