Should You Try the "Viking Diet"?

Move over, Paleo—eating the Nordic way is one of this year's biggest health trends.
Michelle Villett
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Move over, Paleo—eating the Nordic way is one of this year's biggest health trends.

It was bound to happen. With everything Scandi in style right now—travel, home decor, fashion, even beauty products—it was only a matter of time before people started taking interest in the Scandi way of eating.

That's Scandi as in Scandinavian, as in Nordic, as in... Vikings!

Yep, the latest diet bandwagon for jumping on is the "Viking Diet", also known as the "New Nordic Diet" and inspired by the eating habits of people from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

Some are also calling it the "Ikea Diet", but it's not really about eating these (damn):

Ikea meatballs

The famous Ikea meatballs.

Nor does it include those tasty Ikea cinnamon buns, also known as "kanelsnäcka". (Do other countries have their smell strategically wafting as you stand in the checkouts like we do? Kind of unfair to get people when they're the most hangry, after shopping.)

Instead, the Viking Diet looks more like this:

Viking diet

On the menu for Vikings.

I spy some fatty fish, some potatoes and... I'm really not sure what the other stuff is. Tzatziki? Honeydew melon?

Okay, maybe not. Apparently the mainstays of the diet—first created by a group of nutritionists, chefs and scientists in 2004 but popularized recently by Vogue and several university studies—are canola oil, berries, root vegetables and cod. All native ingredients of Scandinavia.

Medical researchers are excited because eating this way can help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and assist with weight loss.

So what's it all about? And should you try it? 

Here's the 10-point plan for eating the Viking way, plus my thoughts!

1. More Fruit and Vegetables Every Day

Well, who could argue with this one? Every diet is always telling us to eat more fruits and veggies! Fruits are low-fat, low-cal and high in nutrients such as vitamin C and potassium. As for vegetables, the emphasis in the Viking Diet is specifically on root veggies. I love carrots, and potatoes are just about the perfect food—much more nutritious than breads and pastas. Just watch out for cruciferous vegetables like kale, broccoli and cauliflower, which could suppress your all-important thyroid function.

2. More Whole Grain

Think rye, spelt, oats and barley. Fair enough—I think we can all agree that some homemade oatmeal or Wasa crispbread is surely a better choice than a bowl of heavily processed, chemical breakfast cereal! But the potatoes and fruits, i.e. non-complex carbs, would be even better.

3. More Food From the Seas and Lakes

Also a great idea—sort of. Mercury toxicity is a big problem with larger fatty fish such as tuna, swordfish and sea bass. Overfishing is also a huge threat to our oceans, so check out the Ocean Wise database to determine if your seafood is sustainably caught. Farmed and Dangerous has some good information on the health concerns with farmed seafood. Some of the safer seafood choices include cod, sole and shellfish such as oysters, shrimp and squid—all contain important trace minerals such as selenium. (Note: I stopped eating salmon when I read this!)

4. Higher-Quality Meat, But Less of It

No factory-farmed chicken or hot dogs for Vikings. Their meat was pastured, which means the animals were grass-fed year-round. If only! This is a nice goal, but the last time I checked, a grass-fed rib eye roast was $75 at my local organic butcher. So we'd really have to be eating less of it to be able to afford it. When you do eat muscle meats, it's a good idea to balance them with some gelatin.

5. More Food From Wild Landscapes

I'm all for wild-caught seafood, but foraging for wild plants—moss, bark, twigs, mushrooms and the like? No thanks! (I'm pretty sure this was what Shailene Woodley was going on about last year, right?) Unless you're an expert botanist, you might catch parasites or even poison yourself. And seriously... people who are not lost for days in a forest are eating bark and twigs now? OMG.

6. Organic Produce Whenever Possible

Just like the grass-fed beef thing, wouldn't we all love to get our Gwyneth Paltrow on and follow an all-organic diet? Lucky for us, there is EWG to tell us when to save and when to splurge. Their annual "Clean Fifteen" list reveals the foods that are the least likely to be contaminated with pesticides (so you can get away with buying the regular kind). Then there is the famous "Dirty Dozen", with apples at the very top. Take note!

7. Avoid Food Additives

Yes, yes and yes! We all know that MSG is a baddie, but what about carrageenan, guar gum, glycerides, artificial flavours or flavour packs and polyunsaturated oils? Ingredient labels are getting longer and more mysterious by the day. My rule of thumb is if I don't know what it is, I don't eat it. (Which can get depressing, because then there's not much left at the grocery store... but it is what it is.)

8. More Meals Based on Seasonal Produce

Maybe the Vikings were the first people to do "farm to table". I love the idea of eating locally and in season, and it's certainly the best thing for the environment. In the Canadian climate, it just means a looong monotonous winter full of root vegetables. But maybe that's not such a bad thing, because is anything sadder than the off-season tomato?

9. More Home-Cooked Food

I love cooking at home. I also have trust issues with restaurants. Are they stirring sticks of butter—or worse, glugs of vegetable oil—into my food to make it taste richer, calories be damned? There are also some serious hygiene issues to worry about. Just sayin'.

10. Less Waste

I take it they mean "less waste" as in fewer processed foods and the crazy amount of packaging that entails. Food packaging waste actually accounts for almost two-thirds of total packaging waste by volume, and 50 percent by weight of total packaging sales. Crazy! Nature already made the best packaging and it's called "peel".

Plus... Canola Oil?

One thing that's not mentioned in the above 10 points is canola oil. On the Viking Diet, you're meant to use it instead of olive oil, because it has a high percentage of unsaturated fat. Eeks! You might want to read this before you do that. 

Disclaimer: The health information on this website is for information and discussion purposes only. It should not be used to treat or diagnose disease or health problems.

Have Your Say

What do you think of the Viking Diet? Would you try it? Why or why not?