New Nordic diet: How Viking-inspired eating can boost health

The New Nordic diet, a food philosophy based on the Vikings’ habits of old, is a white hot weight loss trend. So what’s on the menu?

They’re known for pillaging the coasts of Europe between the ninth and 11th Centuries, but the horn-helmeted Vikings were far more than bloody thirsty warriors.

Archaeological evidence shows they were surprisingly civilised when it came to cuisine.

Director of Designer Diets in Sydney, dietitian Geraldine Georgeou said the ancient Norse people not only hunted but fished a variety of seafood.

“Through the winter months, meat and fish were salted to extend shelf life and the Vikings also ate a lot of nuts, berries and grains,” Geraldine explains.

“Milk from cows and goats were used to make butter and cheese to keep them warm during the freezing Nordic winters.”

So what can we learn from Nordic-eating?

The Vikings ate healthily, locally sourced food

Ferocious fighters and shield maidens aside, many Vikings were in fact farmers and traders.

Research shows they grew vegetable gardens, cultivated fruit orchards, kept cows for milk and meat, and farmed pigs, chickens and sheep.

They also hunted whatever was available, including reindeer, elk, bear, deer, seal and fish, and picked herbs and spices to season their food.

Porridge, yoghurt and barley flatbread were popular.

And, yes, history shows they loved their ale and mead (which was often actually safer to drink than Middle Ages water).

Vikings ate only two meals a day

The “dagmal”, or day meal, was consumed an hour after waking up.

And “nattmal”, a leisurely dinner, took place after the long days’ work, when families gathered to eat at a communal table.

No lunch breaks for the busy Norse people, although they may have snacked on salty fish, apples and walnuts.

Such habits which would serve us well in 2022 says The Nutrition Guy, dietitian Joel Feren.

“Including nutrient-rich snacks should be the order of the day when hunger strikes between meals,” Joel says.

“And foods like apples and walnuts tick several nutrition boxes.

“However, I’d recommend tinned tuna, salmon or sardines as an alternative to salty fish.”

What does the New Nordic Diet look like?

Viking’s healthy eating habits are being passed on to new generations through the New Nordic Diet, also known as the Scandinavian Diet.

The diet encourages a lot of locally sourced seasonal whole founds, including wholegrains, particularly rye, barley and oats, fruits and berries, vegetables (especially root vegetables such as beets, turnips and carrots), fatty fish, low-fat dairy, legumes, and eggs and game meat in moderation.

Crafted by a group of Danish scientists, nutritionists and chefs to help combat growing obesity in Scandinavia, this environmentally conscious eating plan has been found to rival the hugely popular Mediterranean diet in terms of boosting overall health.

Benefits of eating like a Viking

In addition to helping to control weight, the New Nordic Diet is thought to help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.

“Research tells us time and time again, we should eat more natural foods,” Joel says.

“Eating this way maximises our nutrient intake and reduces our consumption of overly processed foods that often contain too much fat, sugar and salt.”

How is the Nordic diet different to the Mediterranean diet?

One of the biggest differences lies in fat source.

While the Mediterranean diet is all about olive oil, the Nordic diet features rapeseed oil, more widely known as canola which, Geraldine says, is also high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats.

“It’s a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which may help to lower cholesterol and has a high smoke point, which can be helpful for high-heat cooking too,” she says.

Principles of the New Nordic Diet

  • Less red meat, more fish. Make your meat lean when you have it and go for oily fish for healthy omega-3 fats which can help prevent heart disease.
  • Snack on berries. High into antioxidants which offer protection from cancer, heart disease and strokes, berries are the sweetest of Viking fare.
  • Choose Rye bread. A fave with the Vikings, Rye bread is a top sources of fibre says Geraldine, “due to its fermentation qualities and the fact it’s packed with wholegrains”.
  • Root vegetables rock. Popular in cold weather climes like Scandinavia, root vegetables are an excellent source of fibre, magnesium and potassium, the experts say.
  • Eat mindfully. While there are no strict guidelines around meal timings, the New Nordic Diet’s originators suggest you eat mindfully and communally. Sit at the table. Slow down and breathe. Share meals with family and friends. You’ll be noshing like Norse-ite and Scandi slim before you know it.

Written by Liz McGrath.