You can't turn on the TV or open a magazine these days without being bombarded by the miraculous health benefits of the latest dieting fad. Most of these diets are not only ridiculous (I'm looking at you, Hollywood Cookie Diet), they also aren't sustainable. For a new way of eating to truly transform your health, it has to be something you can stick with; something that becomes your new way of life. Nobody can eat cereal or drink chalky shakes for two meals a day for the rest of their life — not happily, anyway.
In my experience as a nutritionist, the diets that actually help people get healthy and stay healthy are those that still allow you to choose from a wide variety of foods and are made up of mostly real, whole foods. There is a relatively new diet making the rounds, called the New Nordic Diet, that fits both of these criteria and looks pretty dang tasty, to boot.
What Is the New Nordic Diet?
The New Nordic Diet is rooted in the foods commonly eaten by people in Nordic countries like Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. According to University of California, Berkeley, the diet was originally established in 2004 by a team of nutrition professionals and local chefs with the goal of improving the eating habits of people in the region.
What Do You Eat on the New Nordic Diet?
Similar to the Mediterranean diet, the New Nordic Diet is all about fresh, whole foods: whole grains, seafood, meat, root veggies, dark leafy greens, low-fat dairy, and a variety of fruits. Here is a more detailed breakdown with a few examples:
- Seafood: salmon, herring, mackerel, tuna, trout, white fish
- Meat: poultry, wild game
- Root vegetables: onions, potatoes, leeks, carrots
- Leafy greens: cabbage, broccoli, kale
- Berries and fruits: blueberries, lingonberries, bilberries, apples, plums
- Dairy: cheese, milk, low-fat yogurt
- Whole grains: rye, barley, oats
- Fats: canola oil, nuts, seeds
Is It Healthy?
Just a quick glance will show you that red meat, soda, sugar, and other heavily processed foods are nowhere to be seen on the New Nordic Diet. That gets a big "two thumbs up" from this nutritionist. Most of us rely too heavily on fast food, sugary drinks, and grab-and-go snacks like cookies and crackers.
The New Nordic Diet also emphasizes a wide range of fruits and veggies, whole grains over refined, and lean meats over fattier cuts. Fruits and vegetables provide a powerful source of antioxidants; lean meats, seafood, and dairy pack protein; and whole grains give you fiber and energy-boosting carbohydrates.
Studies have shown that the New Nordic Diet can improve cholesterol and blood pressure levels. And, without restricting calories or portion sizes, it may help you lose a few pounds.
My only true hangup with this diet is that it calls for canola oil, made from rapeseed, over other known-to-be-healthy fats like olive and coconut oil. Canola oil made in the US is often chemically extracted, as opposed to the more natural extraction methods used to make extra virgin olive oil and unrefined coconut oil. The health factor of oils is best determined by the quality of the plants they come from (organic and non-GMO) and how natural the extraction process is. In Nordic countries, and possibly in the US if you know where to look, there are cold-pressed canola oils that seem to be of better quality than those available on most grocery store shelves.
Need a Few Ideas to Get Started?
One thing I love about this diet is that it doesn't have to be complicated. Breakfast can be oatmeal with fruit and nuts, lunch can be a salmon salad with loads of fresh veggies, and dinner can be roast chicken and potatoes. Need a snack? Stir mixed berries into plain yogurt or top a slice of rye bread with a little almond butter. Mmmm . . . sounds like a diet I could dig right into.