The Nordic Diet: Eating Like a Viking is Good for All of Us

The Nordic Diet: Why Eating Like a Viking is Good for All of Us

Is the Nordic Diet just the new “it” thing or is it actually a sustainable approach to food?

If it’s not one diet, it’s another, because let’s face it: we want the magic trick that will keep is fit and slim.

The truth is, there is no magic trick, the best diet isn’t a diet at all, but a healthy lifestyle built around eating real food. But this doesn’t stop us from seeking out things that can guide our eating habits. Which is maybe why things like the Mediterranean Diet have proved so succesful, both for people looking to eat better, and for authors and health gurus looking to make a buck. Of course a diet full of fresh produce is good for us. But don’t forget that it should also include physical exercise, and just because you started throwing back shots of olive oil doesn’t mean you can enjoy a fast food meal every Friday.

But forget the Mediterranean Diet, there’s a new health plan in town. The latest diet to hit the scene is the Nordic diet. Yes, we’re talking Viking food, or at least, a Viking approach to eating.

As a food trend New Nordic has been consuming the media for quite some time now. Whether you’re into Icelandic, Swedish, Norwegian or Danish foraged food, there’s a chef and restaurant for you. In the cutting edge food world, people like Rene Redzepi and Magnus Nilsson have become household names. But lately, this New Nordic trend has taken a different spin, away from the the culinary elite and towards the average eater. Because it has taken the form of a trendy diet. When Vogue is writing about it, you know it’s a “thing.”

In the last few months, eating like a Viking has been called The Best New Diet For Weight Loss, The New “It” Diet and The Next Big Trend in Weight Loss. Which begs the question: what exactly is the Nordic diet?

Officially the New Nordic Diet came to fruition in 2004, when René Redzepi and Claus Meyer brought together a symposium of regional chefs to talk about the ever increasing consumption of processed foods and all those things we know we shouldn’t be eating. They came up with a “Manifesto for the New Nordic Kitchen,” which was then adopted by the Nordic Council of Ministers as its food policy in 2005.

There are 10 basic principles to the New Nordic Diet:

  1. More fruit and vegetables every day (lots more: berries, cabbages, root vegetables, legumes, potatoes and herbs)
  2. More whole grain, especially oats, rye and barley
  3. More food from the seas and lakes
  4. Higher-quality meat, but less of it
  5. More food from wild landscapes
  6. Organic produce whenever possible
  7. Avoid food additives
  8. More meals based on seasonal produce
  9. More home-cooked food
  10. Less waste

What this list isn’t something that’s specific to Scandinavia; these principles can be used anywhere, whether you’re in North America or Australia. It’s less of a Nordic Diet and more of a Smart and Sustainable General Approach to Good. A no-diet diet plan so to say.

But of course, the media is happy to latch onto anything that is the next “it” diet. Of course, there are some essential things to keep in mind. No matter what “diet” you choose to be on, there are still things to think about like portion control and exercise; just because you decided to from here on out only eat rye bread and foraged berries doesn’t mean you’re going to drop pounds instantaneously.

The basis for the New Nordic Diet was also to get people thinking about ingredients and foods that came from closer to home. In Scandinavia that might mean certain grains and certain vegetables, but wherever you are in the world, it doesn’t mean that you should start importing them. If you really want to “eat like a Viking” then you should start thinking about what local foods are available to you, lest we let the ideals of Nordic Diet get co-opted by health fanatics that take it the way of superfoods, putting certain ingredients on a pedestal even though they come from thousands of miles away. Just because someone in Northern Sweden is eating reindeer jerky doesn’t mean you necessarily need to be.

But there are many takeaways from the Nordic Diet no matter where we are. It frowns upon processed foods and refined grains, something we should all be frowning upon, it promotes eating in season, consuming less meat and doing more cooking at home. If there was one diet that we should all stick to, it’s this one. Because it’s actually not even a diet, it’s just a smart and healthy approach to food.

If anything, we can hope that this fervor for the Nordic diet will simply translate into people thinking more about what they eat and where their food comes from. That’s the best kind of diet we can all be on.

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Image: New Amsterdam Market

Anna Brones

Anna Brones is a food + travel writer with a love for coffee and bikes. She is the author of The Culinary Cyclist and Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break. Catch her weekly column, Foodie Underground.