CLEAN PLATE: Like all diets, Nordic diet must be a lifestyle

Miranda Beverly

I try to stay up on food trends, and whenever I hear of some new fad diet making the rounds, I investigate it to find out if it’s legit or not. Most diets don’t work, and those that do are typically based on a sane eating plan.

The key is to find a sane “eating plan” that works for you and transition it into a lifestyle choice, not just a diet. Even great diets won’t keep you healthy if you switch back to eating junk, and long-term results are the goal.

The Nordic diet was purposely created in 2004 by a group of scientists, nutritionists and chefs to combat the growing problems of obesity and unsustainable agricultural practices. In other words, they wanted an eating plan that was good for your body and the planet. I’ve only recently heard about the Nordic diet, so it took it’s time to get here, but right off the bat, I have to say that the goals are admirable, so perhaps the diet will be too.

Originally created for the countries of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Finland, the diet focuses on fresh, whole foods that are both locally sourced and sustainably farmed. Everything locally sourced in those countries may not be accessible here, and vice-versa, but adaptations are easy with the diet’s clear guidelines. It is similar in some ways to the Mediterranean diet but relies on canola oil instead of olive oil and includes more whole grains. Similar in theory to a food pyramid, it has four food categories: Eat Often, Eat in Moderation, Eat Rarely and Do Not Eat.

In the Eat Often category: Fruits, berries, vegetables, beans, whole grains, potatoes, nuts, seeds, rye bread, fish, seafood, low-fat dairy and canola oil. In the Eat in Moderation category: free-range eggs, game meats, cheese and yogurt. In the Eat Rarely category: all other red meats and animal fats, and in the Do Not Eat category: processed meats, fast-foods, sugar-sweetened beverages, added sugars and compared to the typical Western diet, the Nordic diet has less sugar and fat, and twice the fiber. It can lower blood pressure and lead to weight loss, but again, you’d have to make permanent food choice changes to keep the results.

The two things on the approved lists that stuck out to me were the rye bread and the game meats. Rye bread is an oldie but a goodie and a Scandinavian staple. As breads go, it’s one of the healthiest. It’s made with a heavier, darker flour and it’s full of whole grain, vitamins and minerals, so it’s heart healthy. It’s also high in fiber and slow to digest, so it’s good for your gut.

Game meats are meats that are traditionally hunted instead of farmed. From a health standpoint, they are better for you than farmed meats, as they would contain no hormones or antibiotics and they would be leaner than farm-raised beef or pork. They would also be higher in protein and omega-3's. Examples include rabbit, pheasant, wild duck, bison, venison or caribou.

I personally like that the Nordic diet gives thought to sustainability as well as the environment in addition to bodily health, and overall, I approve. The stumbling block for me would be the game meats. However, if you decide to take the plunge, make sure you do some research about different game meats and cooking methods, as they are nothing like what most people are used to. And always speak to your doctor before making diet changes.

Miranda Beverly works as a freelance writer and is editing a cookbook. She can be reached at

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