Scandi fever shows no sign of abating, and now it’s moved from hygge mania into the field of diet and nutrition. As with seemingly all things Nordic, the vibe is straightforward and no nonsense, at least it is if you’re looking at the latest healthy eating and recipe plan making waves in Waterstones: The Scandi Sense Diet by Suzy Wengel. Here’s a digest of the diet with just one simple rule…
It’s based on the ‘handful method’
Suzy Wengel has been there diet wise- she was once stuck in a cycle of losing and gaining four stone, classed as clinically obese and weighing in at around 15 and a half stone when she decided that enough was enough and she was going to throw both research and common sense at the issue to finally get a hold on her yo-yo eating patterns. She knew she had to cut calories, but counting them wasn’t working for her, ditto faddy juice cleanses or punishing exercise regimes.
Instead, after the birth of her second child, she put her background in science and biotech to good use by evaluating the world’s most and least successful diets, assessing how much protein, carbohydrate and fat she really needed in her diet and finding that for her frame it translated well into handfuls. Thus her ‘handful principle’ was born, with each meal consisting of four handfuls- two of vegetables, one of protein, one of carbohydrate and one to three spoonfuls of fat, alongside 300ml a day of dairy products if you so desire. Eating by handful not only helped Wengel to get back in touch with her appetite, recognising when she was genuinely hungry and full, but she lost over six stone in ten months and has kept it off ever since. Over 135,00 people in her homeland of Denmark have followed her Scandi Sense plan to achieve similar weight loss feats, lower cholesterol and stabilise blood sugar, so clearly you’ve got to hand it to Suzy (sorry), but is sustainable healthy eating really so clear cut?
Food Photography: Skovdal Nordic/Inge Skovdal
Nothing is banned- but being sensible is encouraged
It’s not based on ‘sense’ for nothing. Wine, chocolate and cake all get the green light, but you’ll need to adjust your handfuls/ meals throughout the day to compensate. For example, a slice of Victoria sponge is all good, but you’ll need to tweak your ‘meal box’ handfuls to accommodate it. Likewise if you don’t fancy veggies for breakfast, skip them and have a bit more Skyr (keep it Scandi), but structure your other two meals around the above handfull ratio so that meals are balanced. On the wine front, one glass equates to a handful of carbs at a meal.
Three meals a day are encouraged, incidentally, and rough measurements and weights are included in the book if you’re not quite getting the hang of the handfull thing. There some light caveats to be aware of too- dairy should be 3.5% fat and max 5g sugar per 100g, ‘daily’ chocolate is ideally of the 70% cocoa content variety and muesli is best when under 13g sugar per 100g. Get your label reading nous at the ready.
Food Photography: Skovdal Nordic/Inge Skovdal
It’s intuitive eating by another name
Wengel admits that she doesn’t follow the plan strictly now that she’s lost the weight she needed to (apparently Scandi Sense allows you lose around 0.9–1.8lb per week on average), and she calls the concept a ‘lifestyle’ as opposed to a diet, but she recommends that if you have weight to lose, following the meal guides closely for 14 days will kick start both better health and more instinctive habits when it comes to portion control, hunger perception and what makes a balanced plate.
While there are plenty of appealing recipes to provide literal food for thought, there’s no prescriptive kale soup- you can eat according to your tastes, just making sure you’re getting high quality sources of protein, carbohydrate and fat. Wengel is now a trained dietitian and she lays such food intel out clearly in the book, and as she reminds us throughout, the major precept is common sense. She tackles beginner’s problems and stumbling blocks such as what to do if the 4pm munchies strike (clue: eat, particularly protein), touches on exercise (“the best exercise is whatever you feel like doing – and what you can stick to over the long term”) and keeps the outlook real- it may take you two years to get there, and it’s natural for weight to fluctuate by 2-3kg when you do, but it’s all part of the process. Cupped hands at the ready.
Intuitive eating: the ‘forever’ diet that’s not a diet at all
The Scandi Sense Diet (Mitchell Beazley, £16.99), buy online
Follow Suzy Wengel on Instagram @senseslankmedfornuft