Most of us are familiar with basic U.S. dietary guidelines and it’s no secret that the typical American diet is a bit lackluster.  I make a game of comparing our guidelines to dietary patterns from around the world.  Many other countries take their own guidelines a step further by considering other factors such as the environment, quality of the food, and seasonal eating. Most traditional diets are all healthy in their own way, each specifically tailored to its native environment.  More recently, a lot of us have been trying to make a move back to tradition by experimenting with “eating like a caveman” aka the Paleo diet.  The Mediterranean diet has also been popular for its palatability and success with weight loss, but now the neighbors to the north may be stealing some of its thunder.  Recent studies at the University of Copenhagen show that the Nordic diet may also help with weight loss, lower blood pressure, and improve insulin sensitivity.  The Nordic diet is based on traditional foods in Scandinavia which places importance on taste and sustainably harvested foods, not just nutrients. When it comes to rich, flavorful, and healthy food, they certainly don’t Norse around!

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Photo taken by Martin Weller/Flickr

Trail mix lovers rejoice in the Nordic Diet!

The Nordic diet is rich in berries, root vegetables, nuts, seeds, and unlike Paleo, allows for some whole grains and small amounts of dairy. Food from the ocean is an important staple making this diet high in essential omega 3 fatty acids, which is lacking in the typical American diet.  By recommending organic food whenever possible, there is also special emphasis and culture around how food is grown and raised.  Meat is still allowed, but less is advised and only high quality grass-fed or game meats.  Avoiding additives found in processed foods by preparing more simple meals at home and choosing seasonal produce to maximize freshness are all part of this rather refreshing plan.

So what does the typical Viking meal look like?  Grains that are commonly consumed include oats, rye and barley.  Rye bread sandwiches are common.  Aside from root vegetables, cruciferous veggies such as cabbage and dark leafy greens are also abundant.  Note that these types of vegetables are important detoxifiers, something we could probably all use as we recover from the holidays and make a fresh start for 2015.  Sea buckthorn is a sour nutrient-packed fruit that is not well known in the U.S. (it can be found at health food stores here), but is high in Vitamin C, E, essential fatty acids and rich in flavonoids.  Try adding sea buckthorn to your homemade juices!  For more inspiration, this is a good place to start: http://denmark.dk/en/lifestyle/food-drink/new-nordic-recipes/.

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Photo taken by Josefine Stenudd/Flickr

At the end of the day, no single diet is going to meet the nutritional requirements of every person or appeal to everyone.  We all have different needs and preferences when it comes to food.  Take elements that you like about different eating patterns and make your own plan that is right for you.  Happy New Year!

 

Featured photo taken by Hans Splinter/Flickr

About The Author

Jennifer Musser
Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist

Jennifer Musser was born and raised in Seattle but loves living in Denver and enjoys most everything that the city and mountains have to offer. After receiving her B.S. in Human Nutrition and Food Science from Colorado State University, she became a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist in 2004. As a Certified LEAP** Therapist, Jennifer has specialized training in food sensitivities and related inflammatory conditions. An experienced healthcare practitioner, she understands the importance of being mindful of what we eat and that both traditional and alternative nutrition therapies have a place in helping us look and feel our best. At Fitness Luxe, she will dole out sound and delicious advice on what you should be eating to make the best out of your diet for a healthy, fit and happy life. **Lifestyle Eating and Performance