No longer just a place to rest our tired bodies, sofas have a whole new meaning for overweight and obese Americans. SoFAS now stands for “Solid Fats and Added Sugars.” The acronym comes from the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans, recently released with a new focus on helping us end weight struggles.
As usual, the Dietary Guidelines is a lengthy document that likely only professionals in the field would take the time to comb through. It also cites a lot of numbers that don’t translate that well to food, such as how much sodium we should all be eating. Do you know what the suggested limit of 1500 mg of sodium daily means when it comes to choosing foods?
To save you the work of poring through it yourself, I share below major points that the Dietary Guidelines committee thinks are most important for consumers. Then I give my ideas on how to make what they advise a reality in your life. The advice addresses what the Dietary Guidelines report says about our eating habits:
“Americans eat too many calories and too much solid fats, added sugars, refined grains, and sodium…[and] too little dietary fiber, vitamin D, calcium, potassium, and unsaturated fatty acids (specifically omega-3s), and other important nutrients that are mostly found in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat milk and milk products, and seafood.”
So here’s what you can do about that without getting a degree in nutrition.
- Enjoy your food but eat less. I agree enjoyment is key. The trick is in learning to enjoy healthy eating, which can make a big dent in the “eat less” part. How many times have you resolved to “eat healthier,” only to feel deprived of what you really want to eat? Many times, it’s because we define healthy eating by old, restrictive diet rules. Redefine healthy eating to include foods you love, and you’ll find it a lot easier to do.
- Avoid oversized portions. Much has already been said about the supersizing of portions in this country. Tips to help you reduce portion sizes include eating mindfully and sharing meals when eating out, even if it costs a bit more to do that. As we say at Green Mountain at Fox Run, would you rather pay once or pay twice?
- Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. Don’t like vegetables? Try adding a little healthy oil to add a lot of flavor. Forget fat-free salad dressings. Saute vegetables in extra virgin olive oil…and remember the garlic! Just a few drops of tasty oils like sesame, walnut and other nut oils can transform vegetables into something we look forward to eating.
- Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals – and choose the foods with lower numbers. I mentioned earlier the difficulty in translating the sodium recommendation into food. This is how you do it. The sodium we get from the salt we add at the table to our food pales in comparison to the sodium we get from convenience foods. Use a weekend afternoon to prep and freeze your own convenience foods. Soups and casseroles are easy to make, freeze well, and are a cinch to heat up at the end of a busy day.
- Drink water instead of sugary drinks. Almost half of the added sugars in those SoFAS mentioned above come from sodas and fruit drinks with added sugar.
The guidelines also encourage us to choose whole grains instead of their refined cousins, such as whole wheat instead of white bread. And drink fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk to help meet our calcium needs.
Eating this way will automatically take care of those SoFAS as well as help ensure we get the nutrients we need for good health. If it seems too far from how you currently eat, remember that small steps can take us far. Start by making small changes that you can do, such as eating one more fruit or vegetable a day. Once you make that a habit, move on to your next change. At the end of a year, you can find yourself in a much healthier place that wasn’t that hard to get to.
Marsha Hudnall, RD, MS, CD, is a nationally known nutritionist with more than 25 years experience as a weight management specialist. She is the owner and program director of Green Mountain at Fox Run, a healthy weight-loss spa exclusively for women. She serves on several boards and has authored seven books on healthy weight loss. Click here to view her complete bio.