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The New Nordic Diet: Unleash Your Inner Viking

No matter where you live, these guidelines from the Nordic diet are smart tips for healthy eating.

Grilled Salmon and Blueberry Sauce

Grilled Salmon and Blueberry Sauce | Photo by Meredith

If you're familiar with the Mediterranean diet -- or with Michael Pollan's advice: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." -- these principles of the Nordic diet won't come as a shock. They're universal, and simple enough to translate easily into your own experience.

They come from a lecture on the Nordic diet I heard recently by Dr Arne Astrup, head of the Department of Nutrition at the University of Copenhagen. Along with Dr. Astrup's advice, I've paired some top-rated recipes to help you unleash your inner viking. Skål!

Ten Principles of the New Nordic Diet

1) Eat more fruit and vegetables

Sound familiar? Eat a rainbow, as they say. Fruits and veggies that rank high include berries (like blueberries and strawberries), cabbage, and root veggies like carrots; plus legumes, including beans and peas.

Chef John's Braised Red Cabbage

Chef John's Braised Red Cabbage | Photo by Allrecipes

2) Eat more homemade foods

When you cook at home, you control what goes into the food, which often translates into more healthful meals.

Pan Seared Chicken Breast with Lemon and Thyme

Pan Seared Chicken Breast with Lemon and Thyme | Photo by Thrive

3) Eat whole grains

The emphasis here is on healthier carbohydrates -- in particular, whole-grain oats, rye, and barley, which offer fiber, antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins.

Blueberry and Banana Steel Cut Oats

Blueberry and Banana Steel Cut Oats | Photo by lutzflcat

4) Eat more seafood

Salmon, mackerel, and herring rank among the healthiest omega-3-bearing fatty fish.

5) Eat less meat

It's the flipside of "eat more seafood." Eat meat less often, and when you do eat it, eat smaller portions of quality meats that are lower in saturated fat. And make extra room on your plate for vegetables.

Grilled Steak Salad

Grilled Steak Salad | Photo by Allrecipes

6) Eat organic whenever possible

Organic farming is designed to reduce pollution and conserve soil and water. So organic foods are generally friendlier on the environment. Organic foods also have fewer pesticides than conventional. Here are Twelve Foods to Always Buy Organic.

7) Eat foraged foods from the wild

The smart way to forage for wild foods is at the farmers market. Foraging in the actual wilderness requires knowledge that most city folk lack. But you can often find foraged foods (miners lettuce, stinging nettles, huckleberries, fiddleheads, wild mushrooms, and the like) at local farmers markets.

Wild Mushroom Ragu

Wild Mushroom Ragu | Photo by Allrecipes

8) Avoid foods with additives

The Nordic diet favors fresh whole foods over highly processed foods and/or foods with added chemicals meant to artificially preserve them.

9) Eat according to season

This means no tomatoes or fresh corn from the Southern hemisphere in the dead of winter. Eating with the seasons keeps you locked in to what's local and fresh right now. And it's better for the environment.

wild mushroom barley risotto

wild mushroom barley risotto | Photo by Meredith

10) Eat foods with less packaging that create less waste from production

The Nordic diet is about healthy eating and providing for a healthy planet. Excess packaging simply becomes fodder for the landfill.


And finally, a note on fats and the Nordic diet. At least as it is followed in Scandinavia, the Nordic diet looks mostly to canola oil (or rapeseed oil) for cooking and dressings. Like the olive oil favored in the Mediterranean diet, canola oil is high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. Canola oil is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acid (alpha-linolenic acid).


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Carl Hanson

About Carl Hanson

Carl will eat that. Share with him @CarlNo9 on Twitter.