Nordic Diet

What is Nordic Diet?

The Nordic diet was specifically designed to revolutionize Nordic cuisine and improve public health. Nutritional scientists based at Denmark’s University of Copenhagen teamed up with a co-founder of the world-renowned restaurant Noma for this multiyear project. Known as the Nordic diet or New Nordic Diet, it incorporates aspects of Scandinavian tradition and culture. The Nordic diet calls for a lifestyle that embraces a return to relaxed meals with friends and family, centered on seasonal, locally sourced foods, combined with concern for protecting the environment.

These 10 concepts underlie the Nordic diet: Eat more fruits and vegetables every day. Eat more whole grains. Include more foods from the seas and lakes. Choose high-quality meat – but eat less meat overall. Seek out more food from wild landscapes. Use organic produce whenever possible. Avoid food additives. Base more meals on seasonal produce. Consume more home-cooked food. Produce less waste.

If you’re looking for a detailed version of the Nordic diet, the 2017 book “The Nordic Way,” incorporates a carb-to-protein ratio based on a combination of low-glycemic index and moderately high-protein foods, including dairy products. Low-GI foods cause a slower, lower elevation in blood sugar compared with higher-GI foods, authors say. Protein-rich foods prevent you from feeling hungry. By properly balancing nutritionally dense foods, according to the book, you can prevent weight gain or regain, reduce inflammation in the body, and lower your risk of diseases like diabetes.

When choosing what to eat on the Nordic diet, you could go all-out Scandinavian: Elk meat, rapeseed oil, Icelandic yogurt, lingonberries, rutabaga and herring are just some examples of common foods in Denmark, where the diet originated. But anyone can adapt the Nordic diet because its true focus is on eating wholesome foods that are local to you.

The Nordic diet’s whole food, back-to-nature approach is an attractive option for many people trying to eat in a healthier way, says Kristin Kirkpatrick, lead dietitian and manager of wellness nutrition services at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. “Despite the type of diet that still prevails in the U.S., the majority of my patients want to get back to the basics – eat as their ancestors had before processing took over the food industry.”

Pros & Cons

  • Tasty, healthy foods
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Time-consuming
  • Impractical

How does Nordic Diet work?

Although you don’t count calories on the Nordic diet, you’ll calculate the carb-protein ratio of your meals. Ideal meals involve a 2:1 ratio of carb grams to protein grams.

For carbohydrates, start by getting familiar with low-GI foods. Most fruits and vegetables, other than potatoes, have a low glycemic index. GIs vary for other carb-containing foods such as dairy products, grains, bread, pasta, beans and legumes. Rye is a whole-grain staple in the Nordic diet. All breads aren’t alike: Pumpernickel and sourdough bread are low-GI, while softer, fluffy white breads aren’t. At breakfast, steel-cut oats are lower GI than instant oatmeal. Lower-fat dairy products are recommended.

Protein-rich foods will help keep you satiated. In the Nordic diet, fish such as shellfish or white, fatty fishes; lean cuts of pork; veal and beef; and skinless poultry provide healthy protein. Fish – such as salmon, mackerel and sardines – provide healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Using fish as a food source is also easier on the environment than beef.

Tofu and legumes, such as lentils or beans, are good protein choices for vegetarians and meat eaters alike. Fiber comes naturally with veggies and whole grains. For extra fiber, add chia seeds to your meal.

To get you started, “The Nordic Way” offers a four-week eating plan. You can go beyond the recommended portions but should only eat until you’re no longer hungry, not until you’re stuffed. A typical plate would be half-filled by veggies, fruit and berries; one-quarter low-GI carbs; and one-quarter protein-rich foods. You should eat protein at every meal. Starches such as rice and pasta are OK but in lower quantities than plant foods, lean meat and fish.

Midmorning or afternoon snacks are fine. You could combine low-GI toast or crispbread with a slight splurge of dark chocolate spread, or munch on fresh fruit or nuts.

You’ll prepare food from home and pack lunches as much as possible. You can visit salad bars if you favor fresh veggies over potato and pasta salads; focus on lean protein and choose low-GI sides like chickpeas. Don’t forget your water bottle: You should drink water with every meal.

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