The Swedish guide to guilt-free eating

TEXT: BJÖRN HELLMAN | PHOTOS © THE SWEDISH FOOD FEDERATION

I grew up in the 1970s and ‘80s. Back then, food and drink were reasonably uncomplicated. You ate what you ate, and then you did not think much about it. How about today? Quite different, to say the least.

Never before have we had more information about food, which ironically enough has made it more difficult than ever to know what you should be eating. Add the fact that the food debate is all too often characterised by moralism and finger pointing, and suddenly something as wonderful as food has become a source of guilt and anxiety instead of joy.

It does not need to be that way, at least not if you follow what I call the Swedish model. It is built on three things: safety, sustainability, and evidence-based nutritional advice.

Firstly: we must be able to trust our food. Swedish food producers take the consumers’ demand for high quality and safety very seriously. The result? Swedes today have record-high levels of trust in the food industry.

Secondly: the food must be produced with the smallest possible impact on the climate. Swedish food producers are at the forefront of the important shift to a fossil-free industry.

Finally: we should eat according to the Swedish National Food Agency’s evidence-based dietary advice. Plenty of fruit, greens and wholemeal, low-fat dairy products, moderate amounts of meat, treat yourself to a dessert every now and then, and go easy on the salt. In other words, what we in Sweden call ‘lagom’. And do not forget to get some exercise!

No, the Swedish model is not very sexy. But it works. It is high time that we stop feeling guilty about what we eat, and instead allow food to be something that provides us with energy, a sense of community, and joy.

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