Public Health Nutrition

Nutrition and health

Nutritional contribution of street foods to the diet of people in developing countries: a systematic review

Nelia Patricia Steyna1 c1, Zandile Mchizaa2, Jillian Hilla2, Yul Derek Davidsa3, Irma Ventera4, Enid Hinrichsena4, Maretha Oppermana5, Julien Rumbelowa6 and Peter Jacobsa7

a1 Centre for the Study of Social and Environmental Determinants of Nutrition, Population Health, Health Systems and Innovation, Human Sciences Research Council, PO Bag X9182, Cape Town 8000, South Africa

a2 Chronic Diseases of Lifestyle Unit, Medical Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa

a3 Democracy, Governance and Service Delivery, Human Sciences Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa

a4 Department of Agricultural and Food Sciences, Faculty of Applied Sciences, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town, South Africa

a5 Functional Foods Research Unit, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Bellville, South Africa

a6 Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators (CeSTII), Human Sciences Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa

a7 Economic Performance and Development, Human Sciences Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa


Objective To review studies examining the nutritional value of street foods and their contribution to the diet of consumers in developing countries.

Design The electronic databases PubMed/MEDLINE, Web of Science, Cochrane Library, Proquest Health and Science Direct were searched for articles on street foods in developing countries that included findings on nutritional value.

Results From a total of 639 articles, twenty-three studies were retained since they met the inclusion criteria. In summary, daily energy intake from street foods in adults ranged from 13 % to 50 % of energy and in children from 13 % to 40 % of energy. Although the amounts differed from place to place, even at the lowest values of the percentage of energy intake range, energy from street foods made a significant contribution to the diet. Furthermore, the majority of studies suggest that street foods contributed significantly to the daily intake of protein, often at 50 % of the RDA. The data on fat and carbohydrate intakes are of some concern because of the assumed high contribution of street foods to the total intakes of fat, trans-fat, salt and sugar in numerous studies and their possible role in the development of obesity and non-communicable diseases. Few studies have provided data on the intake of micronutrients, but these tended to be high for Fe and vitamin A while low for Ca and thiamin.

Conclusions Street foods make a significant contribution to energy and protein intakes of people in developing countries and their use should be encouraged if they are healthy traditional foods.

(Received July 31 2012)

(Revised February 28 2013)

(Accepted February 28 2013)

(Online publication May 17 2013)


  • Street foods;
  • Developing countries;
  • Dietary intake;
  • Nutritional value;
  • Traditional foods


c1 Corresponding author: Email