The Nordic Diet, Explained: Charting the Rise of Eating Scandinavian-Style

All the while, researchers from the University of Copenhagen collaborated with Noma to officially outline, and share, the Nordic diet’s central components.

Come the new decade, Nordic gastronomy was firmly cemented as a wellness cuisine. When Williamsburg’s buzzy Bathhouse opened in November 2019, it did so with a Nordic-Japanese inspired menu. This spring, Noma co-founder and celebrity chef Mads Refslund will revamp the culinary program and lead a wellness retreat at Water Mill’s Shou Sugi Ban House on Earth Day.

Refslund says he plans to hone in on hyper-seasonal, local, and wild ingredients grown on Long Island—asparagus, pattypan squash, kohlrabi, black currant leaves, fiddlehead ferns, and pickled green strawberries are just some of the ingredients found on the menu. He also has his culinary team foraging for young spruce tips, cattail shoots and stalks, and birch tree sap on Shou Sugi Ban House’s grounds. Some sample dishes they’ll serve up? Chickpea and hazelnut spread with toasted rye bread and bean sprouts, Boston mackerel with grilled heart of romaine, buttermilk and salted egg yolks, and grilled salmon belly with ginger and flowers from their garden. (He, too, likes to intertwine his Nordic menu with Asian influences.)

Refslund will also be teaching cooking classes and foraging workshops, so guests can learn how to adapt a Nordic diet into their own lives.

He also points that the Nordic Diet goes beyond personal wellness: “A Nordic diet is predominantly plant-based so it’s easier on the environment because it requires fewer natural resources,” he explains. “We grow most of our ingredients, eat less processed foods and don’t eat as much beef as other cultures and instead incorporate freshwater fish, like salmon, mackerel and shellfish, lean cuts of pork or veal, and poultry as healthy proteins.”

That sustainability focus, perhaps, is the diet’s staying power. While so many trendy culinary habits fall out of favor—cabbage soup or South Beach diets, for example—eating the Nordic way is not only for your benefit, but everyone’s. “I think consumers are leaning more towards fresh, honest ingredients while trying to eat more locally-sourced foods for freshness as they are becoming more aware about the environmental impact and the idea of eating closer to nature,” says Refslund.

However, the Nordic diet’s focus on local, wild, and low-impact ingredients can also be its difficulty. It’s a bit hard to forage for berries when you live in an urban apartment. Nor does every supermarket carry wild meats. (Although you can directly order from ranches on “The Nordic diet emphasizes home cooking and local sourcing, which may not be practical or easy for many people,” admits Marlowe. So here’s what she suggests: “I say take what principles you can from the Nordic diet—for example eating more whole veggies and organic berries, eliminating refined carbohydrates and processed foods, and choosing the highest quality sources of your animal proteins.” She, for one, incorporates the diet into her life by adding Nordic berry powders to her morning breakfast bowls.

Or you can just copy what’s in Refslund’s fridge: “I always have rye bread on-hand as well as a variety of whole grains (amaranth, chia seeds, oats); fresh fruits, leafy greens and root vegetables; eggs, nuts and seeds; and freshwater fish, as well as yogurt and cheeses.”

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