25 October 2012

South Africans choose tasty food over health

South Africans admit that they eat what tastes good - if it is healthy, that's a bonus. Find out more about the results of the Nestlé Rainbow Nation Health Monitor study.


Nestlé South Africa announced the results of its Rainbow Nation Health Monitor study. This extensive study was conducted in mid-2011 to determine South Africans’ attitudes toward nutrition, health and wellness, dietary patterns, weight profile and levels of risk of cardiovascular disease.

“The results consolidate key nutritional data and provide a peek into popular opinion regarding the state of health of the South African population,” says Naazneen Khan, nutrition, health and wellness manager at Nestlé South Africa.

The study was conducted by TNS South Africa amongst a sample of 3 001 adults, aged 16 years and older, and across all parts of South Africa.  A small questionnaire was also administered to a sub-sample of 286 younger people aged 12 to 15 years. The questionnaire was developed using insights from studies conducted by Nestlé overseas as well as considerable local input.

The study reveals the following insights about our population’s state of health and the implications for adults, our youth, health care providers, food producers and the next generation.

  • The study found that adults in South Africa fall along a strongly-differentiated spectrum that ranges from healthy attitudes and behaviours to unhealthy attitudes and behaviours. In total, the study divided people into six main groups according to their attitudes and behaviours toward nutrition, health and wellness.
  • Amongst the many findings, the study found that almost a third of people investigated often eat less than the body requires. It is thus not surprising that 55% say it is more important that food is filling than how healthy it is. In addition, 47% of people claim that they cannot afford to eat the correct kinds of foods and 71% feel that healthy foods are more expensive.  However, 78% claim that they are more productive when eating healthier foods. 
  • South Africans consider themselves fit.  However, they tend to eat and drink whatever tastes good (77%), regardless of its perceived healthiness.  Whilst they do believe it is important to eat foods full of vitamins (88%), 47% admit that they often eat more than they should – and a quarter say that it is a constant struggle to lose weight. 
  • The study found that South Africans admit that, primarily, they eat what tastes good - if it ishealthy, that’s a bonus.  For example, 57% prefer the taste of fried food over that of grilled food.  People say that they are aware of health issues and claim to be moving away from junk and fried foods - but taste still outweighs health benefits.  The good news is that 87% of people claim that healthy eating improves the way they look, 82% claim that eating healthy foods makes them feel good about themselves and 78% say that they are more productive when they eat healthier foods. 
  • Further, different people define “healthy food” differently.  For most people, healthy foods are simply those that fill one up and provide a feeling of satisfaction, or that sustain one for a long time.  For relatively few others, healthy foods are those that provide the correct nutrients in the correct proportions. 
  • The weight and risk profile of adult South Africans is alarming and an attitude of both denial and lack of interest is prevalent.  To change this will require messaging that is more engaging and resonates at a very practical level for people.  In addition, availability, cost and taste of more suitable foods are three key issues that need to be addressed.
  • Two-thirds (63%) of parents say that it is difficult to make sure that their children eat the correct foods and a half say that their children have a lot of say in what they eat at mealtimes.  A third of parents claim that their children refuse to eat vegetables. The good news is that almost all (88%) say that they make sure that their children eat breakfast every day – 90% acknowledge the importance of breakfast in that is ensures that children do better at school.
  • Part of the problem is that family life in South Africa is changing – 61% of females who are responsible for the children in their home are single.  Whilst, in some cases, partners may be present, in many cases the responsible male has long since disappeared, leaving the task of bringing up the children to a single parent.  Half of parents or guardians rely on a child grant.
  • The study found that those responsible for children’s nutrition in the home in South Africa fall along a strongly-differentiated spectrum that is distinguished by the degree of control that parents and guardians have over their children.
  • Overall, what parents ultimately look for in the foods they give their children are those that ensure that they grow up healthy and strong, that help with brain and mental development, that boost their immune systems and help them to concentrate at school.  Some parents have more success than others in achieving these goals.

(Press release, Nestlé, October 2012)

For more on this study, go to the Nestlé website:






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