Please find all detail for distribution in this section. This information can be distributed free of charge, but please credit National Nutrition Week SA.

Press Releases

National Nutrition Week 2014

Supporting Documents

Nutrition Educators document
Facts & 2014 Message Rationale

2014 National Nutrition Week Support Messages

Download all messages

Questions and answers

Download all Q&A

1. When did nutrition week originate?
National Nutrition Week started in the 1990s when the Department of Health was approached by the Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA). It was agreed that it was important for nutrition messages to be included in the Department of Health Calendar. World Food Day is recognized on the 16th October, and Nutrition Week in the week preceding this, namely from 9 to 15 October.

2. What is the objective with National Nutrition Week 2013?
The objective of National Nutrition Week 2013 is to create awareness and provide information to consumers about the newly developed Food Guide as a visual to support the updated Guidelines for Healthy Eating.

3. What is a food guide?
The Food Guide is a visual reminder, to support messages from the Guidelines for Healthy Eating. The Food Guide gives an illustration of the Guidelines for Healthy Eating. This includes information on the suggested amounts of foods needed daily. Using the correct food quantities, from all the food groups, will help people to ensure that they get all the nutrients that the body needs.

4. How does the Food Guide assist a person to eat more healthily?
The Guidelines for Healthy Eating and the Food Guide help people encourage people to:
• eat a variety of foods,
• from each of the food groups,
• in the correct amounts,
• according to their needs.
Using the information in the Food Guide also helps people to choose foods that are low in saturated fats, low in added sugar and added salt (sodium) and will provide essential nutrients.

5. What are the foods represented in the food guide?
The foods illustrated in the visual, and listed in the support text are chosen to represent foods, which are most commonly eaten in South Africa.

6. Why is there a difference in the size of the circles?
The proportion of foods illustrated in the Food Guide is intended to highlight the foods that should be eaten in larger amounts, compared to those eaten sparingly. The graphic is not a mathematically correct representation of this proportion, but serves as a guide.

7. How would one know how much to eat of a food group?
The food guide does not show the amounts of a particular food group needed. This information is found in supporting text. It specifies the amount of food (expressed as the number of food units) a person has to eat, based on his/her age, gender and level of activity. A single unit of each food in a food group provides a similar amount of nutrients as other units in that same group, for instance porridge and bread. The unit sizes of different foods are described in different ways, for example 1 slice of bread (starchy food), 1 apple (vegetables and fruit) or 1 cup of milk (milk group).

8. How does a food unit differ from a portion?
A food unit should not be confused with portion; a single portion of food may have one or more units (food guide units) that are eaten at one time. Members of the same family may have different portion sizes for example, a teenage boy may have 6 slices of bread in his school food box to have a first break, and his portion is 6 units or 6 slices. His mother may take 2 slices to work to eat at lunch time, her portion is 2 slices.

9. What are  the Guidelines for Healthy Eating?
The guidelines are messages to help consumers follow healthy eating plans, using a variety of foods.

10. When were these guidelines developed / What process was followed to develop the guidelines?
The South African Guidelines for Healthy Eating were developed according to a process recommended by the FAO and WHO. They were adopted by the Department of Health in 2002. The revision and update of the guidelines was started in March 2011. Working groups comprising nutrition experts reviewed recent scientific evidence pertaining to each guideline; made recommendations on the phrasing of the messages based on evidence and developed a technical paper to support the guideline. The messages were agreed upon by an expert group comprising representatives of the working groups, the Department of Health, ADSA and other stakeholders.

11. Why were the guidelines developed?
The World Declaration and Plan of Action for Nutrition were unanimously adopted at the International Conference on Nutrition in Rome in 1992. The meeting had a number of goals, amongst which was aimed at eliminating or substantially reducing nutrition-related communicable non-communicable diseases. The resolutions adopted at the meeting highlighted the role of promoting appropriate diets and healthy lifestyles as one of the strategies to achieve these goals. This resulted in the development and use of these guidelines as an effective nutrition education tool to achieve this goal.

12. What are the guidelines based on?
These guidelines are food-based instead of nutrient-based and recommend a food consumption pattern that South Africans five years and older should be following whether under, over or adequately nourished. The guidelines address the major public health concerns that are diet-related in the country. They are based on an evaluation of food availability and compatibility with the cultural food intake patterns. The guidelines have been tested among consumers to ensure that the messages are clearly understood and are not confusing.

13. Why are the guidelines targeting people from the age of 4 years?
Children younger than this age have an eating plan based on the family diet, but also have specific food needs. Specific guidelines for children under the age of 5 are being developed.

14. How often are the guidelines revised?
The guidelines are updated when new scientific evidence becomes available.

15. What are the updated Guidelines for healthy eating?
Enjoy a variety of foods
Make starchy food part of most meals
Fish, chicken, lean meat or eggs could be eaten daily
Have milk, maas or yoghurt every day
Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit every day
Eat dry beans, split peas, lentils and soya regularly
Use fat sparingly; choose vegetable oils rather than hard fats
Use salt and food high in salt sparingly
Use sugar and food and drinks high in sugar sparingly
Drink lots of clean safe water
Be Active!

16. Which guidelines underwent most changes and why?
Make starchy food part of most meals
This guideline was changed for clarification purposes as the former guideline “Make starchy foods the basis of most meals” could imply that one should eat more of starchy foods than of other foods in a mixed meal, whereas these foods should only be a part of most meals.

Fish, chicken, lean meat or eggs could be eaten daily
Foods in this group provide a number of important nutrients including protein and minerals. Although meat and eggs are seen as contributors to saturated fatty acid (SFA) intake, lean meat contains a high proportion of unsaturated fatty acids. The fat in chicken is mostly subcutaneous; therefore, the fat content of chicken meat (as with all poultry meat) can easily be lowered by removing the skin. Chicken has a fat content less than 10%. Fish contains high levels of the long-chain n-3 fatty acids, EPA, DPA and DHA, advice to consume these foods is increasingly recognised as important. The sequence of food choices in this guideline has been changed with food needing to be emphasized listed first.

Have milk, maas or yoghurt every day
Many South Africans have low calcium and potassium intakes, nutrients that are needed for health promotion and prevention of hypertension. The expert working group recommended that a standalone milk guideline is needed to promote consumption of milk. . The high potassium and relatively low sodium content of milk and maas, may be important for the prevention of hypertension and cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Use fat sparingly; choose vegetable oils rather than hard fats
In addition to the guideline ‘Use fat sparingly’, many people have to decrease the amount of fat in their eating plan from animal foods (fatty meat, skin of the chicken, high fat processed foods) and replace it will oils (sunflower, canola, olive), minimally processed food made from oils (tub margarine) and plant foods with oils (avocado, peanut butter).

Use salt and food high in salt sparingly
In addition to the guideline “Use salt sparingly’, consumers should also use foods that are high in salt sparingly. Most comes from salt added when processed foods are produced and when salt based seasonings, stock cubes, soup powders and sauces are used in home food preparation. This amended guideline supports the regulations published by the Department of Health for manufacturers to produce food with lower salt (sodium) levels.

Use sugar and food and drinks high in sugar sparingly
Some people, especially adolescents are consuming increased levels of sugar. Sugar and foods sweetened with sugar have a place in a healthy eating plan if used as part of good mixed meals, and when used sparingly. Sugar sweetened beverages, such as cold drinks, juice and sports drinks should not be consumed more than once per day. The guideline therefore was changed from the original “Use food and drinks containing sugar sparingly and not between meals” to “Use sugar and food and drinks high in sugar sparingly.

17. What about alcohol, why is it not part of the guidelines anymore?
A guideline on alcohol was removed from the set of guidelines because the health risk of alcohol intake in South Africa far outweighs its health benefits. Furthermore the target group for the Healthy Eating Guidelines is persons 5 years and older. A technical paper on alcohol intake will be published together with the other technical papers. The management of alcohol abuse is undertaken by the Department of Health, and thus is not being ignored.

18. What about guidelines for other groups?
Groups with special needs such as pregnant and lactating women, infants and young children (younger than 5 years) and the elderly should have their own recommendations, in line with the general Guidelines for Healthy Eating. Experts in the country are currently developing recommendations for infants and young children.

19. Where can one obtain more information about the scientific evidence for each guideline?
A technical support paper has been developed for each guideline and provides scientific evidence for the guidelines. The technical support papers will be published in the South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition within the next few months.

20. Where can one get more information about the Guideline for Healthy Eating and the Food Guide? or the Department of Health: