The Nordic Way
By Arne Astrup, Jennie Brand-Miller and Christian Bitz
Pam Krauss Books/Avery (2017)
Reviewed by Holly R. Layer, RD
The Nordic Way, a Mediterranean-like diet, is based on the results of the 2010 Diet and Obesity Genes study in Europe. The ‘DiOGenes’ study followed more than 1,000 overweight adults and children who had recently lost weight. The study found that a small reduction in high-GI foods and a moderate increase in protein was able to curtail weight re-gain. The book asserts that the obesity epidemic has coincided with an increase in refined carbohydrates. While the diet structure is based on scientific research, the tone of the book is decidedly optimistic, stating that The Nordic Way is “the world’s best diet” and that by increasing intake of dairy protein, it “will help you get a flat stomach!” In no uncertain terms, the book declares that, “no matter what, you will lose weight more easily and achieve significant health benefits if you replace the high-GI foods in your diet with their low-GI counterparts” because low GI foods promote weight loss and prevent weight gain.
Synopsis of Diet Plan:
The Nordic Way promotes two guiding principles: the 2:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein, and that lower-GI carbohydrates are better for weight loss and maintenance. Like the Mediterranean diet, The Nordic Way is heavy on fruits and veggies, emphasizes whole grains and highlights lean sources of protein. Fat is less of a player in The Nordic Way, but healthy sources from cold water fish, nuts and canola oil are recommended, as well as low-fat dairy. The book asserts that a “modestly higher protein and slightly lower amounts of carbs” will enhance satiety, reduce hunger and increase metabolism. The eating plan does not preclude any one food group or item, even if it is a high-GI carbohydrate, and many recipes feature higher-GI items, such as potatoes. The book provides a list of GI values for common foods, alternatives to high-GI foods, sample weekly meal plans and more than 80 recipes.
Nutritional Pros and Cons:
While the tone of the book may leave something to be desired, the eating plan itself does not. The book explains the difference between hunger and appetite, emphasizes the importance of satiety and the palatability of meals, and that ‘quick-fixes’ and deprivation diets don’t yield lasting results. It also doesn’t eliminate foods or food groups, including high-GI carbohydrates, but rather offers alternatives or to enjoy those items in moderation. The Nordic Way eating style relies heavily on lower-GI carbohydrates and lean sources of protein, such as rye breads, lowfat dairy and fish. It also introduces the reader to new foods, such as whole kernel rye bread (the dense, moist variety) and skyr, Icelandic yogurt. The diet does not advocate for counting calories or restricting, but challenges participants to learn to stop eating when they are satisfied, which may happen sooner with slower-digesting carbohydrates and sufficient protein at each meal.
The book may over-promise results, but adopting a ‘Nordic-style’ eating pattern is perfectly healthy. The book provides easy-to-understand explanations for the diet, as well as weekly meal plans and easy-to-prepare recipes with minimal ingredients. Some readers may have trouble trying to figure out the 2:1 ratio, but the concept is relatively simple. Because the eating pattern is based on the results of a study of overweight individuals, it may appeal to those who are trying to maintain weight loss in addition to those trying to lose more weight.
As a side note, I’ve incorporated full-fat cottage cheese and that dense, rye bread into my diet, and had already been eating full-fat Icelandic plain yogurt and find I’m satiated for longer periods of time. I also like the simple combinations of foods, at they are often things I already have in my kitchen, such as deli meat on whole grain bread with cottage cheese and vegetables.