The Fundamentals Of The Nordic Diet
- Balanced meals with an emphasis on seasonal vegetables and whole grains.
- Home-cooking with fresh ingredients, including home-baked bread.
- Eat less.
- Eat fatty fish twice a week, like herring, mackerel and salmon.
- Eat vegetarian meals.
- Eat less poultry, game or meat.
- Take time to eat with friends and family on a daily basis.
- Exercise every day as part of your routine.
The countries of the Northern Hemisphere have their own very healthy food culture, ingredients and traditions which have, for too long, been eclipsed by the perceived benefits of the cuisines of other nations deemed to be intrinsically better for us. Rediscovering our Northern heritage also helps us address several issues around food other than health.
Eating the Nordic way is grounded in tradition, but is also very much a modern everyday cuisine incorporating influences from other cultures. It is based on the produce available in the Northern hemisphere, where many grain and vegetable crops grow naturally or have ideal conditions for cultivation, where animals live wild or are farmed, and where fish that favour cold waters are caught.
Scientific evidence supports the claim that a balanced diet based on a wide range of ingredients with a variety of minerals, vitamins, beneficial fatty acids and natural disease-fighting compounds will help you live a healthier and happier life. Of course, that alone is not enough. We also need to eat less; to exercise meal control. Over-eating is the biggest health problem we face. No quick diet really helps solve that, but a lifestyle change will. Balance is at the core of wellbeing.
The Nordic diet offers this balance, but it is allied with a growing organic, eco-conscious movement too and a focus on seasonality, so that during the year we try to dine more or less according to what nature has to offer. Coupled with that is an active outdoor lifestyle in which we cycle daily to work, and we take part in sport or other physical activities all year round. Whether we’re hiking, skiing or swimming, nature is always part of our life even from infancy, when we spend time outside every day, no matter the weather.
The Nordic countries also offer a way of life that can add positively to the debate on the right balance between work, leisure, family time and time spent cooking and eating. In the Nordic countries we still cook a good deal and bake our own bread. The evening meal is still a daily family event and that is an important part of being happy and healthy. Cooking your own food gives you greater control over what you eat.
It is a myth that everything was better in the old days. The food industry was not as developed as it is now and, faced with various socio-economic problems, we were not capable of feeding the population after the Second World War. So when we consider all the problems today caused by the food industry, manifested in unrecognizable food that is full of additives, fat, sugar and salt, it becomes apparent that these are to some extent the result of circumstances in which we thought it necessary to produce food as efficiently and plentifully as possible. These developments were also linked to the fact that many more women had entered the workforce, and generally nobody else volunteered to take over the cooking. This created a huge gap for the food industry to fill and our food culture suffered immensely.
This is, of course, a very short and generalized description of a highly complex problem, because there are a lot of important issues at stake here. However, I believe that with the knowledge we have today about health, we have to move forward and stop romanticizing the past. We have to decide on the food culture we want in future and work out how we are going to get people back into their kitchens, to cook food themselves from fresh ingredients; and start baking again from nutritious wholegrain flour.
To eat Nordic is to cook food that is full of flavour, and to eat healthily without having to count calories or obey strict dietary rules. It affords us an opportunity to change our diet according to local produce, seasons, tradition and contemporary taste. Never before have the developed nations had access to so much food from all over the world; never has there been so much choice. However, in order to play our part in a sustainable global food culture, we must focus on our local cuisines, traditions and produce.
At this point in history we have an extraordinary opportunity to re-examine our food habits and, with our knowledge and technology, to develop a diet that encompasses different traditions with local produce.