Development of the SoFAS (solid fats and added sugars) concept: the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Adv Nutr. 2015 May 15;6(3):368S-75S. doi: 10.3945/an.114.007021. Print 2015 May.


The diets of most US children and adults are poor, as reflected by low diet quality scores, when compared with the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs). Contributing to these low scores is that most Americans overconsume solid fats, which may contain saturated fatty acids and added sugars; although alcohol consumption was generally modest, it provided few nutrients. Thus, the 2005 DGAs generated a new recommendation: to reduce intakes of solid fats, alcohol, and added sugars (SoFAAS). What precipitated the emergence of the new SoFAAS terminology was the concept of discretionary calories (a "calorie" is defined as the amount of energy needed to increase the temperature of 1 kg of water by 1°C), which were defined as calories consumed after an individual had met his or her recommended nutrient intakes while consuming fewer calories than the daily recommendation. A limitation with this concept was that additional amounts of nutrient-dense foods consumed beyond the recommended amount were also considered discretionary calories. The rationale for this was that if nutrient-dense foods were consumed beyond recommended amounts, after total energy intake was met then this constituted excess energy intake. In the 2010 DGAs, the terminology was changed to solid fats and added sugars (SoFAS); thus, alcohol was excluded because it made a minor contribution to overall intake and did not apply to children. The SoFAS terminology also negated nutrient-dense foods that were consumed in amounts above the recommendations for the specific food groups in the food patterns. The ambiguous SoFAS terminology was later changed to "empty calories" to reflect only those calories from solid fats and added sugars (and alcohol if consumed beyond moderate amounts). The purpose of this review is to provide an historical perspective on how the dietary recommendations went from SoFAAS to SoFAS and how discretionary calories went to empty calories between the 2005 and 2010 DGAs. This information will provide practitioners, as well as the public, with valuable information to better understand the evolution of SoFAS over time.

Keywords: SoFAS; added sugars; dietary guidelines; empty calories; public policy; solid fats.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diet* / standards
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage*
  • Dietary Sucrose / administration & dosage*
  • Energy Intake
  • Ethanol / administration & dosage*
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Nutrition Policy / trends*
  • Nutritional Requirements
  • United States


  • Dietary Fats
  • Dietary Sucrose
  • Ethanol