According to Statistics SA, the consumer price inflation was 7.6% in August, down from 7.8% in July 2022. Food and non-alcoholic beverages (NOB) are among the main contributors to the annual inflation rate of 7.6%. The prices of food and NOB have increased by 11.3% year-on-year and contributed 1.9 percentage points to the total consumer price index (CPI) annual rate of 7.6%.
The soaring costs of the monthly food basket is forcing most South African households to make some changes. Given the country’s high prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as hypertension and Type 2 diabetes, which are impacted by an unhealthy diet, it is vital that the current high cost of food doesn’t become a barrier to healthy eating.
During October the Department of Health will be collaborating with other government departments as well as international and South African health organisations to address barriers to healthy eating and promote the National Nutrition Week 2022 theme ‘Make healthy eating choices easier.’
The National Department of Health points out that in addition to concerns about NCDs, South Africa has the highest rates of overweight and obesity in Sub-Saharan Africa. When it comes to nutrition, South Africa bears a double burden where both under and over – nutrition occur in our communities, sometimes even existing side by side in the same household.
The Demographic and Health Survey conducted in 2016 reported that 68% of South African women and 31% of men are overweight or obese. Around 20% of women and 3% of men are severely obese. In addition, approximately 13.3% of South African children under five years are overweight or obese, which is more than double the global average of 6.1%. Lifestyle changes, including making daily healthy eating choices and regular physical activity, are important for South Africans of all ages.
Research has shown that barriers to healthy eating include cost of healthy food, low levels of nutritional knowledge, culinary traditions, social pressures, and lack of time for meal planning and preparation.
Many of the barriers to healthy eating have to do with perceptions rather than facts. An example of this is believing that healthy eating is more expensive when there are many affordable ways to make healthier eating choices.
Maria van der Merwe, President of the Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA) says the high costs of living in South Africa are stimulating changes in what food we buy, and how often we eat out or choose ready-made foods such as takeaways over preparing meals at home.
“We can use this opportunity to make sure we are prioritising healthy eating. There are many ways that consumers can save on food costs. Focusing on meal planning and preparing meals from whole foods at home is cost-effective and linked to making healthy food choices.”
Professor Pamela Naidoo, CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA), says 225 South Africans die from cardiovascular disease every day. After TB and diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, which includes both heart disease and strokes, is the leading cause of death in South Africa.
The major causes of cardiovascular disease are overweight and obesity, as well as high blood pressure. In general, South African diets tend towards a low consumption of fresh vegetables and fruit, but a high intake of salt, fat and refined carbohydrates.
Many people think that healthy eating is expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Preparing meals at home is more affordable than buying ready-made foods or eating out, and it also increases the likelihood of making healthy eating choices.