Blog Diets The Nordic Diet: Sustainable Eating from Northern Traditions

The Nordic Diet: Sustainable Eating from Northern Traditions

Many of us start new diets and fail within the first few weeks. This is because we often focus on strict meal plans and restrictions, rather than creating a sustainable lifestyle change. The Nordic Diet is a perfect example of a sustainable eating pattern that has gained popularity in recent years. 

This diet focuses on traditional foods from Nordic countries such as Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland. Unlike many restrictive diets, the Nordic Diet isn’t about cutting out certain food groups or drastically reducing calorie intake.

Instead, it focuses on incorporating whole and nutritious foods that are commonly found in Nordic cuisine. These foods include whole grains, fish, root vegetables, berries, and low-fat dairy products.

Here’s everything you need to know about the Nordic Diet and how it can benefit your health and the environment.

History of the Nordic Diet

The Nordic Diet is based on traditional foods that have been eaten in Nordic countries for centuries. These foods were once primarily consumed during harsh winter months when access to fresh produce was limited. The diet has evolved over time, but it remains true to its roots of using locally sourced and sustainable ingredients.

In the 1960s, people living in Nordic countries started to move toward a more Western-style diet, including processed foods and high amounts of added sugar and fat. This shift led to an increase in obesity, heart disease, and other health issues (11). In response, Nordic countries started to promote their traditional diet as a healthier and more sustainable option.

Today, the Nordic Diet is seen as a dietary pattern and as a cultural heritage that promotes environmental sustainability and supports local farmers and producers.

Principles of the Nordic Diet

The Nordic Diet follows nine basic principles that guide food choices and eating habits. The main, overarching principle is to consume locally grown, seasonal, and minimally processed foods (6). Other principles include:

  • Eating more plant-based foods: The Nordic Diet emphasizes the consumption of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts.
  • Including seafood as a protein source: Fish is a staple in Nordic cuisine and is often considered a healthier alternative to red meat.
  • Rapeseed oil as the primary source of fat: This oil is rich in healthy fats and has a low carbon footprint, which makes it an environmentally friendly choice.
  • Reducing red meat consumption: While not completely eliminating it, the Nordic Diet encourages limiting red meat intake to once or twice a week.
  • Choosing quality over quantity: The focus is on eating small portions of high-quality and nutrient-dense foods rather than large quantities of highly processed or unhealthy options.
  • Limiting added sugars and saturated fats: Traditional Nordic cooking doesn’t include much added sugar or saturated fat, so this diet encourages minimizing their intake.
  • Reducing food waste: The Nordic Diet promotes using all parts of the ingredients, minimizing food waste, and supporting sustainable practices.
  • Using traditional cooking methods: The diet promotes baking, boiling, and steaming over frying and uses minimal amounts of added sugar and salt.
  • Using sustainable cooking methods: The traditional Nordic diet involves cooking methods that use minimal energy and produce less waste, such as steaming, boiling, and fermenting.
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Which Foods Are OK and Which Should Be Avoided?

The Nordic Diet encourages eating a wide variety of foods, including whole grains, root vegetables, berries, legumes, nuts, fish, and low-fat dairy products (6). Some of the commonly eaten foods on this diet include:

  • Whole grains: Barley, rye, oats, and whole wheat are staple foods in Nordic cuisine.
  • Root vegetables: Potatoes, carrots, turnips, and beets are often used in soups and stews.
  • Berries: Wild berries such as lingonberries and bilberries are rich in antioxidants and commonly used in desserts or as toppings for yogurt or oatmeal.
  • Fish: Fatty fish such as salmon, herring, and mackerel are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for heart health.
  • Legumes: Beans, peas, and lentils are often used as a protein source instead of red meat.
  • Nuts: Almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts are excellent sources of healthy fats, fiber, and various minerals.
  • Low-fat dairy products: Milk, yogurt, and cheese are consumed in moderation as a source of calcium and other essential nutrients.

While there are no strict restrictions on foods to avoid, the Nordic Diet encourages limiting or avoiding (11):

  • Processed and sugary foods: Sodas, candy, baked goods, and other highly processed snacks should be limited or avoided altogether.
  • High-fat dairy products: Butter and cream should be used sparingly.
  • Salt and added sugars: These should be minimized as much as possible.
  • Foods with a large carbon footprint: Foods that require long transport distances, such as exotic fruits and vegetables, should be minimized in order to reduce the impact on the environment.

Nordic diet  

Health Benefits of the Nordic Diet

The Nordic Diet has been linked to numerous health benefits, including a reduced risk of chronic diseases. Although studies specifically on the Nordic Diet are limited, research on the individual components of this diet has shown promising results.

See also
Carnivore Diet Meal Plan: Pros, Cons, and Everything Else There Is To Know

Promotes Heart Health

One of the most significant health benefits of the Nordic Diet is its potentially positive impact on heart health. The inclusion of fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and herring, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, may help reduce inflammation and lower the risk of heart disease (2). 

Whole grains such as rye, barley, and oats, which are staple foods in the Nordic Diet, contribute to heart health by providing a good source of fiber that helps to lower cholesterol levels. All this means that incorporating these heart-healthy components may lead to a reduced risk of cardiovascular ailments and a healthier heart (8).

Supports Weight Management

Managing weight becomes more manageable with the Nordic Diet due to its emphasis on plant-based foods and whole grains. The high fiber content from vegetables, legumes, and whole grains keeps you feeling full longer, thereby reducing the likelihood of overeating (10). 

In addition, the diet encourages the consumption of low-fat dairy products and lean proteins, such as fish, which are less calorie-dense than red meats and ultra-processed foods. When you eat foods that provide sustained energy without unnecessary calories, maintaining or losing weight becomes a more achievable and less stressful endeavor (1).

Reduces the Risk of Chronic Diseases

The Nordic Diet’s focus on fresh, minimally processed foods means it’s packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that may help fight inflammation and oxidative stress (nod). Consuming a variety of colorful fruits and berries, such as bilberries, lingonberries, and cloudberries, provides a rich source of antioxidants that combat free radicals (11). 

Reducing your intake of added sugars and saturated fats also lowers your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers. Therefore, by following the Nordic Diet, we can foster a body environment that may be less susceptible to chronic diseases, paving the way for longer and healthier lives (11).

Improves Digestive Health

Digestive health is another area where the Nordic Diet shines. With its high fiber content from whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables, this diet supports a healthy digestive system. 

Fiber acts like a broom, sweeping through the digestive tract and helping prevent constipation by adding bulk to the stool. It also acts as food for the beneficial bacteria in the gut, promoting a balanced microbiome (4). 

This may lead to improved nutrient absorption and a reduced risk of digestive issues such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) (4) So, by following the Nordic Diet, you’re not just eating delicious, wholesome foods; you’re also taking good care of your gut health.

Read more: 7-Day Weight Loss Low-Carb Diet: Choose High-Protein, High-Fiber, or Ultra-Low-Carb

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Enhances Brain Function

Who knew that eating like a Viking could be good for your brain, too? The Nordic Diet’s emphasis on fatty fish, loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, is fantastic for brain health. 

Omega-3s are essential fats that our body can’t make on its own, and they are essential for brain function. They help build and repair cell membranes in the brain, boost cognitive functions, and are even linked to a lower risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s (2). 

In addition, the antioxidants from berries and the rich variety of vitamins and minerals from fresh produce also play a role in keeping our brains sharp (9). Imagine feeling mentally alert and focused just by sticking to this age-old eating pattern.

Supports the Immune System

A robust immune system is our first line of defense against illness, and the Nordic Diet has some fantastic immune-supporting properties. This diet is rich in foods that contain vitamins and minerals essential for a healthy immune system, including vitamin C from fruits such as berries and vegetables such as cabbage  (11). 

In addition, the anti-inflammatory properties of the omega-3 fatty acids that are found in fatty fish help regulate the immune response. By reducing inflammation, these fats help the immune system fight off infections more efficiently (2). 

Eating a variety of nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory foods consistent with the Nordic Diet ensures your body is better equipped to fend off illnesses, which keeps you healthier year-round.

Nordic diet  

Enhances Skin Health

Another noteworthy benefit of the Nordic Diet is its potential positive impact on skin health. The diet’s emphasis on fish and seafood rich in omega-3 fatty acids may support skin hydration and elasticity, possibly reducing the appearance of wrinkles and dryness. 

In addition, the high intake of antioxidant-rich berries, such as bilberries and lingonberries, helps protect the skin from oxidative damage that is caused by environmental factors such as UV radiation (5). 

The consumption of plenty of fresh vegetables also provides essential vitamins such as A, C, and E, which are important for skin repair and maintenance. Therefore, by following the Nordic Diet, you may achieve a more youthful and radiant complexion (6).

Regulates Blood Sugar Levels

Maintaining stable blood sugar levels is essential for overall health, and the Nordic Diet excels in this aspect due to its focus on whole grains and low-glycemic index foods. Foods such as rye bread, oats, and barley release glucose slowly into the bloodstream, improving blood sugar control (8). 

This slow release of energy helps manage diabetes and reduces the risk of insulin resistance. Furthermore, the inclusion of fibrous vegetables and fruits further helps control blood sugar by slowing down the absorption of sugars. Therefore, adopting the Nordic Diet can contribute significantly to better blood sugar management (8).

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Alleviates Stress and Enhances Mood

The Nordic Diet may also play a role in improving mental health by alleviating stress and enhancing mood. The presence of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish, is believed to influence serotonin levels in the brain, which may help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety (2). 

Fermented foods such as kefir and pickled vegetables, which are part of the diet, contribute to gut health and subsequently influence the brain-gut axis, potentially improving mental well-being (3).

Furthermore, the practice of communal eating that the diet encourages can foster social connections, which are vital for emotional health. Therefore, the Nordic Diet nourishes the body and uplifts the mind.

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How to Incorporate the Nordic Diet into Your Lifestyle

Incorporating the Nordic Diet into your lifestyle is not as challenging as it may seem. Here are some practical tips to get you started:

1. Embrace Whole Foods

The Nordic Diet emphasizes the consumption of whole, minimally processed foods, so you should focus on incorporating these into your meals (6). Opt for whole grains such as rye bread, oats, and barley instead of refined options such as white bread and pasta. 

2. Load Up on Berries

Berries are a staple in the Nordic Diet due to their high antioxidant content (9). Include a variety of berries such as blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries in your diet by adding them to smoothies, oatmeal, salads, or enjoying them as a snack.

3. Incorporate Fatty Fish

Fatty fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, and trout are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and a significant part of the Nordic Diet. Aim to eat fatty fish at least twice a week to reap its benefits (4). If you’re not a fan of seafood, you could consider taking an omega-3 supplement.

4. Use Natural Sweeteners

The Nordic Diet discourages the use of refined sugars and artificial sweeteners. Instead, opt for natural sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup, or dates in moderation when needed – these are still considered added sugars. Avoid artificial sweeteners altogether.

5. Experiment with Fermented Foods

Fermented foods such as kefir, sauerkraut, and pickled vegetables are staples in the Nordic Diet and are known for their gut-boosting benefits (3). Incorporate these into your meals or enjoy them as a snack to add beneficial probiotics to your diet.

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6. Practice Mindful Eating

The Nordic Diet encourages slow, mindful eating in a communal setting, which can help you appreciate the food and foster social connections. Aim to eat at least one meal a day without distractions, such as phones or TV, and focus on savoring every bite (7).

7. Make Small Changes

Remember, incorporating a new diet into your lifestyle takes time and effort. Don’t make drastic changes overnight. Instead, start small and gradually incorporate more aspects of the Nordic Diet into your meals.

How Does the Nordic Diet Compare to Other Diets?

The Nordic Diet shares similarities with other healthy eating patterns, such as:

  • The Mediterranean Diet: Both diets emphasize whole, minimally processed foods, and have a high intake of fruits, vegetables, and fatty fish.
  • The DASH Diet: Both diets focus on whole grains, lean proteins, and limiting processed foods.
  • The Vegetarian/Vegan Diet: Although the Nordic Diet is not entirely plant-based like veganism or vegetarianism, it encourages a high intake of plant-based foods with sustainable and ethical practices.

However, the Nordic Diet differs from these other diets in terms of specific food choices and cultural influences. For example:

  • The Nordic Diet recommends rapeseed/canola oil as the main source of fat, while the Mediterranean Diet emphasizes olive oil.
  • Unlike the DASH Diet, the Nordic Diet doesn’t restrict sodium intake, encouraging the use of natural herbs and spices for flavoring.
  • Vegetarian/Vegan diets may require additional supplementation to meet certain nutrient requirements, while the Nordic Diet incorporates a variety of food groups that provide essential nutrients.
  • The Nordic Diet incorporates traditional Nordic foods and practices, such as foraging and communal dining, which may not be as prevalent in other diets.

Read more: 24 Weight Loss Smoothies, 2 Diet Plans, and 5 Belly Fat Smoothie Secrets

Nordic diet  


  • Is the Nordic Diet suitable for everyone?

The Nordic Diet is a well-rounded and balanced eating pattern that can benefit most individuals. However, it may not be suitable for those with specific allergies or dietary restrictions. It’s always best to consult a healthcare professional before you start any new diet.

  • Can I still enjoy my favorite foods on the Nordic Diet?

Yes, you can still indulge in your favorite foods while following the Nordic Diet, but some may need to be enjoyed in moderation. The key is to focus on incorporating whole, minimally processed foods into your diet while allowing yourself occasional treats.

  • Is the Nordic Diet expensive?

The cost of following the Nordic Diet depends on the food choices you make. While some ingredients may be pricier, such as fatty fish and organic produce, there are plenty of affordable options such as beans, legumes, and frozen berries that can help keep costs down.

  • Can the Nordic Diet help with weight loss?

The Nordic Diet is not specifically designed for weight loss but can indirectly help with weight management due to its emphasis on whole foods and a balanced approach to eating. In addition, incorporating regular physical activity and portion control can also contribute to weight loss when you follow the Nordic Diet.

The Bottom Line

The Nordic diet emphasizes whole, minimally processed foods and offers a variety of potential health benefits. From reducing the risk of chronic diseases to improving digestive and cognitive function, this way of eating is backed by science and has stood the test of time. 

Furthermore, following the Nordic Diet may also have positive impacts on skin health, blood sugar management, and emotional well-being.  While adopting the diet may require certain adjustments to your current lifestyle and food choices, it’s a well-rounded and sustainable way to nourish both the body and mind.


This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!


  1. Changing the Energy Density of the Diet as a Strategy for Weight Management (2005,
  2. Fatty acids from fish: the anti-inflammatory potential of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (2010,
  3. Fermented foods for better gut health (2023,
  5. Health Benefits of Antioxidants (2023,
  6. Less meat, more plant-based: Here are the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations 2023 (2023,
  7. Mindful Eating: The Art of Presence While You Eat (2017,
  8. Nordic diet may improve cholesterol, blood sugar levels (2022,
  9. Strong scientific evidence that eating berries benefits the brain (2012,
  10. The Effect of Fiber on Satiety and Food Intake: A Systematic Review (2013,
  11. The Nordic diet: Healthy eating with an eco-friendly bent (2015,
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