WeightWatchers US has dropped its points system. The DoH must take note, says Joanna Blythman

Hallelujah, the penny is dropping that calorie counting is a useless way to control weight.

This major shift in nutritional thinking is evidenced by WeightWatchers' decision to drop its old points system, which allowed people to eat whatever they liked, providing they kept down the total number of calories consumed.

Using the old calorie-counting logic, a 100-calorie packet of biscuits was every bit as sensible a food choice as a 100-calorie apple, but WeightWatchers' new ProPoints system encourages consumption of natural, less processed food, and discourages indulgence in processed foods with poor all-round nutritional profiles. As WeightWatchers US president David Kirchoff put it: "We needed a programme that recognised that calories are most definitely not created equal."

The WeightWatchers system now favours foods high in protein or fibre, because the body has to work harder to convert them into energy and they keep us feeling fuller longer. It frowns on those laden with carbohydrate sugar and grains that are rapidly absorbed by the body and turned into fat.

This is at odds with current UK government advice, which exhorts us to count calories, shun satfat, limit protein and base our diets on starchy (carbohydrate) foods. Consumption statistics show that the population has taken these messages to heart, creating a bonanza for profitable processed foods such as salty snacks, pizza, low-cal meals and "diet" drinks. Guess what? The nation keeps getting fatter.

It's beginning to look as though controlling consumption of carbohydrates, both in the form of grains (including wholegrains) and sugars, is the key factor in staying a healthy weight, and it's becoming apparent that current UK "healthy eating" advice doesn't work. In a nutshell, anyone who really wants to lose weight or just control their weight, needs to replace the empty calories in over-processed foods with high-quality nutrients of the sort you find in abundance in whole, natural foods such as eggs, meat, fish, vegetables and fruits.

The FSA and DH should bin the outdated 'Eatwell plate', stop worrying about offending the food industry and come out with a simple message: 90% of your diet should come from home-cooked food made from unprocessed, whole ingredients.

The recipe for staying healthy and slim really is that simple.

Joanna Blythman is a food journalist and author of Bad Food Britain