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What is on South Africa’s Plate?

A new report from Knorr exposes the eating habits of the South African population and its impact on their health.

According to the Indigo Wellness Index, South Africa is one of the unhealthiest nations in the world. This means that we are eating the wrong foods and our health is suffering.

Knorr would like to help South Africa move towards a better food future by providing stakeholders – government, NGO’s, industry, retailers, media and consumers – with information about how and what the nation is eating and how it impacts our health.

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The Knorr purpose is to reinvent food for humanity in 3 ways: champion dietary diversity, more plant-based meals and more sustainable ways to grow and produce food.

In line with this purpose, and coupled with helping consumers make better food choices, Knorr commissioned Nielsen – a global measurement and data analytics company – to implement a study on Understanding the Eating Habits of the South African Population, in February 2020, among 1005 respondents aged 16 years and over, across South Africa.

The research objectives were multi-fold and included an understanding of the following:

  • Composition of the plate across different meal occasions, demographics and regions.
  • Attitudes towards food and the link to health.
  • Impact and access to healthy food.

So, what exactly is on our plate?

The current South African plate has a large proportion of meat and starch but is lacking in vegetables.

The current plate consists of 41% starch and 26% meat with only 13% vegetables and the rest composed of fats and oils, dairy and legumes. This is consistent across all regions and demographics. Even kids living at home eat the same as their parents.

Lorna Maseko

Breakfast generally has the largest proportion of starch, while dinner the largest amount of meat. Meat is eaten on average of 4 times per week, with poultry and red meat being the most popular. Starch is eaten 6 times a week, with bread, rice, potatoes and Mielie pap the most prevalent. Vegetable consumption is also 4 times a week, with cheaper fruits and vegetables consumed the most.

82% think that it has become easier to find healthy food within the past 5 years. But, only 52% think healthy food is affordable.

84% of South Africans are meat eaters, 14% are flexitarians, 2% are vegetarians, 0,3% are pescatarians and 0,1% are vegans.

Mkhululi Silindela – Head of sustainable Agriculture and Small Holder support Programme – WWF

How do we fix the plate of the nation?

The Eatwell plate composition as defined by the University of Cambridge and the NHS says that our plates should have the following 33% vegetables, 32% starch, 15% dairy, 12% meat and 8% fats and oils.

By making small changes to our plate, we can help shape the health of the nation. Whilst it is relevant to 58 million people, how each one of us changes our plate is personal, and this will have a positive ripple effect on our families and our communities. It all starts with small, delicious changes.

We are fortunate that we have a rich history of food and agriculture; we can learn from how our forefathers ate. Crops rooted in heritage can once again have a place on our plate. Many of these nutritional crops were identified in Knorr and WWF’s Future 50 Foods report, and include millet, cowpeas, bambara groundnut and mung beans, amongst others.

Chrislynn Ramdeo of Knorr explains, “we need to change the plate of our nation because as Winston Churchill once said: healthy citizens are the greatest asset a country can have. Knorr is encouraging South Africans to choose to eat better by championing dietary diversity and more plant- based meals. Knorr wants to make healthy eating more accessible for all.”

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