South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition

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Are South African women willing and able to apply the new Food-Based Dietary Guidelines? Lessons for nutrition educators

P Love, EMW Maunder, JM Green


Consumer testing was a prime consideration in developing specific South African food-based dietary guidelines (FBDGs) which were nationally adopted in 2003.
This study aimed to determine the consumer's ability to apply the FBDGs appropriately, in terms of identifying foods/drinks according to the FBDG food categories; perceived importance of and barriers to applying each FBDG; and planning a typical day's meals to reflect the FBDGs.
A cross-sectional study of 333 women from different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds.
Setting: KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
Data collection comprised focus-group discussions (n = 103) and structured individual interviews (n = 230).
The identification of foods/drinks according to the FBDG food categories reflected a high level of comprehension by participants of these food categories. Participants from all study samples endorsed the importance of applying the FBDGs, predominantly for
health reasons. Participants cited barriers to the application of the FBDGs as affordability, availability, household taste preferences, routine food-purchasing habits, time constraints, traditional/ habitual food-preparation methods, and persistent attitudes. Only
three FBDGs were mentioned as difficult to apply, namely, “fruits/ vegetables”, “foods from animals” and “legumes”. Meal plans did reflect the FBDGs, illustrating the flexibility of their use across cultural and socio-economic differences.
Consumer testing of the FBDGs was mainly positive. The study has highlighted areas of confusion regarding certain concepts, terminology and misconceptions, and has identified barriers to application. These concerns can be addressed through the reformulation and retesting of certain dietary guidelines, and the provision of explanatory consumer information and health-worker training materials.

SAJCN Vol. 21 (2) 2008: pp. 17-24
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