'Too many potatoes on Swedes' plates': expert

The Local Sweden
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'Too many potatoes on Swedes' plates': expert

Generations of Swedes have grown up with the dietary guideline known as the "plate model" but now its inventor says it should be scrapped because it does not suit Swedes' increasingly immobile lifestyles and may contribute to high obesity rates.


Countless diet fads have come and gone since the "plate model" (tallriksmodellen) was introduced in Sweden back in 1976. It is a visual and pedagogic guideline for how to compose a healthy meal.

But while the plate model has withstood the test of time, now its inventor, nutritionist Britt-Marie Dahlin, may contribute to its demise.

Dahlin invented the model 37 years ago while working for Swedish meat producer Scan. The idea was that every meal should be balanced.

The model shows an image of a plate divided into three sections. One contains high-energy foods like potatoes, rice, pasta and bread. The second section is made up of vegetables and root vegetables. The third, smaller, section contains meat, fish, eggs and pulses.

The plate model illustrates proportions rather than volumes of food, but Dahlin feels that at the very least the high-energy food section must shrink to give more space to the vegetable section.

"Three large potatoes is way too much," she told newspaper Svenska Dagbladet (SvD).

Defenders of the plate model have long sworn by its core advice: cut down on fat and limit protein intake but do eat plenty of carbs, preferably have bread with every meal.

Now, however, Dahlin is advising Swedes to consume less carbs and more vitamins and minerals. She believes her old advice is outdated and must be scrapped because Swedes have become less physically active.

More and more weight-conscious Swedes are actually ditching the old-school advice to opt for Low Carb and High Fat (LCHF) diets instead, such as Atkins. In fact, such diets are so popular that Sweden recently experienced a shortage of cottage cheese - a staple item in LCHF diets.

However, the plate model still serves as a prototype for how to serve meals in schools, hospitals, and lunch restaurants.

Sweden's National Food Agency (Livsmedelsverket) still uses the model as a healthy eating guideline and features it on its website but has said it is currently reviewing it.

"We have actually just begun to look at whether the plate model needs changing, but Britt-Marie Dahlin seems to be a step ahead of us," dietician Anette Jansson told SvD.

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