Everything you need to know about the fad-free Nordic Diet

While the benefits of a Mediterranean diet are well known, we may have overlooked another European approach to healthy eating: the Nordic diet.

With an emphasis on plant-based eating, particularly root vegetables, the diet is as much about making a positive environmental impact as it is about reaping the health benefits (which are backed by the World Health Organisation). Intrigued? Here’s how to embrace the Nordic diet…


The food

Following a Nordic diet, the bulk of your meals should come from:

  • Root vegetables (parsnips, carrots, swede, celeriac, beetroot)
  • Mushrooms
  • Cabbage, leeks, peas
  • Berries (raspberry, lingonberry, cranberry, redcurrants)

Accompanied by reasonable amounts (i.e don’t go overboard) of the following:

  • High-fibre grains (wholegrain rye, oats, barley)
  • Fatty fish (herring, salmon, tuna, sardine, mackerel)
  • Game and poultry
  • Dairy (low-fat or fat-free milk products, Skyr yoghurt)
  • Canola oil (which comes from rapeseed)

Red meat, alcohol, processed food, and anything sugary are to be enjoyed in very small amounts – but aren’t totally off limits.

So a sample day on the Nordic diet might look like this:

Breakfast Porridge with a dollop of Skyr yoghurt and raspberries on top
Lunch Smoked mackerel drizzled with canola oil and lemon juice on top of rye bread with a beetroot salad
Dinner Salmon fillet with roasted root vegetables


The science

The Nordic diet is extremely well-balanced, providing you with energy-boosting fibre, protein, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D. Because you only eat ‘whole’ food, it’s also low in sodium (salt), added sugars and saturated fat.

A small study in 2011 found that the Nordic Diet reduced levels of blood lipids (fatty acids) and blood pressure in people with high cholesterol. In 2015, another, larger study suggested a Nordic diet is associated with a reduced risk of developing type 2 Diabetes.


The ethics

As well as benefiting your health, the Nordic diet is about changing how you cook and shop for food. Instead of complicated meals with lots of processes, the focus is on preparing fresh and simple dishes. Ideally, you pick seasonal, local food whenever possible and are conscious of animal welfare and sustainable production (particularly when it comes to fish). It’s all about being aware of how your diet affects the environment, and trying to embrace a more holistic approach to your diet. In this case the word ‘diet’ really means ‘a way of eating’, it’s not about weight loss.