Countries around the world are regularly utilizing research evidence to design healthy eating patterns to decrease the risk of disease. In the United States, for example, there is the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Choose My Plate and the DASH Diet.
Similar initiatives have been occurring in the Nordic region by scientists and chefs, and, as of late, they've caught the eye of those looking to lose weight. The average Nordic diet contains low amounts of fruits and vegetables, moderate amounts of high-fat meats and large quantities of processed food filled with added fat and sugar. On the other hand, the New Nordic Diet is part of the health-promoting Danish multidisciplinary OPUS project. At its core, the diet is primarily a plant-based eating plan, using seasonal fruits and veggies, whole grains, rapeseed (canola) oil, fish and shellfish, moderate amounts of high-quality meat and fewer food additives.
The New Nordic Diet isn't about slashing calories, cutting carbs or ditching fat. Instead, it is a way of eating that's equally as good for you as it is the planet.
Based in part on the Baltic Sea diet pyramid, followers of the New Nordic Diet will discover the following:
How Your Health Benefits
Weight loss or maintenance is one thing, but sustainable healthy eating is all about reaping those long-term health benefits, and the New Nordic Diet delivers. The World Health Organization states that the eating pattern of the New Nordic Diet leads to numerous health benefits and may even help to prevent disease. Several studies have found that the New Nordic Diet could reduce mortality in people with cardiovascular disease, and there is also research to support the use of the diet to help in lowering blood pressure, decreasing the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and improving insulin sensitivity. The diet has also been shown to help with weight loss, as well as long-term weight maintenance.
While the New Nordic Diet provides guidelines regarding food selection for improved health, it also includes other lifestyle principles that guide people to slow down and take care of Mother Earth—which should come as no surprise since this is the same region that gave us the concept of hygge.
The New Nordic Diet encourages cooking at home using simple-to-prepare recipes that incorporate seasonal, locally-sourced and organic ingredients. Plus, thanks to its focus on decreasing waste and eating less meat, you'll be actively helping to protect the environment with every healthy meal.
But What Does a Registered Dietitian Really Think?
In my professional opinion as a registered dietitian and health coach, it is the aforementioned concepts that truly set the New Nordic Diet apart from other healthy eating plans. People need food to be easily obtainable and affordable. They need meal prep to be simple. But above all, they want food to be familiar and delicious. If we are going to make a shift in our eating habits, it must fit with our cultural norms, and the New Nordic Diet makes the transition to healthier eating easier, more sustainable and fun.
The bottom line is that the New Nordic Diet is really just a "regional interpretation" of the evidence-based eating guidelines that have been incorporated into many eating patterns such as the Mediterranean diet, DASH Diet and Choose My Plate. Many reading this article probably don't live in the Nordic region; therefore, cultural norms and food availability will differ. However, if you're ready to navigate the New Nordic Diet in modified Viking-style, there are a few simple ways to incorporate some of the principles into your home-cooked meal plan while using local foods from your area: