By Jemima Meyer

As a dietitian especially enthusiastic about community health development and digitalising healthcare, I can’t wait to harness the potential of digital technologies to improve our food and nutrition systems. But first I’ll have to complete my community service year.

After graduating from the University of the Free State, I was placed at the South African Military Health Service in Bloemfontein. At the military clinic, I spend most of my time treating patients with lifestyle diseases (obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels) and other conditions (e.g. HIV, TB, allergies and IBS). I am responsible for promoting health by launching community projects. I also pay monthly surprise visits to military messes to evaluate hygiene and the nutritional adequacy of their menus.

Though I have considered studying a wide range of disciplines (data science, genetics, physiotherapy, music, sound engineering, journalism, you name it), I don’t regret choosing Dietetics. The impact that simple dietary changes can have on a person’s emotions and quality of life is astounding. I also love the controversy in nutrition science. As dietitians, we have to analyse research findings and methodology and compare it to other available studies. In that way, we constantly challenge and update our views. Nutrition science is a tricky research field because researchers cannot simply perform RCTs (randomised clinical trials) to establish the effect of food on health. Usually, we have to make do with looking at the relationship between food intake (actually, what people report eating) and health outcomes. We also have to account for the effect that other variables may have on health. For example, if a population group that drinks a glass of red wine every day has a lower risk for developing cardiovascular diseases, can we assume that wine has some sort of preventative effect? Or is this positive outcome rather because of something else (e.g. financial or lifestyle factors)?

The most frustrating aspect of this occupation is that few people understand why dietitians work in hospitals or clinics. It is common for people, upon meeting a dietitian, to ask about weight loss, banting, veganism, intermittent fasting … Hopefully, in time, it will become general knowledge that dietitians are also responsible for tube feeding and intravenous feeding; and that nutrition plays a pivotal role in preventing and treating gastrointestinal disorders, cancer, HIV, TB, kidney disease, liver disease, burns, etc.

When I’m not busy being a dietitian, I like to meet new people, play the piano, and compose songs. I also enjoy writing and am currently busy with my debut poetry anthology.

Chicken hearts with onion, mushroom and peppers

This month’s Nutrition Confidence recipe was done by registered dietitian, Mpho Tshukudu, and is a delicious, cost-effective recipe that incorporates offal.

Offal includes liver, gizzards, heart, kidney, spleen, lung, intestines, hooves, tongue and others. They are usually from poultry, beef, pork, lamb and goat. Use of offal can be influenced by culture, economic status, religion and preference. For some, they are a delicacy and others consider them poverty foods. Offal can be cost-effective compared to meat.

Different offal has been shown to have higher protein, zinc, iron, manganese and vitamins A and Bs than meat.

In the last decade, nose-to-tail eating has been popular and growing. It refers to the consumption of all parts of animals, as a way of respect to them and reducing the cost of food and food waste.

This is how our grandparents used to eat – all parts were used. You can find the delicious recipes in the recipe books from around the 1940s. More recently, some high-end chefs, including South African chefs, do serve offal, with a modern twist.

Serves: 4
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes


  • 500 g chicken hearts
  •     2 teaspoon olive/avocado  oil
  •     1 teaspoon butter
  •     1 medium onion, sliced
  •     1 cup mushrooms, sliced
  •    1/2 medium bell pepper, julienne – any colour
  •     2 garlic cloves, crushed
  •     1/2 cup chicken stock or more if needed
  •     ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  •     ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  •     Salt to taste


  1. Remove excess fat and cut each heart in half and set aside.
  2. Heat oil and butter in a casserole or pan, over low to medium heat.
  3. Add onions, bell peppers and mushrooms, sauté for 3 minutes
  4. Add crushed garlic and sauté for another 1 minute.
  5. Add chicken hearts. Cook for 5 minutes over medium heat, until the hearts are brown.
  6. Add chicken stock, black pepper, salt and oregano.
  7. Simmer for 10 minutes with the casserole or pan covered, until the hearts are soft and no longer pink in the centre.

Serve with mashed potato, millet, sorghum or rice.

Nutrition Analysis per portion:

Energy:                      987 KJ

Carbohydrate:           2.8 g

Protein:                      21,3 g

Fats:                           15,4 g

Unsaturated fats:      8,5 g

Saturated fats:          4.4 g

Fibre:                          1,0 g