Written by Mita Majumdar, M.Sc. | 
Article Reviewed by Dietitian Hannah Joy, M.Phil on Nov 05, 2018


What is Nordic Diet?

Diet has a significant impact on health and ensuring a healthy diet for people remains one of the greatest challenges for most countries in the world.

Nordic diet, is a diet based on foods originating from the Nordic countries such as Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden and their associated territories. It is also called as New Nordic Diet to distinguish it from the traditional Nordic diet.

Nordic diet is considered to help improve blood lipid profile and insulin sensitivity, and lower blood pressure and body weight in overweight people.

Nordic Diet

Although the focus of the New Nordic Diet is to reduce cardiovascular disease, this diet may also help prevent the onset of metabolic syndrome that includes obesity and type-2 diabetes. It may be beneficial in preventing certain cancers as well.

The New Nordic Diet is based on three fundamental guidelines -

(i) Obtaining more calories from plants and fewer from meat. Although high protein intake can reduce the risk of several diseases, particularly in sedentary and overweight people, meat is among the least environmentally friendly foods, so more environmentally friendly protein sources are preferred in this diet. Replacing some of the meat we eat with plant foods can lead to a reduction in the intake of saturated fat and increases the intake of unsaturated fats, dietary fibers, vitamins and minerals. Again plant foods are low in calories, so we can eat larger amounts while lowering the energy density yet ensuring satiety.

(ii) Obtaining more foods from the sea and lakes. Fish and shellfish contain high amounts of protein and an increased intake may help prevent weight gain and obesity, type 2 diabetes, and age-related reduction in muscle mass in the elderly. Different species of fish and shellfish contain different amounts of vitamins, minerals and fatty acids. So, alternate between fatty and lean species, in order to get maximum health benefits while minimizing risks of toxicity from heavy metal (such as mercury) pollution.

(iii) More foods from the wild countryside. Foods such as mushrooms, berries, fruits and meat foraged from the wild are interesting because of their possible health potential. Wild plants have higher contents of vitamins C and E, and antioxidants. Some weeds are also very nutritious, but use them with caution since they can be toxic. Meat from wild animals and fowl generally contains less fat and has less saturated fat and more polyunsaturated fat, than meat from commercially reared animals. Further, they have significantly higher content of omega-3 fatty acids.

Nordic Diet is thus a diet that promotes good taste, sustainability and local ingredients.

Nordic Diet Food List

Oily fish

Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. Omega-3 acids are known to protect against heart disease, control blood sugar and also help in brain development.

Canola oil

Canola oil, also known as rapeseed oil, is the main cooking oil in Nordic countries. In the Nordic countries, canola oil is used as an alternative to olive oil so preferred in the Mediterranean diet. Although, both oils are high in unsaturated fats, canola oil has just 6 percent saturated fat content, compared with 14 percent in olive oil and more than 50 percent in butter. Canola oil is also a good source of vitamin E.


Lingonberries, cloudberries, blueberries, wild strawberries, elderberries, black and red currants are an integral part of Nordic Diet. Nordic countries often add berries to fish and meat dishes, eat it as a fruit and use them in desserts. (See traditional Nordic recipe) All these berries are rich in antioxidants that help protect against heart disease, strokes, cancers, and other diseases caused by free radicals.

Nordic Diet Food: Berries


Reindeer and elk are native animals of Nordic region. Venison (meat of any game animal killed by hunting, especially deer) is the preferred meat for the Nordic Diet.

This might be hard to get in India and other Asian countries, so you may opt for organic substitutes instead.

Whole grains

Breads made of whole grain rye are low in sodium and hence are included in the diet. Studies on whole grains have found a significant inverse association between intake of whole grains and risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and weight gain or risk of obesity.

Fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are eaten hot or cold, as snacks, side dish or incorporated into main dish. Potatoes are often boiled and consumed. Starchy plant foods like potatoes are an important source of dietary fiber, vitamins B6 and C, folate, iron, potassium, and magnesium.

Following is the list of food items in the Nordic Diet-

S. No.Food GroupFood Items
1.Fruits, berries, vegetablesBlueberry, lingonberry, apple, pear, prune, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, fennel, spinach, onion, leek, kale, sugar peas, turnip, carrot, parsnip, beetroot
2.PotatoesMainly boiled
3.NutsMainly almonds
4.LegumesBrown beans, yellow and green peas
5.Meat and poultryBeef, pork, lamb, reindeer and sausage, chicken and turkey
6.Dairy productsLow fat milk, fermented milk, cheese (less than 17 percent)
7.FishHerring, mackerel, salmon, and a selection of white fish
9.Cereals and seedsWhole grain rye and wheat breads low in sodium. Oat bran rusks, muesli, oatmeal, barley flakes, whole grain pastas, pearled barley and oat instead of rice. Seeds such as linseed, psyllium and sunflower seeds
10.Fats and oilVegetable oils such as sunflower, linseed and rapeseed oil; vegetable low fat spread and vegetable liquid margarine
11.Herbs, spices and beveragesParsley, dill, mustard, horseradish, vinaigrette, all spices, soy sauce, oat-based non-dairy creamer, potato starch, yeast, low sodium salt, tea, coffee, fruit or vegetable juices

Nordic Diet Benefits

1. The Nordic Diet emphasizes quality of fat and carbohydrate; amount, quality and source of dietary fiber; refined cereals versus whole grain cereals; and the theory of Glycemic Index, thus reducing the risk of metabolic syndrome and additionally helping with weight loss in overweight people.

2. Low-temperature cooking methods, such as oven baking and boiling, are the main preparation methods recommended in the Nordic Diet to keep the nutritional value of the foods.

3. New Nordic Diet ensures food security without jeopardizing the environment by focusing on-

  • locally grown foods to minimize the negative impact of transportation on the environment;
  • foods from organic sources;
  • including some foods sourced from the wild countryside, thereby encouraging biodiversity and minimizing use of fertilizers and pesticides; and
  • minimizing waste and utilizing all the food purchased.

1. Nordic diet recommends eating cereals such as rye because they contain slow-digesting fiber, which prevents sharp rises in blood sugar that create food cravings.

2. Since the Nordic Diet is mainly a plant-based diet, where animal products are used sparingly as side dishes, it is favorable for vegetarians seeking to improve their health or reduce weight.

3. By replacing foods with saturated fatty acids to foods with PUFAs, the Nordic Diet reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Nordic Diet Benefits: Cardiovascular Disease

Nordic Diet Recipes

Pyttipanna (Traditional Nordic Main Course Recipe)

Serves four:

  • 8 large potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 200 gram of chopped bacon, sausage, beef, pork (use what's in the fridge)
  • One roughly chopped onion
  • 4-8 Eggs
  • Salt, pepper, parsley for garnish, butter / oil for frying

Fry the potatoes till golden. Fry the onion, remove from pan. Add the meat to the pan and cook till done. Mix all the ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with parsley. Serve the pyttipanna with fried eggs.

New Nordic Diet Recipe

Serves four:

Chicken in bouillon

  • 4-6 chicken legs, both upper and lower thigh
  • 2 tbsp. cold-pressed rapeseed oil
  • 2 finely chopped shallots
  • 2 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 2 dl. cold pressed apple juice
  • 6 dl. chicken stock (or water)
  • 200g wheat grains (polished barley, spelled or rye can also be used)
  • 400g green asparagus cut into 3-4 pieces each
  • 160g goutweed (or spinach or kale)
  • Salt and pepper


  • 1,25 dl balsamic apple or plum vinegar
  • 100g sugar

How to prepare Gastrique- In a heavy bottomed saucepan, caramelize the sugar. Add the vinegar and cook till caramel is dissolved and syrup consistency is obtained. Gastrique is bitter-sweet-sour in taste. Transfer the syrup to a bottle and refrigerate.

Chicken- Sauté the chicken thighs in the oil till they turn golden. Then add the shallots, fennel seeds and apple juice and let it boil for a couple of minutes. Add the stock, bring to boil and simmer for about half an hour.

In another pan, add rinsed wheat grains and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the asparagus. Add salt, pepper and gastrique to taste and simmer for another 10 minutes. Roughly chop the goutweed / spinach / kale, and add to the dish just before serving.

Serve the dish with seaweed pesto and whole grain bread.


  1. What is a healthy Nordic diet? Foods and nutrients in the NORDIET study - (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3386552/#!po=96.4286)

Latest Publications and Research on Nordic Diet


PeterPiper Thursday, December 12, 2019

LOL!! I had to laugh when the article mentioned "low temp cooking" as being oven and broiler cooking. Oven cooking can be set to high temps and broiler cooking is always high temp.

GeoffRussell Saturday, February 7, 2015

You say "meat is among the least environmentally friendly foods" and then propose wild meat, which is far less environmentally friendly than normal meat ... per kilogram produced. Consider, for example, wild duck meat compared to factory farmed chicken. My country, Australia, consumes about a 1.5 million chickens a day. If we tried to replace that with wild duck meat, there would be no ducks in a matter of days. Switching from factory farmed meat to wild meat is a recipe for extinction. It only "works" because hardly anybody does it. If your "Nordic diet" was widely followed it would lead to mass extinctions of wildlife ... not to mention gross cruelty as millions of hunters took to the wilds with shotguns, traps, and snares. If you are sincerely concerned about the environmental consequences of dietary choices ... ie., you want to minimise your impact ... then you'll be vegan [or very, very close].

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