Have you ever wondered why Scandanavian people look so incredibly healthy? The Mediterranean diet has long been heralded as one of the best means to preserve health and prevent disease. But the LiveWell for LIFE team have published detailed recommendations for what they are calling the “New Nordic Diet” – and this could be the future as far as our health, and the health of the planet is concerned.
Studies looking at the contribution of diets in Spain, France, and Sweden show that the consumption of animal products such as meat and dairy contribute significantly to carbon emissions and their noted impact on climate change.
The European food chain is responsible for “an estimated 30% of Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions and 20% of its fossil fuel consumption”. The LiveWell for LIFE project has set a target of a 25% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the food chain by 2020.
Additionally, research has historically shown that a Mediterranean-style diet seems to help protect against type II diabetes. However, the prevalence of type II diabetes in France and Spain now appears to be higher than it is in Sweden. The average Spanish adult eats almost 163grams of meat a day, too many refined cereal products, and far less fruit and vegetables. In contrast, the New Nordic Diet guidelines suggest that we should eat more calories from plant foods and fewer from meat; more foods from the sea and lakes and from the wild countryside. The Nordic Diet is also much more rich in fat, but it's the types of fat and their ratios that seems to matter more.
Fortunately, research shows that we can afford to eat well if we choose foods that are lower in energy, but higher in nutrients such as beans, lentils and dark leafy greens such as cabbage and kale.
Specific recommendations are as follows:
- Switch from refined cereals to wholegrain cereals, such as porridge oats.
- Limit your consumption of animal products that are high in saturated fats. Emphasise oily fish and nuts and seeds that are high in unsaturated fats instead.
- Switch from high fat dairy to low fat dairy.
- Increase intake of vegetables, beans and lentils, fruits and berries.
- Minimise consumption of the following products as far as possible: processed meat, red meat, food and drink with added sugar, salt and alcohol.
So what would an ideal plate look like? In my opinion, a quick way to translate these recommendations to your plate are as follows:
– 1 cupped handful of protein rich foods, such as beans and lentils, nuts and seeds, eggs (limit intake to 4-6 yolks a week), chicken, turkey or oily fish
– 1 cupped handful of cooked green and cruciferous vegetables such as kale, cabbage, broccoli, or 2 cupped handfuls of fresh salad greens
– 1 cupped handful of brightly coloured fruit and vegetables such as berries, apples, tomatoes, squash, and peppers
– 1 cupped handful of cooked starchy grains and vegetables such as squash, potatoes, quinoa, and brown rice
– drink 35mls of fresh water and herbal teas per kilogram of body weight, and more if you’re exercising
The more local and seasonal your produce is, the more nutrients it will contain and the better value you will enjoy for money. There’s nothing like a tomato picked fresh from the vine!
If you would like some seriously tasty recipes and meal plans to help you to implement these recommendations at home AND lose a dress or a shirt size in 2 weeks, why not check out my New Nordic Challenge here.
Wishing you all the best in health and happiness,