Sofas: Most popular furniture in the house.

SoFAS: Solid Fats and Added Sugars found in many of the foods consumed while lounging on the first.

Poor Health: What follows from spending too much time with both of the above as made clear by Americans’ bulging waistlines and the nation’s epidemic outbreaks of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Dietary Guidelines in a Nutshell:

Eat more seafood — at least eight ounces a week.

Eat more fruits and vegetables.

Substitute healthy cooking oils like canola or extra virgin olive for solid fats (such as margarine).

Reduce sodium intake.

Avoid fast foods.

Exercise more.

Read food labels.

Substitute whole grains for refined grains.

Eat more beans and peas.

Increase intake of fiber, potassium and vitamin D.

Eat/drink more nonfat or low-fat dairy products.

Replace high-fat meats with lean meats.

Drink less alcohol.

Get off your SoFAS.

“Get Off Your SoFAS:” Buzz phrase of the 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Jointly produced every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Dietary Guidelines serve as the basis for the U.S. nutritional policy. “Get Off Your SoFAS” means avoid extra calories from solid fats and added sugars and get more exercise.

The Dietary Guidelines call for reducing the intake of salt, fats and sugars through the DASH Eating Plan, which promotes eating more nutrient-dense foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and seafood. Diets that include a lot of processed foods like pizza, packaged lunchmeats, sweetened breakfast cereals, cookies and sodas are loaded with SoFAS and have contributed to a situation where over 75 million Americans, one third of the population, is considered obese. Thirty-three percent of adults and 17 percent of children and adolescents between ages 2-19 years are at unhealthy weights. Obesity is a leading cause of type 2 diabetes and today, the number of Americans with this disease has reached nearly 26 million.

The same foods that are making Americans fat and contributing to type 2 diabetes are often also full of sodium (which comprises 97 – 99 percent of table salt), and makes their consumers candidates for other serious conditions. Diets overloaded with salt and sodium increase risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases. These largely preventable conditions kill more than 800,000 Americans every year.

The new guidelines recommend no more than 1500 mg of sodium per day for people over age 51, African Americans and people with high blood pressure. The rest of us are advised to cut back to less than 2300 mg of sodium per day, about a teaspoon of salt. It is difficult to achieve the right intake, however, because most of the sodium in American diets comes not from saltshakers but from processed foods, which may or may not taste salty. Canned vegetables and soups as well as many bread, cake and other mixes are often laced with sodium, but unless you make a habit of studying food product labels, you would never know. That is why the guidelines stress the importance of reading nutrition labels.

Physical activity is the other side of the health equation, and “Get Off Your SoFAS” also means get off your sofas. To achieve and maintain healthy body weight, the guidelines recommend that adults do the equivalent of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. For children and adolescents ages six and older, 60 minutes or more of physical activity per day is the recommendation. For youngsters between the ages of two and five, the guidelines recommend active play several times a day.

The Dietary Guidelines are a roadmap for achieving and maintaining health, healthy weight and fitness. Follow them and make this the year you get off your SoFAS and your sofas for good.

[Janet Lubman Rathner]