You are currently viewing 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.

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Joy

    Yesterday, I noticed that most of what I eat is roughly the same as ever because I don't eat anything boxed or packaged I guess. The major impact on me will probably be wine. Used to be two glasses of wine was 4 points; now it's 7. Given all the extra points though I don't think it will be a big deal. Thanks to Thanksgiving, I managed to gain 5 pounds this week and therefore shifted from "maintenance" back to "weight loss" mode which will probably give me a pretty strong sense as to how well the new program works for me. I am interested to see what happens. And annoyed that I have to re-enter so many of the recipes I've already saved in the system. Some updated and some didn't. Annoying!

  2. debbie koenig

    Joy, I'm right there with you on the frustration wrt existing recipes. Mostly I just did the "lalala I can't see you" thing when I came across one of those red exclamation points. I have a theory wrt why some recipes converted and others didn't, but I haven't had time to investigate.

  3. Ellen

    I am planning on joining soon and wondering if the meetings will be a better to choice to understand all of the changes.
    From the bit of research I've done online, it looks like the slide rule is no longer being used. I always had one in my purse when I went grocery shopping.
    Is it true you need to buy a calculator now?

  4. debbie koenig

    I'm doing it online right now, Ellen, and I've seen no mention of a calculator! I do think a meeting would be helpful, if you're completely new at this. I'm comfortable doing it online because I attended meetings for so many years before I became a lifetime member. Take a look at the web site and see if it makes sense to you.

  5. debbie koenig

    Thanks for posting that link, Ellen! Boy, it looks kinda complicated from the meetings-only perspective. Doing it online, or using e-tools in addition to the meetings, you don't need the calculator because there's one on the site. Plug in the fat, carbs, fiber, and protein from the nutrition facts statement, and it gives you the new points value.

  6. Christina

    The stove side iPad wouldn't help you much because the site runs on Flash. Kind of annoying.

  7. debbie koenig

    Oh Christina, I hadn't even thought of that! I must agree–the flash thing is annoying. Muy annoying.

  8. Ellen

    I liked having that slide rule thing with me when I went food shopping, since it helped me decide whether or not to buy something. The calculator appeals to me, but I could make do without it if I decide to do it online. Online's cheaper than the meetings too.

  9. Liz

    OH, man – seriously? vegetables count when you incorporate them into a recipe!?!?!?? I really hadn't noticed that… After a first week loss I managed to GAIN last week, in spite (I think) of having tried pretty hard. Maybe that's why!?! (though I can think of several other reasons, some of which were foil-wrapped, and some of which came chilled, in a glass….) I just don't seem to be able to stay on this thing for more than two consecutive weeks! What's wrong with me?!? I just seem to get frustrated and bored and resentful at having to work so hard at what other people accomplish with apparent ease. Sorry, rant over. I'm feeling sorry for myself!

  10. debbie koenig

    Oh Liz, I'm so sorry you're having a rough time! Each day–heck, each meal–is a new one, so you can always just put your head down & start fresh. Don't stress about what you've already done, just focus on each new day. You can do it!

  11. Rebecca Novick

    Must try this – looks good! Debbie – I'm confused about the cooked vegetable thing too – I just checked on the site and 1) cooked winter squash (1c) is now 0 when it had points before and also 2) a recipe I had saved for pasta sauce which included 2 c of cooked onions converted to count those as 0. No mention at the meeting I went to of what you're saying – was it a bug in the recipe builder?

    Re the calculator – they are instead of the slide rule and cost $5.99.

    I hear you on the strangeness of having to recheck eveything. Like – what do I have for lunch, aargh???

  12. Liz

    Thanks for the support, Debbie! As you say, onwards and upwards! (I stayed the same, in the end, which is probably more than I deserve…. so I need to redouble my efforts this week so that my naughtiness doesn't catch up with me next time!) Tonight I'm going to try quinoa – never made it before!

  13. Natalie

    I was and am very frustrated by the change in points. I was at the point where I could pretty much figure in my head the point value for prepared foods by glancing at the package. Now I'm completely lost. However, I did have 16 points left in the day yesterday that I didn't use and have no idea what happened. I think perhaps that's because I went from having 22 or so points to having almost 35 points to burn through in a day.
    I also find the veggie thing weird as I had 2/3 cups of cooked butternut squash last night for a grand total of 0 points pretty much just like always.
    Liz – try to stick with WW. I am on my 3rd or 4th time on the plan in the last ten years. You really have to embrace a new lifestyle. I've been back on the plan for about 8/9 months and its getting much easier then it used. I do find that when I deny myself things I want I struggle – so don't deny yourself. Find healthy ways to have what you are craving. And remember tomorrow is always a new day. Good Luck!

Leave a Reply to Liz Cancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.