In this study the goal was to explore and describe the food habits of adolescents (16-19 years old) residing in the Manzini region of Swaziland, and to determine the extent to which traditional, fast and snack foods are included in their eating patterns. Scant information is available on the food habits of Swazi adolescents. This life stage is characterised by physiological and behavioural changes that could affect their eating patterns. In the literature, concerns are raised about the food habits of this age group in both developing and developed countries due to the noted prevalence of chronic diseases associated with non-communicable diseases such as obesity, diabetes and coronary heart diseases.
In Swaziland, there seems to have been a progressive shift in food consumption patterns characterised by a move away from the traditional to a more Western-orientated food culture. This transition in food patterns is due to various social, economic and cultural changes that are closely associated with urbanisation, modernisation, migration and acculturation.
The human ecological perspective, as theoretical perspective, combined with a quantitative research design was used to determine and describe the food habits of adolescents in the study area. Simple stratified random sampling was done and 301 Form 4 adolescents from six high schools in Manzini formed the sample. A pre-tested, self-administered questionnaire containing both open and closed-ended questions was used to collect the data. Information gathered was on the current eating patterns and the extent of snack and fast food consumption, including the familiarity, preference and frequency of consumption of traditional foods. It emerged that the respondents’ regular eating pattern comprised three or more meals a day. The majority ate breakfast that can be described as a bread-based meal. Maize continues to be the staple food and forms part of at least one or more meals a day. The frequent inclusion of rice as part of lunch and supper is increasing. Either meat or chicken is served with rice or stiff maize meal porridge at least three to four times a week. Only a small percentage of respondents reported a daily consumption of fruit and vegetables. This general low consumption rate raises a concern as it means that most of the adolescents were not having fruit and vegetables every day. It was encouraging to see that traditional Swazi foods continue to feature prominently in the eating patterns of this study group. This is supported by their positive attitude towards these foods as reflected in their level of familiarity and frequent consumption of them. Contrary to what is reported worldwide, the consumption of snack and fast foods is relatively low as the majority indicated indulging in these only three or four times a week. With the exception of the low fruit and vegetable intake, their eating patterns can be described as fairly good.
Based on these results, recommendations are made that appropriate nutrition education and nutrition curriculum planning be done in schools to promote increased vegetable and fruit consumption and discourage the consumption of unhealthy food options.
Dissertation (MConsumer Science)--University of Pretoria, 2015.