Western Kenya and particularly the Lake Victoria region counties have healthiest eating habits in the country.
A national score on healthy eating however shows less than half of Kenya households are eating a healthy diet.
Those who do, are mainly around the lake region, with counties in arid areas attaining lowest scores in healthy eating.
All counties of the former Nyanza and many in Western provinces and several in western Rift Valley are among the few eating healthy diets.
Others are Nairobi, Meru, Nyeri and Kirinyaga while at the Coast only Taita Taveta households are eating healthy.
But all the same no household, even in the better eating counties met all of the nine World Health Organization’s dietary recommendations.
A policy brief published early this month (September 2021) by the Nairobi based African Population Health Research Centre (APHRC) says poor eating habits are exposing Kenyans to serious lifestyle diseases.
The study had analyzed dietary habits in 21,512 households in all the 47 counties from a national household budgetary survey.
“More than half of Kenyan households are not meeting recommendations for most of the dietary components except for total fats and fiber.
Over 80 per cent of households only met four or less of the nine healthy diet recommendations.
Fruits and vegetables
The nine WHO recommended dietary components include: total fats, saturated fats, polyunsaturated fats and trans fats. Others are carbohydrates, proteins, fruits and vegetables, fiber and salt at specified daily amounts.
“No household met all of the nine dietary recommendations,” says the brief. The study, led by Lyagamula Kisia, a researcher at APHRC says eating healthy is however expensive.
“Healthy eating was more concentrated among wealthier households.”
Households that met six out of the nine healthy dietary recommendations spent on average KES 58,346 (US$576) per person per year or on average KES 160 (US$1.60) per person a day to eat healthy.
This would roughly mean a family of four would need about KES 640 per day or about Sh20, 000 per month for food only to eat healthy.
Official data shows on average many Kenyans earn between KES100 to KES200 a day. “Households were more likely to eat healthy if they were of a higher socioeconomic status,” wrote Kisia.
Female headed households
Households in rural areas were likely to eat healthier compared to urban households and especially if there were small children.
Compared to urban households, rural households met more of the healthy dietary recommendations for dietary fiber, total protein and total carbohydrates.
Female headed households are also eating healthier compared to those headed by males, says the brief.
The food is even healthier where the household head is in a union either marriage or even cohabiting and educated.
But the study is clear that a considerable number of households in Kenya are not meeting the recommended healthy dietary requirements.
Kisia says this is a case of awareness of what is affordable healthy food and poverty.
“The government should consider reducing or removing taxes imposed directly or indirectly on foods like milk, cheese and eggs, fruits, fish and seafood,” Kisia recommends.
Other recommendations include educating Kenyans that you do not need to break a bank to eat healthy while promoting food diversity in arid regions.
By Gatonye Gathura