What is the Nordic Diet?

⚠️We agree that there is no such thing as a perfect solution to living a healthier lifestyle. Individualized eating plans are necessary for success. Consult a dietitian or healthcare professional before beginning a new diet plan, particularly if you have any existing health condition.

The Nordic diet is usually loaded with low-calorie dairy products, fish, vegetables, fruits, berries, and whole grains. Also, it’s low in processed foods and added sugars and created to be much easy on the environment as compared to other eating plans. In essence, the Nordic diet is a wholesome way of eating.

Nordic nations include Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. Research has shown that the Nordic diet has a lot of similarities with the popular Mediterranean diet. Both diets include anti-inflammatory foods high in omega-3 fats, and both include vegetables and fruits.[i]

However, there’s one notable difference: although the Mediterranean diet has been appraised for observing the conventional ways to eat within the Mediterranean areas, the Nordic diet, also known as the New Nordic Diet, was created to boost public health by experts; chefs, nutritionists, and scientists in Copenhagen.

Although this diet features the regional fare, foods included in this diet were chosen for their low environmental impact and many health benefits.[ii] This means there are some conventional foods that haven’t been included. According to the Report published in 2020, the Nordic diet is ranked number 9, and we give it a score of about 7.2 out of 10. [iii]

What You Can Eat?

The Nordic diet largely focuses on local, seasonal, fresh, whole foods and doesn’t include highly processed foods. As a result, you must reduce your intake of high-fat red meat, packaged foods, and added sugars in favor of the domestically caught fish, domestically produced lean meats, dairy products, and periodic produce.

Choosing seasonal, local foods means that the diet has little effect on the ecosystem than other diets. However, you don’t have to have more Scandinavian fare to completely enjoy the Nordic diet, make sure you have enough of the vegetables and fruits and add numerous berries, whole grains, and fish.

Whole Grains

About 25 percent of the Nordic diet calories usually come from grains like oats, barley, and rye. Also, the diet includes numerous bread, whole grain pasta, and brown rice. Rye cereals and grain are part of the Nordic diet as long as they do not contain added honey or sugar.

Berries, vegetables, and fruits

A Nordic diet contains about one cup of fruit and vegetables every day, preferably organic choices, locally grown and in season. Suggested produce includes root vegetables, potatoes, pears, apples, and cabbages.

This diet is very rich in blueberries. Plan to eat about 2 cups every day of lingonberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries. These berries are very low in fat but rich in minerals and vitamins. Also, they contain highly beneficial phytochemicals because of their red pigments and colorful blue.

Dairy Products

Cheese, yogurt, and low-calorie milk are all included in this diet, but milk drinks with more sugar and sweetened yogurt products aren’t. Many individuals following this diet are usually advised to eat about two servings every day.

Fats

This diet is pretty low in fat and primarily based on healthy sources, including seeds, nuts, rapeseed oil, and fish like salmon.

Meats

Game meats and poultry are allowed, if you choose meat cuts that are pretty low in fat. Select lean cuts of venison and lamb, turkey, and chicken. This diet requires you to limit or avoid red meats like beef.

What You Cannot Eat?

Added Sugar

You should avoid foods that are made with sweetened drinks and sugars. One serving of berry juice or fruit is allowed, but else, stick with low-fat milk, tea, coffee, and water.

Processed Foods

A Nordic diet requires you to avoid processed foods; they contain fat, salt, and added sugar and are not environmentally friendly.

What to Eat?

  • Poultry and game
  • Healthy fats
  • Fish
  • Dairy products
  • Whole grains
  • Vegetables and fruits

What to Avoid?

  • Red meat
  • Processed foods
  • Added sugars

Does It Aid In Weight Loss?

Several researchers have assessed the effect of the Nordic diet on weight loss. One study involved obese people who had been asked not to control their calorie intake; those on the Danish diet lost about 3.3 pounds and those on a Nordic diet lost 10.4 pounds.[iv] Nevertheless, in the follow-up research one year later, participants of the Nordic diet had regained most of the weight.[v]

The results are very typical of the long-term research on weight loss; people lose more weight in the beginning but then slowly started gaining it back over one or two years. Another six-week study supports the Nordic diet’s weight loss effects, with the Nordic diet group losing about 4% of the body weight, substantially more than those who had been on a more standard diet.[vi]

The Nordic diet seems to be more effective when it comes to short-term weight loss, even without calorie restriction. On the other hand, as with other weight-loss diets, you might eventually regain the lost weight.

What Are The Rules Of The Nordic Diet?

It’s highly likely you’ve heard about the Nordic diet: many headlines have already declared it one of the healthiest diets globally, healthier than the Mediterranean diet. Therefore, should you think about eating like a real Viking? Here are the rules of the Nordic diet.

  • Include a fruit or vegetables in every snack and meal – For instance, add vegetables to your toast with berries on the side, fold chopped kale or shredded zucchini into the overnight oats alongside nuts and chopped green apple, snack on the fruit with pumpkin seeds or nuts or hummus and raw vegetables.
  • Look for local and organic produce – Organic options are not always costly, particularly during in season.
  • Include seafood three times a week and make choices that are sustainable.
  • Eat seeds or nuts daily – Add nuts to salads, oatmeal, and sprinkle on the cooked vegetables, snack on the pumpkin seeds of sesame seeds, or whip chia into smoothies.
  • Include one serving of pulses (chickpeas, peas, lentils, beans) every day.
  • Make water the beverage of your choice – Target 16 ounces, four times every day and alternate it with flavorful, antioxidant-rich infusions such as fresh herbs, fruits, and vegetables.

Potential Health Benefits

The Nordic diet was specially designed to make a healthy diet more attractive to many people while at the same time addressing the increased numbers of obese people. Besides promoting weight loss, you’ll be glad to know that there are numerous health benefits associated with eating the Nordic diet, including reduced risks for heart attack and stroke as well as reduced blood pressure.[vii]

In one study back in 2011, it was found that a healthier Nordic diet mitigated other heart risk factors and saw an improvement in blood pressure, insulin sensitivity, and lipid profile.

Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is a great driver of numerous diseases. Research on inflammation and the Nordic diet gave mixed results. One study found a reduction in inflammatory marker CRP, whereas others observed no statistically significant impacts. Another researcher found that the Nordic diet minimized the expression of genes related to inflammation in the body’s fat tissues.[viii]

Triglycerides and Cholesterol

Although the Nordic diet is pretty high in numerous heart-healthy foods, its effect on triglycerides and cholesterol isn’t consistent. A few studies found a reduction in triglycerides, but the impact on HDL cholesterol and LDL cholesterol isn’t statistically significant. However, there was one study that found a mild decrease in non-HDL cholesterol. [ix]

Shopping list

A perfect Nordic diet strongly emphasizes seafood, grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits, plant protein, and other complex carbs. Also, with this plan, you can eat animal protein. Keep in mind that fresh fish should be frozen or cooked after some days. Always make sure you have some canned fish so that you can always have some seafood with you.

The shopping list below offers suggestions to get started with this diet. Keep in mind that this isn’t a shopping catalog, and you might have to look for alternatives and seafood types that work better.

  • Whole grains (quinoa barley, brown rice pasta, whole bread)
  • Fruits (pineapple, apples, bananas, mixed berries, oranges, and grapefruit)
  • Veggies (carrots, bell peppers, mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli)
  • Dark leafy greens (collard greens, kale, arugula, spinach)
  • Frozen or fresh fish (branzino, sea bass, cod, halibut, salmon)
  • Dairy products (cottage cheese, milk, cheeses, yogurt)
  • Eggs
  • Healthy fat sources (olive oil, olives, flaxseeds, chia seeds, almonds, walnuts, avocados)
  • Legumes and plant-based protein (chickpeas, lentils, black beans, soybeans, tofu)
  • Lean animal protein (turkey breast, chicken breast)
  • Packaged or canned fish (herring, salmon, anchovies, sardines, tuna)

Sample Meal Plan

A Nordic diet usually features enough seafood with tiny amounts of animal protein. In case you aren’t familiar with the cooking of seafood, you should consider watching video tutorials or joining online classes to find out more. Also, you may choose from the prepared meals that may help make following such a diet much easier for you.

There are a few prepared meals that help make sticking to the Nordic diet easier. A few meal kit services provide vegetarian and pescatarian meals that might be included in the Nordic diet. Always make sure you make the healthiest options and choose the least processed foods.

The sample meal plan below isn’t wide-ranging, but it will give you what to expect if you choose to follow a Nordic regime. Keep in mind that if you want to follow the Nordic diet, there might be other foods that are suitable for your preferences and tastes.

1st Day

  • Breakfast – feta oatmeal and savory spinach, ½ grapefruit serving.
  • Lunch – low fat and low-calorie tuna wrap, ¼ cup of roasted red bet hummus.
  • Dinner – 1 cup of cooked brown rice and 4 ounces of baked salmon

2nd Day

  • Breakfast – 1 cup strawberries, breakfast burrito
  • Lunch – ¾ cup roasted beet, one cup of broccoli ginger soup.
  • Dinner – one serving of roasted chicken with the fennel, one cup of cooked couscous.

3rd Day

  • Breakfast – Five-minute egg toast and avocado, one serving of blueberry smoothie.
  • Lunch – 1-ounce walnuts serving
  • Dinner – one cup of cooked barley, one serving shrimp skewers

4th Day

  • Breakfast – wheat bagel with one tablespoon of capers, red onions and cream cheese, and four ounces gravlax.
  • Dinner – 1.5 cups of simple shrimp.

5th Day

  • Breakfast – eight-ounce orange juice, one serving feta omelet
  • Lunch – 1 ½ cup of Quinoa salad and citrus kale
  • Dinner – Four-ounce Za’atar spiced halibut

Nordic Diet Pros And Cons

There are numerous benefits associated with this diet, but it has a few downsides. Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of the Nordic diet.

Pros

Sustainability
Flexibility
Environmental Awareness
Health Benefits
Nutrition

Cons

Time-Consuming
More Costly
Practicality

Pros

Sustainability

The Nordic diet isn’t just sustainable with regards to environmental sense, but it also includes food produced through sustainable methods. Also, it’s a very manageable lifestyle. It uses the same foods, and it’s not so restrictive. Moreover, there is no calculating or measuring. Just stick to the recommended foods and sparingly eat the others. Those using the diet to lose weight should be more cautious about portion, sizes and calorie intake.

Flexibility

The Nordic diet doesn’t have any strict rules. It isn’t supposed to be a weight loss diet, but rather to promote preparations and foods that might have environmental and health benefits. As a result, there is always a chance to interpret it the way you want.

Environmental Awareness

Nordic diet creators were looking to address the increased cases of obesity in all Nordic countries. Also, they want to promote healthy diets that would have a reduced impact on the environment than the existing dietary patterns.[x]

Health Benefits

Different studies, one that lasted only for three months and another 24 weeks, found that the diet can reduce hypertension compared to the average diet. A new study that analyzed a larger number of patients for an extended period suggested that this diet might help prevent more strokes. Another study showed results that this diet plays a role in preventing reduced heart attack.[xi]

Nutrition

Similarly to the Mediterranean diet, the Nordic diet seems to deliver lots of nutritional value. Vegetables, fruits, and whole grains offer many essential nutrients, minerals, and vitamins without additional calories. Colorful berries and fish provide antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, respectively. All primary foods are well represented, and the Nordic diet primarily focuses on whole foods, which are healthier as compared to the processed ones. This means the Nordic diet includes unhealthy additives and empty calories.

Cons

Time-Consuming

Finding as well as preparation of these foods usually takes time. Also, because processed foods aren’t recommended, this means most of what you consume should be prepared from home. Moreover, the diet creators intended for meals to be eaten in a mindful and leisurely way, which to some might be challenging.

More Costly

All that organic produce and fish can be expensive, even for those living somewhere where there’s a lot of seafood or many organic foods. These components usually tend to be more costly than the inexpensive meat cuts and conventionally farmed produce.

Practicality

Although it’s handy to plan meals and cook without worrying about carbs or calorie counts, some people might find that the ingredients needed in this diet might be challenging to source.

Is A Nordic Diet A Healthier Option For You?

Besides the Mediterranean diet, many diets, both old and new, share similar characteristics with a Nordic meal plan. For instance, the DASH Diet was created to help people reduce blood pressure.[xii] Essentially, no foods are off the limit, but the most important thing is eating more vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, poultry, fish, whole grains, and low-calorie dairy products as you cut back on the red meat, sodium, sugary drinks, and red meat.

The pescatarian diet is the same as the vegetarian diet with the addition of seafood and fish. This makes it look identical to the Nordic diet with regards to nutrition and food. Also, the Nordic diet shares many similarities with the Mediterranean diet. People who choose to follow the Mediterranean diet mostly eat seafood, nuts, legumes, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains that deliver sufficient nutritional value.[xiii]

Compared to the federal recommendations for more healthy and balanced diet, this diet comprises all of the highly suggested foods and suggests reasonable sizes for each. Keep in mind that each individual is different and its important to consult a health provider before applying this diet.

The USDA recommends a 1500 calorie daily intake for those looking to lose weight and about 2,000 calories for those on weight management, even though an individual’s calorie intake needs might vary depending on the age, weight, height, sex, and activity level. [xiv]

How Much Does The Nordic Diet Cost?

A few studies show that a healthy diet with lots of emphasis on low energy components and valuable nutrients like seafood, vegetables, and fruits tend to be more expensive for customers. Primarily inspired by the Mediterranean diet and derived from Nordic cuisine, the Nordic diet is a sustainable, healthy, and palatable diet based on products from Nordic countries.

Moreover, with the Nordic diet’s emphasis on organic foods, it could be more costly. Unless you have access to fisheries and farmers’ markets, you will have to visit the grocery store to find freshly harvested produce.

FAQs

What are the main benefits of taking vitamin E?

Vitamin E has many antioxidant properties. In essence, antioxidants are substances that may protect cells against the brutal effects of free radicals- molecules produced after you're exposed to radiation or tobacco smoke. Free radicals may play a significant role in cancer as well as other diseases. Check out our article to find out more about the health benefits of the Nordic diet.

What food is high in vitamin E?

As mentioned in this article, the Nordic diet contains food that are high in vitamin E. Vitamin E is usually found in vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, and plant-based oils.

What is the Nordic diet?

1. You should regularly eat rapeseed (canola) oil, spices, herbs, low-fat dairy, seafood, fish, rye bread, seeds, nuts, whole grains, potatoes, legumes, vegetables, berries, and fruits.
2. Eat-in moderation: yogurt, cheese, free-range eggs, and game meats.
3. Rarely eat – animal fats

What is the common Swedish diet? 

This will, without a doubt, be the Nordic diet, including wine, fermented foods, grains, veggies, and fish. The Nordic diet is traced back to the Vikings. It comprises natural fresh foods eaten in Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden.

Is the Nordic diet easy to follow?

The Nordic diet isn't particularly very easy to follow. It takes effort and time to find suitable environmentally conscious local foods such as tomatoes that aren't grown in greenhouses; regularly sitting down to prepare homemade meals needs lots of lifestyle commitment.

Will the Nordic diet help lose weight?

Yes, you will most likely lose weight slowly and steadily on a Nordic diet.

What health risks are associated with the Nordic Diet?

Today, we don’t have any health risks linked to the Nordic diet. People who follow this kind of lifestyle might have to carefully manage their calorie intake to control their weight.

 

Sources

  1. [i] Galbete C, Kröger J, Jannasch F, et al. Nordic diet, Mediterranean diet, and the risk of chronic diseases: The EPIC-Potsdam studyBMC Med. 2018;16(1):99. doi:10.1186/s12916-018-1082-y
  2. [ii] Harvard Health Publishing. The Nordic diet: A northern twist to the Mediterranean diet. December 2015.
  3. [iii] U.S. News & World Report Best Diets. Nordic Diet. 2020.
  4. [iv] Poulsen SK, Due A, Jordy AB, et al. Health effect of the New Nordic Diet in adults with increased waist circumference: A 6-mo randomized controlled trialAm J Clin Nutr. 2014; 99(1):35-40. doi:10.3945/ajcn.113.069393
  5. [v] Poulsen SK, Crone C, Astrup A, Larsen TM. Long-term adherence to the New Nordic Diet and the effects on body weight, anthropometry and blood pressure: a 12-month follow-up study. Eur J Nutr. 2015 Feb;54(1):67-76. doi: 10.1007/s00394-014-0686-z. Epub 2014 Mar 25. PMID: 24664189.
  6. [vi] Adamsson V, Reumark A, Fredriksson IB, Hammarström E, Vessby B, Johansson G, Risérus U. Effects of a healthy Nordic diet on cardiovascular risk factors in hypercholesterolaemic subjects: a randomized controlled trial (NORDIET). J Intern Med. 2011 Feb;269(2):150-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2796.2010.02290.x. Epub 2010 Oct 22. PMID: 20964740.
  7. [vii] Poulsen SK, Due A, Jordy AB, et al. Health effect of the New Nordic Diet in adults with increased waist circumference: A 6-mo randomized controlled trialAm J Clin Nutr. 2014;99(1):35-45. doi:10.3945/ajcn.113.069393
  8. [viii] Brader L, Uusitupa M, Dragsted LO, Hermansen K. Effects of an isocaloric healthy Nordic diet on ambulatory blood pressure in metabolic syndrome: A randomized SYSDIET sub-studyEur J Clin Nutr. 2014;68(1):57-63. doi:10.1038/ejcn.2013.192
  9. [ix] Poulsen SK, Due A, Jordy AB, et al. Health effect of the New Nordic Diet in adults with increased waist circumference: A 6-mo randomized controlled trialAm J Clin Nutr. 2014;99(1):35-45. doi:10.3945/ajcn.113.069393
  10. [x] Mithril C, Dragsted LO, Meyer C, Blauert E, Holt MK, Astrup A. Guidelines for the new Nordic dietPublic Health Nutr. 2012;15(10):1941-1947. doi:10.1017/S136898001100351X
  11. [xi] Gunge VB, Andersen I, Kyrø C, et al. Adherence to a healthy Nordic food index and risk of myocardial infarction in middle-aged Danes: the diet, cancer and health cohort study. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2017;71(5):652-658. doi:10.1038/ejcn.2017.
  12. [xii] U.S. Department of Agriculture. ChooseMyPlate. Choose a food group to explore.
  13. [xiii] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015.
  14. [xiv] U.S. Department of Agriculture. ChooseMyPlate. Choose a food group to explore.