The Healthy Foods of the New Nordic Diet


Scandinavian and Scandinavian-American food is often characterized in people's minds by the concept of "smorgasbord" - a long table loaded with rich and cream-laden dishes. In reality, the smorgasbord feast is generally reserved for Christmas (and is called "Julbord").

These days, much research and publicity are being given to the "New Nordic Diet," a healthful way of eating emphasizing Scandinavia's wild fish and game, native berries, whole grains, and cold climate vegetables.

Explore the benefits of the new Nordic diet through recipes that use nature's bounty in healthy ways.

  • 01 of 07

    Wild Fish, Game, and Free-Range Lamb

    Dill-Cured Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon (Gravlax)
    Yelena Strokin / Getty Images

    As people become increasingly aware of the dangers of farm-raised beef, poultry, and pork fed huge amounts of antibiotics, it's worth exploring the delicious varieties of wild fish, elk, venison, moose, and free-range lamb that have never gone out of style in Scandinavia's unique hunting and fishing culture.

    One traditional Scandinavian food based on wild salmon is gravlax. Modern gravlax has a fresh, delicate flavor and is delicious served either as an elegant appetizer or as a topping for smørrebrød, open-faced sandwiches.

  • 02 of 07

    Kjötsúpa, Icelandic Lamb Soup

    Kjötsúpa- Icelandic lamb soup
    Louis-Laurent Grandadam / Getty Images

    This traditional lamb soup uses carrots, rutabagas, and potatoes, including the cold climate vegetables of the Nordic regions.

  • 03 of 07


    Closeup of leaves of stinging nettles

    Judith Haeusler/Getty Images 

    Young nettle plants carry a sting, but they are an excellent ingredient to use in soups, pasta dishes, frittatas, and anywhere you would use spinach. They are rich in vitamin C, calcium, potassium, flavonoids, histamine, and serotonin. Learn how to harvest and prepare nettles in early spring.

  • 04 of 07

    Swedish Yellow Pea Soup Ärtsoppa Recipe

    Split Pea Soup
    Debbi Smirnoff/E+/Getty Images

    This recipe makes use of cold weather vegetables as well as dried peas for protein and a ham bone for flavor. It's a real cold-weather warmer.

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Native Scandinavian Berries

    Danish red pudding
    Thomas Angermann / Flickr / CC By 2.0

    Lingonberries, cloudberries, blueberries, wild strawberries, elderberries, black currants... all are rich in antioxidants, providing a strong line of defense against heart disease, various cancers, and other diseases caused by free radicals.

    Lingonberries are easy to grow in many areas of the United States, providing both wonderful fruit and a low evergreen groundcover in the garden. While cloudberries only grow happily north of the 55th parallel, they (like lingonberries) are readily available as preserves to anyone within driving distance of an IKEA.

  • 06 of 07

    Whole Grains

    Swedish Limpa bread
    erik forsberg / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    Wheat is difficult to grow in the northern latitudes, so Scandinavians have always depended primarily upon hardier grains like rye, barley, and oats to flavor their outstanding crispbreads, yeasted bread, porridges, and baked goods.

    Swedish limpa bread was originally made from the fermented brewer’s wort produced in beer-making. It uses rye flour as well as all-purpose flour.

  • 07 of 07

    Icelandic Thunder Bread

    Icelandic rye bread

    Erika Owen

    This moist, Icelandic dark rye bread (rugbrauð) is leavened with baking powder, not yeast, and gets its dark color and sweetness from molasses. In Iceland, it's cooked by placing pots in the geothermal springs. You can use a tin can or tented ramekin for steaming in a slow cooker.