Statistics show that increasing numbers of South Africans are overweight or obese, with the problem at its worst among adult women and preschool children. Many South Africans are eating too much and they’re eating the wrong foods. National Nutrition Week 2013 aims to educate South Africans about portion size and food choices, to change attitudes and habits so that people ‘downsize’ and reduce their health risk. ‘Eat less – choose your portion with caution!’ will be the central message for National Nutrition Week 2013, with three important supplementary messages, namely:
• Choose a variety of foods from different food groups and eat recommended amounts
• Make portion control a daily way of life
• Use salt and foods high in salt sparingly
Unhealthy meal exampleResearch indicates that the rise in obesity rates have been paralleled by increases in the portion sizes of many foods and the prevalence of eating away from home.

Eating patterns are "supersizing" South Africans. People are eating out more and they’re eating more high-energy, prepared foods which are high in sugar, fat and salt and just simply eating bigger portions of food.

However, evidence does show that after education and training, parents are more able to accurately estimate their children’s portion size. This website and all National Nutrition Week 2013 communications will be aimed at providing South Africans with practical ways to help them eat less such as using smaller plates, bowls and utensils, repackaging snack foods into individual-sized portions, not eating in front of the television and encouraging children to take a lunchbox containing healthy snacks to school.

Whilst controlling portion size is an effective, simple, reliable and sustainable tool for weight management, eating large amounts of food is just one of the reasons why people become overweight or obese. Eating high-energy foods that are high in sugar, fat and salt, not eating a variety of foods from the different food groups and not doing sufficient physical activity all lead to weight gain and increased health risks.

Healthy meal portion
Photo courtesy of Gabi Steenkamp and Jeske Wellmann, registered dietitians and authors of the low GI low fat recipe book:  ‘Sustained Energy for Kids’.
As more and more South Africans become overweight or obese, their risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers increases.

A high salt intake, which can lead to increased risk of high blood pressure, is an additional concern associated with portion distortion. The World Health Organisation recommends that adults eat no more than a teaspoon (5 grams) of salt a day from all sources, and although new legislation will limit the salt content of many prepared foods such as bread, awareness of the salt content of foods is crucial.

National Nutrition Week 2013 combined with practical tools, such as the South African Guidelines for Healthy Eating and the Food Guide, will send a strong public message and give people essential information in accessible and user-friendly formats to help them make long-lasting diet and lifestyle changes.