Swedish diet?
January 1, 2011 4:49 PM   Subscribe

What do Swedish people eat on a typical day?

I don't know why, but I've always kind of wanted to know this -- maybe because Swedish people always seem so fresh, healthy and thin, from my totally biased perspective of only having met a few people and things I've read. If you're a modern Swedish person, what's your daily diet like? What surprises you when you go somewhere like the US? I know Sweden's a first world country with the attendant smorgasbord of options...but I just wanted to get a sense of some of the 'quirks' and unique features of the diet...I know smoked fish is involved, and please don't link to the Swedish Chef, or Ikea, or talk to me about Paleo diet or anything. I just want to know what Swedes eat. Thanks!
posted by sweetkid to Food & Drink (7 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not Swedish, but I've found wikipedia's "cuisine" articles to be useful. Here's Sweden's.
posted by donnagirl at 5:37 PM on January 1, 2011

I recently asked this of my friends in Malmo. Apparently lots of deli-type meats and open faced sandwiches.
posted by Lutoslawski at 5:43 PM on January 1, 2011

Best answer: I've lived in Sweden (Stockholm) since 1962, though stoutly maintaining the while that I am still English. Been married three times to swedish girls and have run a restaurant these last 12 years.
So I feel qualified to answer - perhaps a wee bit partisan. Nevertheless:

Breakfast: Could consist of orange juice, coffe/tea, yoghurt, musli or cereals , bread, cheese/ham. Eggs in some form perhaps even porridge (oatmeal) in the winter. Some people just grab a coffee en route for work.

Lunch - most working people will eat out, some take a lunchbox from home, some have in-house canteens. Fish (salmon most popular) or meat/chicken with potatoes pasta or rice. Always a sallad, vegetarian option usually available. Water or light (1.8% alc.) beer. Coffee afterwards. Desserts are rare at lunchtime
Top of the favourite list for kids spag. bol, pizza, kebab, meatballs and hotdogs.
Evening meal could be similar to lunch. Eating out is getting more common in the big towns.
Thai, Indian, Sushi, Middle Eastern and crossover places are now as common as "swedish" restaurants. A general awareness of what constitutes healthy eating is noticeable as is the need for exercise. A definite trend towards locally produced and organic vegetables AND meat, sourdough bread, beer from microbreweries and organic wines among the more affluent hipster crowd.
The pickled herrings, salmon, new pototoes and fresh strawberries at Midsommar still have their grip as do the crayfish of late august. Never without liberal amounts of alcohol (brännvin). Dont get me started on surströmming. But it is good!
posted by jan murray at 5:52 PM on January 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: When I go home to Sweden, I eat what my parents eat - which is the traditional way to eat in Sweden as far as I can remember. Like this:

Breakfast: buttermilk w/ cereal or muesli OR oatmeal gruel with blueberries/raspberries - with one open faced sandwich. Milk or orange juice. Coffee.

Lunch: Something light with lots of protein, generally leftovers from the previous days' dinners combined in some way with new items. Boiled eggs and bologna, boiled potatoes with a few slices of leftover meat, pasta and leftover meat sauce, etc. Maybe eat with one open faced sandwich. Generally some sort of salad included. Drink sparkling water.

Dinner: Often something more elaborate, both starches and protein. Meals always start with a salad of some kind. Scalloped potatoes and grilled salmon, roast tomatoes and grilled pork, gnocchi and some veggies, rice with Thai chicken. Drink wine or sparkling water.

Fika: That's the name of a tiny snack. Generally eaten two-three times a day, maybe in conjunction with a visit by friends. A cookie or two or one open-faced sandwich and coffee, or a piece of fruit. One between breakfast and lunch, one between lunch and dinner, and one while watching TV at night.

The one key as far as I'm concerned? Portions are TINY compared to what you would get in the US. Lots of salads and vegetables served. Also, most everyone spend lots of time exercising or doing stuff like walking/skiing/hiking outside - much more so than in the US.
posted by gemmy at 6:24 PM on January 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My husband is Swedish and we used to visit his family (aunts, uncles, cousins) in Sweden about once a year for two or three weeks when we lived in Europe between 1998-2004. They were old and rural and ate what I assume is a more traditional diet than what most Swedes in the cities eat.

Breakfast: usually a bowl of yogurt and cereal, and/or an open faced sandwich (dark grainy bread) with pickled herring. Sometimes cheese was also involved. Lots of coffee.

Morning tea: cake or cookies with more coffee.

Lunch: hot food. Usually with lots of cream and butter. For example, scalloped potatoes with bacon, plus sausages. Sometimes fried fish. Or meatballs. Usually there are potatoes of some sort. Often a salad. In summer, prawns with lemon and mayonnaise eaten out by the lake was a common light lunch, but when they did that, the uncle would sneak large quantities of bacon and potatoes when he got home.

Afternoon tea: more cake or cookies. Tea or coffee.

Dinner: open faced sandwiches. Again, dark grainy bread. The bread slices are smaller than what I would usually use. Toppings included egg, herrings, onions, mayonnaise, fish, prawns, bacon, cucumber, tomato, cheese (not all at once).

Evening snack: often a schnaps or glass of wine, with some chocolate or more cake.

I would guess that the calories in this diet are mostly from fat, then protein, with a few carbs. This family is NOT slim, although they are physically very active (hunting, skiing, looking after a forest and large area of grazing land.) We always put on weight when visiting. The few women in the family who were not fat ate very small portions and sometimes skipped meals. The men ate enormous portions by my (New Zealand/Australian) standards.

I would guess that maybe they don't eat so much cake when we aren't there, but otherwise I reckon the food is pretty much as listed above. In summer there are more berries, and more fruit juice and buttermilk consumed. In winter more chocolate, cakes and coffee.
posted by lollusc at 6:49 PM on January 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My girlfriend is Swedish and I've stayed with her family in the Stockholm suburbs a couple times; the diet did not strike me as particularly different from most Western countries. But it depends on the person/family more than anything. Her family rarely ate traditional Swedish foods like meatballs or Janssons frestelse.

If you want an idea of what Swedish people might cook at home then just browse tasteline or alltommat.

Breakfast: open faced sandwiches made with home-baked bread, and topped with thin slices of salami or ham, cheese (typically prästost or grevé), cucumbers, and tomatoes. The home-baked bread are rolls made with rye flour and look like this. My girlfriend tells me the bread doesn't have any special name, but it's very good - probably one of my favorite memories of Sweden. Sometimes crispbread is eaten instead of the rolls.

Lunch: Bread with butter, cold cut salami/ham with cantaloupe, grilled sausage, pea soup. Gravad lax. Pasta salad.

Dinner: Your typical Western dinner items like steak, spaghetti bolognese, and lasagna. Boiled potatoes and boiled beets. Pan-fried salmon fillets. Grilled/fried sausage. Goat cheese pie. According to my gf, a lot of Swedish people eat hard shelled American-style tacos on Fridays (though she may be pulling my leg on this one because I never had it).

General quirks I noticed:
Open-faced sandwiches. Pizza always being served with a special cabbage salad. Chinese restaurants all serving "fyra små rätter"(shrimp, pork, beef, chicken) with fried banana for dessert. The watching of Donald Duck cartoons on Christmas Eve (just had to throw that one in).

What surprises you when you go somewhere like the US?
My gf typically remarks on the large portion sizes.
posted by pravit at 7:44 PM on January 1, 2011

Best answer: Breakfast: open-faced sandwiches, with rye bread, toast, or crisp bread, salted butter, and slices of cheese and ham, or some liver pate, or jam. From what I've seen about 3 such sandwiches, each different. Elevensies: fika - coffee break with a small sweet something, e.g., a cinnamon bun (kanelbulle). In general, lots of strong coffee.

Lunch: people either go out to restaurants or bring leftovers from home or eat buttermilk/yoghurt (fil) with granola. Afternoon: often another fika

Dinner: depending on the family culture: can be the main meal of the day, some meat or fish with vegetables and a starch (potatoes, rice, or pasta) with or without dessert; can be another round of open-faced sandwiches; can be another round of fil; can be soup (with inevitable open-faced sandwiches).

Some quirks I noticed: when eating granola, it's about the yoghurt/buttermilk more than the grains. People eat more cardamom and more licorice than elsewhere.

Pertinent to your question there is also the tradition of lördagsgodis (Saturday's candies), albeit introduced to protect children's teeth. Children get to buy sweets, candies, chocolate, etc. only on Saturdays. Some adults also keep that habit.
posted by meijusa at 3:05 AM on January 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

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