Monday 29 November 2010

Embracing The Nordic Diet

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One of the things that strikes you when walking around Gothenburg isn’t the stunning beauty of the city, or the overwhelming sight of gorgeous Swedes. It took me a while to work it out. It was an absence rather than a presence. And then I realised as I bumped into a fat person. Fatties are rare in Sweden. So much so that you land up staring at them and joking about whether they are Americans! Sure you see some big people. But they tend to be big boned Vikings rather than lardy layabouts.

A confluence of events spurred me into changing my diet to be more Scandinavian – my shirts were uncomfortable, I found myself wearing jumpers the whole time and I saw a sickening photograph of myself on a beach. And then, as if the fat Gods were watching, a nice person from Quadrille sent me a copy of The Nordic Diet. Initially I was sceptical and scoffed at the idea of a book with the word “diet” in the title. But then I did some background reading and cooked a couple of recipes… and now I am scoffing at myself for scoffing in the first place.

The Nordic Diet, by Trina Hahnemann, is inspired by the fact that the Nordic countries have very low levels of obesity. It stands to reason, therefore, that the dietary patterns of this part of the world might play a role. As you can imagine there’s plenty of debate because it is so hard to prove, but it is being championed by Arne Astruo from the University of Copenhagen who have put £12million behind it. Nutritionists are touting it as a more suitable alternative for Brits than the rather expensive and tricky Mediterranean diet which calls for lashings of olive oil, tomatoes and fresh fish. The Daily Mail says, “Nutritionists even predict the Viking diet could be to the 21st century what the Mediterranean diet was to the 20th.”

The Nordic Diet echoes the Mediterranean Diet’s slow approach to eating but takes things a few steps further by suggesting that we cut down our meat intake and instead eat more lean game, berries, brassicas, fish, vegetables and ancient grains that release their energy stores more slowly and provide more fibre.

Given that meat is expensive in Sweden and that the fish is so fresh, I’ve found myself naturally synching with this Nordic approach to eating. It’s left me feeling healthier, a stone or two lighter, less impoverished and far more appreciative of good meat when I eat it. It’s also led to me discovering new dishes and has encouraged me to experiment more with vegetables and grains like beetroot, kale and spelt. The only weird thing about it is that none of my Swedish friends have ever heard of it!

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Trina Hahnemann’s book is an inspirational foundation for living a healthier, more balanced life. The opening section explains the nuts and bolts of the “diet” which is as much about lifestyle as it about hardcore nutrition. The book then continues to offer ideas for salads, soups, fishy and meaty main courses as well as puddings and solid advice about Scandinavian baking. I’ve tried many of the ideas in the book such as delicious beetroot burgers, roast chicken with rhubarb, fabulous fish cakes and fish wrapped in cabbage leaves and will be sharing these dishes with your shortly.

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My only criticisms are that there aren’t enough recipes and that every now and again they aren’t quite as exciting as they could be. But that’s the flip side of a diet book I guess. But I can’t criticise the amount of flavour the recipes deliver given the simple ingredients they involve. So as well as sharing my experiences with Trina’s recipes I am also going to give a few ideas of my own that are based on the principles of The Nordic Diet but with a few twists. In the meantime, if you are feeling a bit podgy and are keen for a culinary adventure rather than lots of cut backs, then join me in embracing The Nordic Diet.

Thanks to Quadrille for the book and for helping me fit into my old wardrobe. And I hope these photos of the book's wonderful photos aren't some horrific breach of copyright!

Further reading:

Collection of Nordic Diet links on my Delicious feed
Trina Hahnemann's Scandinavian Kitchen on Amazon
Trina Hahnemann's The Nordic Diet on Amazon


headbangerhank said...

Your cooking looks wonderfully delicious. Your pictures always makes me hungry. It's really funny being able to read ans see some pictures of my hometown and I've grown to wonder if you are working as a chef in Göteborg? Or is it more of a personal interest?

Jonathan said...

@headbangerhank - Glad you like the pictures - albeit the ones in this post are photos of photos from a book. I work for an advertising agency so my cooking is just a hobby. Gothenburg is a very cool place and I am loving it here.

Abigail Rogers said...

Beautiful pictures! I really admire your blog.

Feel free to check out my blog! It’s chock full of beautiful photos around Great Britain, recipes, mini-biographies of famous Britons, etc., etc.. Hope to see you there!

Jonathan said...

@AbbyRogers - Nice. Lovely photos. Glad you like the Paunch.

An American in London said...

In defense of my countrymen, I've seen just as many large people in the UK as I recall seeing in the US. : )

Good on you for bringing up a topic that must come across most food bloggers' minds - gaining weight is def an occupational hazard. I rely a lot on exercise, but improving what I cook at home would probably a good plan, too. It sounds like the Nordic diet shares much in common with a Japanese one (fish heavy, anyway).

Jonathan said...

@An American in London - Brits are getting podgy too. It's true. You really notice it when you spend some time in Sweden. OK there are a few porkers but nowhere near the same number as the UK and America.

The Nordic Diet is quite Japanese in regard to fish and less meat. But it differs (I think) in the fact that the carbs tend to be slow release because they are whole grain, spelt, rye etc and not white rice.

gastrogeek said...

I need to move country. I actually remember a time when massive fatties used to be a rarity in the uk once upon a time...sigh!

Unknown said...

paying it forward blog style:

Going With My Gut said...

Intriguing. looking forward to more recipes in this vein from you.



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