Book Review: The Nordic Way

The Nordic Way
By Arne Astrup, Jennie Brand-Miller and Christian Bitz
Pam Krauss Books/Avery (2017)
Reviewed by Holly R. Layer, RD

Claims:

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.

Bottom Line:

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.

 

 

 

po-TAY-to

Let’s talk about the humble potato. They come in multiple colors and sizes, they’re dirt (haha, get it?) cheap and you probably ate one within the last 48 hours. Potatoes have been a pantry staple since, well, forever. Potatoes were discovered in Peru and brought to Europe via Spain. In the late 1500s, potatoes made it to Ireland, where they became a huge hit because of their ease of cultivation and nutritional value. Because they became such an important crop, during the Potato Famine in the mid-1800s, almost 1 million Irish died and another million emigrated. Today, they are the world’s fourth largest crop, behind rice, wheat and corn.

White potatoes have gotten a bad wrap lately in the diet department, as folks have lumped them together with white bread and labeled them ‘bad carbs.’ Before we go any further, let’s pause and talk about ‘bad’ versus ‘good’ carbs. First of all, none of our food items are misbehaving in the pantry, so categorizing them with terms more akin to a moral code seems silly. Second, carbs aren’t ‘bad’ for us at all; approximately 50% (or more!) of our diet should be made up of carbohydrates so that we have sufficient energy to function. What I try to emphasize from a nutritional standpoint is to choose nutritionally dense (i.e. foods high in nutritional value, low in things like added sugars, etc…) food more often than calorically dense foods. In short, I’d rather someone get more of their carbs from fruits and vegetables and a smaller amount of grains, rather than relying solely on grain products (such as bread, crackers, cereals, etc…) to get their carbs. Perhaps we should be describing potatoes as ‘better for you’ carbs and cookies as ‘less nutritionally dense.’

Back to the potato! It’s a great source of vitamins, minerals and fiber while being low in calories. Unfortunately, we don’t often eat our white potatoes plain, which is where we get in trouble. Read up on the facts below and consider making some tweaks to your potato game at the dinner table!

Potato Nutrition Facts:

– One small white potato has about 130 calories, nearly 4 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein. Potatoes are high in potassium and Vitamin C, as well as iron and magnesium.

-Sweet potatoes are similar, but do have a slightly different nutritional profile. One small sweet potato has about 115 calories, 4 grams fiber and 2 grams protein. They aren’t as high in potassium or Vitamin C, but they are incredibly high in Vitamin A (it’s the beta carotene—how it gets it’s orange color).

-Whoa! Check out these calorie counts, all based on a 5-ounce potato: loaded baked potato, 415 cals; hash browns fried in oil, 375 cals; French fries, 440 cals. Reminder, a plain potato has only about 130 calories.

-Don’t compare white potatoes to white bread; bread has been refined and processed and has lost much of its nutritional value, while a potato has not.

-Purple potatoes are also pretty cool. They are similar to white potatoes nutritionally, but contain 4 times the amount of antioxidants! Try them in a potato salad with celery, dill and onion.

-Don’t forget to eat your potato skins! Some of the fiber and vitamins are contained in the skin, so unless you’re mashing them, consider eating the skin, too.

-Top a small baked potato with ¼ C plain Greek yogurt, ¼ cup salsa and a sprinkle of cheddar cheese. You’ll add only 80 calories and 9 grams of protein, totaling approximately 210 calories and 11 grams protein, perfect as a light lunch or paired with 2 ounces of meat and a side salad for dinner.

-Roast a batch of sweet potatoes to eat as sides at dinner, sprinkled with cinnamon and mixed with a nut butter and plain yogurt for lunch or thrown into a smoothie at breakfast.

Swanson Health Products

Awhile back, Swanson Health Products contacted me and offered to let me pick out some items from their website.  I was already familiar with Swanson, since another RD blogger I follow, Kath, promotes their probiotics.  I’d actually been thinking of trying a probiotic, but wasn’t ready to make a call on a specific one right then.  Continue reading “Swanson Health Products”