By Bronte Blomhoj | Photo: Kam & Co
It happens every year: the cold winter months take you by surprise and you need extra fuel to keep you warm. Then the festive season comes around and, suddenly, you have a whole spare tyre around your waist that not only keeps you cosy and warm but also wobbles in a funny way when you walk. Before you know it, people are calling you “lardy boy” (even to your face) and you know it is time to bring out the dreaded scales.
When thinking of Scandinavians, people don’t tend to associate us with a nation full of spare tyres or with people who take up two seats when using public transport. Instead, we are often compared to beauties such as Victoria Silvstedt, and Helena Christensen and Viggo Mortensen. Flattering, even if not entirely accurate.
But are all Scandinavians thin and healthy? No – although obesity rates in Scandinavia are around 60% lower than in the UK, things have certainly started to shift a bit. With the introduction of more ever so tempting ready meals and more fast food outlets in the Nordic Countries, even we’re seeing an increase in flab. This is simply because we’re being tempted away from what is our traditional, healthy way of eating off our lands and into the realms of the fast food circus. Indeed, we Scandies also need to get back to the core of what Scandinavian food is all about and to feel the force of the rye bread.
Traditionally, Scandinavians have eaten off the land. It’s all been about preserving what we could harvest during those fertile summer months by drying, fermenting and pickling the goodies as best we could. Drawing from a landscape rich in berries, grains and fish, those Vikings consolidated a way of eating that still holds true today.
The Nordic Diet
Last year, research started to emerge from Scandinavia that this new Nordic Diet (although followed by Vikings, so by definition not so new, really) would be the way forward; the new big thing and with health benefits to pose a serious rival to the Mediterranean diets that have been so popular during the last twenty years. Out with pasta, in with herring, so to speak.
The Nordic Diet draws on the Viking principles: eat a breakfast that releases energy slowly, such as muesli or porridge. Add lots of berries to your diet, as these are packed full of vitamins and antioxidants (think blueberries, lingonberries, cloudberries). Cabbage-type vegetables are key, so bring on the pickled red cabbage and the coleslaw type salads.
Bread is made of rye and sourdough cultures. Omega 3 is added to the diet by eating lots of mackerel and herring. For meats, go for less mass produced stuff, such as game: venison, reindeer (sorry Rudolf) and even Moose (although, admittedly, Tesco’s in Hackney was out of stock of this last week). Add to this a whole load of nuts and seeds and you’re on your way to eating like a real Viking.
Much more than just a fad diet, the Nordic Diet it is a way of eating healthily, and by cutting out the mid-morning Krispy Kreme and replacing it with a handful of nuts, things will certainly start to shift from the wobbly midriff. In fact, The Nordic Diet by the Danish food writer Trina Hahnemann has just been published in the UK – and after only a week, stocks of the book were running low and they’ve started the second printing. The People are catching onto the Viking Way of life and you can expect to hear a lot about the Scandinavian way of eating in 2010.
Perhaps, this is the secret to all sensible dieting, though: if we all thought a little more about the stuff we use as fuel for our bodies and cut out the daily doughnut, the excess flab would start to disappear. Doing it the Nordic way, however, means being able to explore all those seriously delicious ingredients served with a Scandinavian twist that perhaps makes the whole issue of losing the post-Christmas flab a little easier to bear.
Follow the Nordic diet and you can indulge in open rye bread sandwiches, lots of beautiful fish and stuff yourself with berries. And maybe, just maybe, in a few months you’ll start to look like Viggo Mortensen too.
Bronte Blomhoj is the owner of Scandinavian Kitchen in Central London – a cafe/grocery store that stocks everything you need to follow a Nordic Diet. All the staff there look a little bit like Victoria Silvstedt (especially Sebastian).