Today the Nordic Council of Ministers, has unveiled the latest Nordic Nutrition Recommendations (NNR)*. These guidelines represent the most recent scientific findings on how people should eat for optimal health. The research, which involved around 400 researchers and experts, has concluded that dietary habits that benefit health also tend to favour the environment and climate.
The NNR is a product of a collective Nordic effort to investigate the relationship between food and health. According to Åsa Brugård Konde, a nutritionist at the Swedish National Food Agency, this collaborative approach is crucial for smaller nations like Sweden, which may find it challenging to conduct such comprehensive studies independently.
Unlike traditional dietary guidelines, which focus exclusively on human health and nutritional needs, the latest NNR also includes environmental considerations. The intent is to encourage dietary practices that do not unduly impact the environment and climate.
Transitioning Towards a More Sustainable Diet
Echoing the existing dietary guidelines in Sweden, the new NNR advocates for a diet that emphasizes plant-based foods and limits meat consumption. “What is good for health is generally also good for the environment and climate,” says Konde.
Konde clarified that the new guidelines do not call for a complete abandonment of meat. Rather, the objective is to encourage reduced meat consumption, primarily for health reasons.
Key Recommendations of the Nordic Nutrition Guidelines
For both personal health and environmental sustainability, the NNR advises a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, berries, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
It also encourages more consumption of sustainably sourced fish, moderate intake of low-fat dairy products, and lesser consumption of foods high in fat, salt, sugar, and alcohol.
For health and the environment, NNR recommends:
- Plenty of vegetables, fruit, berries, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, nuts and seeds
- More fish from sustainably managed fish stocks
- Moderate amounts of low-fat dairy products
- Less meat and pork
- Fewer foods high in fat, salt and sugar
- Less alcohol. The controversial proposal that breastfeeding mothers should abstain from alcohol altogether is not included in the final version
Most Important Food Every Day/Week
- Drink: A moderate consumption of coffee, 1-4 cups a day can be part of a healthy diet. Good quality tap water is preferable to bottled mineral water. Consumption of energy drinks and unfiltered coffee or instant coffee should be limited.
- Grains: An intake of 90 grams of whole grains is recommended every day.
- Vegetables: Get as much variety of vegetables, fruits and berries as possible. At least 500 to 800 grams per day, preferably more.
- Potatoes: Should be a mainstay of the Nordic diet, but they should be boiled or baked. As little fried potatoes as possible.
- Fruit juice: Low or moderate intake, children should not drink too much fruit juice.
- Legumes: Beans, lentils and peas should be a significant part of the diet. Contain many important nutrients such as iron, protein and zinc.
- Nuts: 20 to 30 grams of nuts per day is the new recommendation. Nuts are full of nutrients and have a low carbon footprint.
- Fish: At least 300 to 450 grams of cooked fish per week, and 200 grams should be oily fish.
- Red meat: no more than 350 grams of cooked red meat per week. With respect to the environment, meat consumption should be lower. Consumption of processed meat should be as low as possible.
- Poultry: Preferably as little as possible. To reduce the environmental impact, consumption must be reduced.
- Dairy products: Choose low-fat dairy products, 350 to 500 milliliters per day is enough to get the necessary vitamins.
- Eggs: moderate consumption.
- Fats and oils: It is recommended to get at least 25 grams of vegetable oils per day. Reduce the consumption of butter and tropical oils.
- Sweets: A limited consumption of sweets and foods with added sugar is recommended.
- Alcohol: There is no safe consumption, and all alcohol consumption is discouraged. It is a toxic substance that affects all organs of the body, and alcohol is linked to several types of cancer.
The update of the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations was commissioned by the Nordic Council of Ministers and led by a group of representatives from food authorities and researchers in all the Nordic countries.
The NNR work is very extensive, with around 400 researchers reviewing the current state of knowledge. The experts are accepted on the basis of their strictly scientific credentials after a rigorous peer review. The work has been ongoing since 2019.
The researchers’ conclusions have been presented in around 50 scientific papers. The working method has been very transparent; both the documentation and the proposal for new nutritional recommendations have been out for consultation, open to everyone to comment on.
The Nordic Nutrition Recommendations are not only the basis for dietary advice but also for the Swedish National Food Agency’s guidelines for meals in health care, schools and social services, the requirements of the Keyhole label and much other work in Sweden on food and health.
The NNR is updated approximately every ten years. The first Nordic nutritional recommendations were developed in the 1980s, with support from the Nordic Council of Ministers.