Nordic food sounds heavy enough to sink a Viking ship. But a new Danish food cookbook reveals its lighter side.

Most Americans think of the Northern European diet—when they think of it at all—as a dreary regimen of meatballs, boiled potatoes and dried fish. But in her new book, The Nordic Diet, Trina Hahnemann recalls growing up in Denmark eating a wide range of intensely seasonal, often vegetarian meals.

She explains that her natural diet is very healthy and could help people lose weight. Recipes like her chunky barley-vegetable soup and smoked mackerel with radishes, apples and a lemony yogurt dressing go best with a northern European staple: a slice of whole-grain rye bread. "You don't have to look to the Mediterranean to eat healthfully," Hahnemann says.

Meat and the Danish Food Diet

Hahnemann tries to eat vegetarian at least three days a week and fish at least twice a week. When she eats meat, she might choose game, like rabbit and venison, because it's not too fatty, or lean cuts of other meats like pork tenderloin.