Curb cost of healthy food for children's sake‚ say nutritionists

18 October 2017 - 12:53 By Dave Chambers
Cost is a barrier when making healthy food choices, says a new study.
Cost is a barrier when making healthy food choices, says a new study.
Image: iStock

The food industry and the government must implement “drastic measures” to curb the rising cost of healthy food‚ say nutritionists.

The country’s first nutrition survey of primary school mothers found that regardless of their income‚ cost is the main factor influencing what they feed their children.

Study leader Yolande Smit‚ from Stellenbosch University medical school’s nutrition division‚ said: “The effect of food cost on food choices and healthy eating cannot be over-estimated.

“Less healthy‚ energy-dense food is more affordable‚ making it a more desirable purchasing option‚ especially among lower socio-economic groups.

“It is not only the high cost of healthy food‚ but also the affordability of unhealthy food that seems to be a barrier when making healthy food choices.”

Smit and University of KwaZulu-Natal nutritionist Suna Kassier analysed questionnaires completed by 476 primary school mothers from Cape Town’s northern suburbs‚ and conducted focus groups with 37 of them.

Reporting their findings in the South African Journal of Child Health‚ they said another barrier to healthy food choices was the school tuck shop.

“Almost all of the mothers agreed that tuck shops and informal vendors sell predominantly unhealthy food‚” they said.

Supermarkets could do more by displaying healthy food more prominently‚ they said‚ and food advertising was a big factor influencing unhealthy choices.

[There's also the need for] the education of mothers on ways to prepare quick and easy nutritious home-made meals
Yolande Smit, study leader

Working mothers in the study said time constraints meant they bought convenience food more often.

Said Smit: “Not only is there a need for healthier pre-prepared and convenience meals‚ but also for the education of mothers on ways to prepare quick and easy nutritious home-made meals.

“The food industry has responded and capitalised on this need‚ but the majority of options still focus on convenience and not on health.” - TimesLIVE


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