More South African women eat breakfast than men – and meat makes up most of the plate

Business Insider SA
Bacon slice being cooked in frying pan
Pan fried bacon slices. (Getty)
  • Women in South Africa eat breakfast, made mostly of carbohydrates and a lot of meat, more than men do, a new study says.
  • At breakfast, a South African is likely to eat half as much meat as they have at supper.
  • On weekends, even more meat is consumed. Much, much more.
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South Africans are eating breakfast less, but those who do are more likely to be women, a new study tracking the country's food consumption habits shows.

And those women are getting a meaty early start to their day's eating.

The Plate of The Nation study, conducted by research house Nielsen and commissioned by packed soup and meal-kit company Knorr, quizzed more than 1,000 South Africans about their eating habits. Respondents were about evenly spread between men and women. It found that men are less interested in breakfast.

Kim Reddy, director of Consumer Insights for Nielsen, attributed the lack of breakfast eating to consumers shifting breakfast to later in the day during the lockdown while working from home.

"What we do see is that there is a decrease in the breakfast occasion versus previously. We saw a lot of people, especially young black males eating less breakfast, this was both on the weekdays and the weekend," Reddy said.

"And this was probably because people are at home, they're waking up late, they are eating brunch meals rather than eating breakfast," she said.  

For a weekday breakfast, South Africans eat as much meat as they do dairy products. Meat at breakfast is about half what is consumed at dinner, where meat accounts for 32% of the plate.

This is South Africa's typical weekday breakfast plate:

  • Starch: 49%
  • Meat: 16%
  • Dairy: 16%
  • Fats and oils: 9%
  • Vegetables: 8%
  • Legumes: 2%

Over the weekend, there's even more meat on the breakfast plate, but much less starch. Meat increases to 47%, while starch reduces to 9%.

Women account for the biggest meat-eating group at breakfast because they are primarily responsible for many households' feeding and cooking, Reddy said.

"With women specifically, it's about educating them as well, on the benefits of having a healthy plate that is made up of the right proportions and the right types of food… because women are mainly head of the household in terms of food and feeding and cooking, you want them to be able to give that to their families and especially their kids," she said.  

Generally, South Africa's meat-eaters increased to 90% in 2020, from 84% the previous year, despite meat prices climbing and consumers' spending power being eroded due to the economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Reddy said eating meat at breakfast, such as bacon and other breakfast meat options, is not ideal. She added that South Africans still need to be educated more about healthy and ideal food compositions.

"If we want to change the composition, that plate, we need to start with all meals and not just one specific meal type. It's about educating on what the best kind of meal for each of the different meals is. It's really not about what we eat, but it's about how we portion what we eat, that is more important," said Reddy. 

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