Pasta with Spiced Butternut Squash and Almonds (Weight Watchers PointsPlus)

Pasta with Spiced Butternut Squash and Almonds (Weight Watchers PointsPlus)

Yesterday, my world turned upside-down. Just a bit, and only insofar as eating is concerned—but hey, in my life at least, that’s pretty major. Yesterday, Weight Watchers introduced PointsPlus. After more than a decade of the Points system, they’ve changed the program. It’s very much in line with what I wrote two weeks ago: fruits and most vegetables are zero points, and the points value of everything else has been adjusted, mostly upwards. I now get seven additional points each day, and the weekly extra points allowance is larger. But if you’ve been eating mostly whole foods and foods made from scratch, as opposed to 100-calorie packs and canned soups, your experience won’t change much. The points values are now weighted to reflect fat, carbohydrates, fiber, and protein—they don’t even look at overall calories—because those four nutrients have the greatest impact on weight loss. This means that processed foods have more points than whole foods, even with identical calorie counts.

So far, my biggest changes have been that Fiber One cereal, which I mix with Cheerios once or twice a week, is no longer zero points. Nor is the no-sugar-added Fudgesicle bar, which I’ll admit I use as a mid-afternoon treat nearly every day—I’m ok with the chemicals, at least for the time being. I’ll still keep eating both things, but with a little more awareness now.

The other big challenge, which I’m still trying to get my head around, is that even though fruits and vegetables are zero points when eaten plain, once you put them into a recipe, they count. For example, each individual ingredient in the recipe below adds up to 23 points, but according to the Recipe Calculator the total for the recipe is 30—the butternut squash & shallots, which have no points on their own, affect the total. I’m finding that a little bit confusing. Making dinner last night was definitely a challenge; I felt intimidated by my own pantry. Until I entered everything into the recipe calculator, I had no idea whether the meal I was creating was as low in points as it seemed. It took more work, for sure, tweaking and adjusting, running from the kitchen to my desk and back again (boy, what I’d give for a stove-side iPad), but ultimately I made a pretty rockin’ dinner, for only seven points a serving. Which might sound like a lot in old points, but in PointsPlus ain’t bad at all.

Are you on Weight Watchers? How was your first day with the new program?

Pasta with Spiced Butternut Squash and Almonds
Serves 4
Cooking Time: 50 minutes (20 minutes active)
Weight Watchers: Each serving is 7 PointsPlus

You can use just about any dried spice mixture that you’ve got on-hand. I used Penzey’s Northwoods Seasoning, a blend of salt, paprika, black pepper, thyme, rosemary, garlic and chipotle, but curry or garam masala would be lovely, as would any kind of Moroccan spice mix.

3 cups cubed butternut squash
2 whole shallots, peeled
8 ounces whole-wheat pasta
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 1/2 teaspoons dried spice mix of your choice
Salt & pepper
2 tablespoons toasted sliced almonds

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Coat two baking sheets with cooking spray and spread the squash and shallots in a single layer. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring partway through, until lightly browned.
  2. As soon as the trays hit the oven, put a large pot of salted water on to boil. When it boils, add the pasta.
  3. By the time the pasta’s done, the vegetables should be, too. Transfer the squash to a skillet large enough to eventually hold the pasta. Roughly chop the shallots and add them, too, and pour in the chicken broth. Stir in the spice mix. Simmer just a few minutes, until the squash starts to break down. Add the cooked pasta and cook another minute or two, until most of the broth has been absorbed and there’s a saucy consistency. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.
  4. Serve sprinkled with the toasted almonds.