Nutrition-wise blog

Dietary guidelines connect SoFAS and weight gain

By Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. August 25, 2010

In combing through the latest draft of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, I came across a new term: "SoFAS." And I don't mean the kind you sit on.

SoFAS stands for "solid fat and added sugar." Health experts recommend that SoFAS account for no more than about 5 to 15 percent of your daily calories. Yet the dietary guidelines point out that Americans of every age and both sexes get closer to 35 percent of their daily calories from SoFAS.

That's not surprising considering the top food sources of SoFAS:

  • Cakes, cookies, doughnuts, pies, crisps, granola bars
  • Yeast breads
  • Soda, energy and sports drinks
  • Pizza

On average, each of these adds about 100 to 150 calories to Americans' daily diet.

Not coincidentally, nationwide surveys suggest that the increase in obesity is being fueled by the addition of 100 to 400 daily calories — either as calories consumed or calories not burned through physical activity. Perhaps this narrow range of calories can be addressed by looking at the SoFAS in our diet.

Shifts in Americans' eating habits over the past 40 years have resulted in higher consumption of SoFAS-rich foods. Contributing factors include:

  • Increase in the number of products available in supermarkets — many of which contain SoFAS
  • Radical increase in calories eaten outside the home — from 18 to 77 percent
  • Nearly 150 percent increase in the number of fast food restaurants

SoFAS are high in calories and low in nutrients — contributing to unwanted pounds. But the potential health concerns go beyond excess calories. Solid fats include naturally occurring saturated fats and man-made trans fats — both major contributors to heart disease.

Forgoing one or more of the foods high in SoFAS might be a good strategy for cutting fat and sugar calories. I'll be watching what I eat — both at home and in restaurants — and trying to skip some SoFAS.

What do you think about the connection between SoFAS and weight gain?

- Jennifer

Aug. 25, 2010