Weight Watchers vs. DASH Diet: Which One’s Best for You?

Two of the most popular—and highly recommended—diets are ruling the weight-loss scene, but which one is right for you? We're weighing the pros and cons.

Weight Watchers and DASH Diet signs side-by-sidePhoto: Shutterstock (2)

Let me guess—right now you’re trying to decide if starting a diet plan would make sense with your daily life. There are tons of different diets out there for you to try, but two in particular that people can’t seem to stop talking about lately: Weight Watchers, and the DASH Diet.

Why Choose Between These Diets?

Neither of these diets aren’t new concepts (like trendy diets such as Whole30), but they have been gaining some attention around the media lately. Weight Watchers is back in the spotlight after revamping their program this year with WW Freestyle. Before the new program, dieters would have to plan and log every single thing they ate on the WW platform. Each food item is given a specific “SmartPoint” number, and dieters were given a certain number for their daily SmartPoint count. However, with the new WW Freestyle program, dieters are now given a list of “zeroPoint” foods, which yes, is a list of foods that people can eat for zero of their SmartPoints. These foods include numerous fruits, vegetables, and even proteins such as fish, eggs, and boneless skinless chicken breast.

The DASH Diet is also not a new concept, but people are paying attention to it since it’s consistently been the top recommended diet by the US News & World Report’s Best Diets list. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension and is a diet that helps to lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol. This diet encourages a proper balanced diet plan and focuses specifically on nutrients such as potassium, sodium, calcium, protein, and fiber.

Since both of these diets do not focus on eliminating food groups—like the paleo or keto diets—they both sound pretty ideal for someone looking to make a life-change. So which one should you choose? Here’s a list of some pros and cons to help you decide.

Weight Watchers

Pro: Encourages healthy eating habits with “free” foods.

Since there are 200 new zeroPoint foods, dieters have the option of eating foods “for free” (here are 55 of them). Sure they still have calories—but if dieters are eating more of these “free” foods, they are automatically eating a healthier diet.

Con: You have to pay for it

Weight Watchers has a membership fee. It would be hard to attempt the WW Freestyle program without it since you wouldn’t know how many SmartPoints you are allowed to eat and what foods cost in your daily count that aren’t on the zeroPoints list. However, by paying for the program you are also given access to a world of resources through Weight Watchers: group meetings, weigh-ins, recipe suggestions, behavioral counseling and some restaurants even carry approved Weight Watchers menus.

Pro: It factors in exercise

If you work out on Weight Watchers, you can factor in that exercise in your daily count. It will reward points back to you (called FitPoints), giving you some room to enjoy an extra treat here or there. Exercising is just one of the ways to succeed on Weight Watchers.

Con: Consistent tracking

Since the program has an extensive point system, you’ll have to spend a good amount of time tracking your nutrition and fitness. Having the charts and seeing your progress is rewarding, but you have to be committed to actually submitting the data every single day.

Try these Weight Watchers-friendly recipes.
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Pro: It’s free!

Unlike Weight Watchers, this diet does not require any type of fee. You can actually get a ton of books and resources online about the DASH Diet, including this thorough PDF by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

Con: No points or prepared meals

The nice thing about being within a program is having the resources for recipes and meal ideas. Following the DASH Diet, however, requires a lot more personal motivation. Although the serving sizes and types of foods are clear on the program, you have to still think of meal ideas and plan everything out—instead of having a program that hands you those plans. If you’re tracking your calories, you’ll also need to develop some kind of system to do so, since you won’t have an app like Weight Watchers for that.

Pro: Top daily servings come from vegetables, fruits, grains and lean meats.

Just like how WW Freestyle encourages people to eat more healthy “free” foods, the DASH Diet encourages dieters to eat more foods—like these blood pressure-lowering foods—from those healthier categories. They are encouraged to eat 6-8 servings of grains, 4-5 servings of fruits (as well as vegetables), and 6 or less servings of lean meat, poultry, or fish. By eating more of these healthier foods, the hope is for dieters to feel full and avoid eating unhealthier, fatty foods.

Con: Limits foods high in saturated fat or sugar

Yes, these foods are not the healthiest for you, but at least Weight Watchers gives you a little breathing room to enjoy a treat every once in a while. On the DASH Diet you do get a weekly quota of sweets, but they won’t necessarily be the types of sweets you crave on a Saturday night watching late night television. DASH Diet is great for learning healthy habits, but without a little balance, it could be very easy to make a small slip back down the rabbit hole.

Try these DASH Diet recipes.
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The Takeaways

Knowing all of this, if I had to give an opinion, I think I would go for the Weight Watchers diet. I’m a fan of consistent tracking, support groups and having a little balance in my life. However, these DASH Diet recipes are very tempting for me to give that diet a try as well. Which would you choose?

Eat smart with these healthy dinners.
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