With further elaboration ahead, the answer is yes.
First off, let me address this topic by strictly speaking to my own personal evolution and my own personal choice rather than embarking down the path of “official Weight Watchers point of view”. I will also seek to avoid using, as I always do, this blog to submerge myself into the sometimes knotty subject of food politics. This said, I am happy to talk about my personal views as a Weight Watchers member who has been on the program for roughly 10 years.
Maybe a more useful question is: do I eat processed food as a regular snack? Generally and increasingly, the answer is not as much. Allow me to elaborate on this apparent paradox.
My personal definition of a snack has evolved greatly since I originally became a Weight Watchers member 10 years ago. For most of my life, a snack was an indiscriminate lump of food whose sole purpose was to occupy my stomach and reward my desire to put food in my mouth. Any food would do – so long as the time between impulse to eat and actual consumption was less than 23 seconds. Good examples? Tortilla chips (they’re healthy, right?) and some sort of dipping substance was always a crowd pleaser. Fist-fulls of cheese were too.
When I first started doing the Weight Watchers program, my first step was to ramp down the calories of my snacks, but to still stay close to the type of food I liked. A good example of this was going from full-test tortilla chips (i.e., with buckets of imbedded oil) to baked tortilla chips. Further, I monitored how much I ate, and I reduced frequency and portion size (i.e., personal revelation #32: eating an entire large bag is a less good choice). Another example: rather than eat hand-fulls of nuts, I started getting the pre-packed ones from Trader Joes. I was able to significantly reduce caloric intake through a series of small adjustments.
During this phase of choosing lower calorie alternatives and reducing portion size, there were a number of Weight Watchers products that played a crucial role for me as snacks. Two-POINTS bars and our salty snacks (love the Cheese Twists!) were incredibly helpful to me. They had more good stuff like fiber and less bad stuff like excess sugars and fats. Further, they were portion controlled, which I very much needed to start learning the right amount of food to eat as a snack.
OK, this is hardly revolutionary insight, and most of you were probably way ahead of me on this. However, when I first started to clean-up my lifestyle as a new member, I wasn’t ready to jump from oily chips to angelic apples. Frankly, that was a bridge too far. I needed to make a series of small changes over a period of time, and I needed in-the-middle food choices to serve as a bridge. For me, this was similar to my exercise transformation process: I didn’t start working out 6-7 days per week on day one. I gradually added exercise over a period of years.
So do I still eat Weight Watchers branded products? The answer is still yes. Counter-intuitively, my go-to Weight Watchers products now tend to be mini-bars, pop-corn and ice cream products. “Heretic,” you scream! “That’s the most junky, sugary stuff!” My reply: exactly!
I guess my thinking about this (again, as a 10 year veteran member) has evolved to the following personal point of view: my indulgences are not my snacks or vice versa. I now see my snacks as mini-meals. Indulgences speak to my sweet tooth, and my sweet tooth deserves some attention. Just, not all the time. A Weight Watchers chocolate pretzel mini-bar is a much better choice for me than a full-test Snickers bar. A Weight Watchers ice cream cone is a much better choice than a pint of ice cream.
In addition to these indulgence products, I also enjoy a host of other Weight Watchers products which I categorize as food staples including breads, bagels, cheeses (great snacks BTW), and others. Further, I will still go for a Weight Watchers 2-POINTS bar or salty snack when I’m on the go, and I don’t have easy access to my new produce friends.
If there is one broad insight I take away from this, it is that adopting a healthier lifestyle has been a series of small changes that have taken place over a long period of time. For me, it’s been a marathon, not a sprint.
How has your thinking about snack foods evolved?