04/07/2017 06:01 am ET Updated Aug 03, 2017

How Norwegians Eat Their Way To Being Among The World's Healthiest People

Take note!

Unesco recently released its Human Development Report, which makes Norway a model of health for the rest world. The report looks at many factors, including life expectancy and average number of years spent in school. Norway ranked number one in their data.

Since Norway is setting a good example for how to live, we thought now would be a good time to take a look at how Norwegians eat. Here’s what you should know:

The Norwegian breakfast doesn’t look anything like a traditional American breakfast.

Breakfast is a light affair often involving Norwegian rye bread cheese, jam and butter. There’s also often meat and fish, like salami, ham, smoked salmon or pickled herring. Muesli is also common. And coffee is a must.

Heavy egg dishes are not the norm here.

In Norway, cheese reigns supreme ― especially when it’s brown. 

Coffee and brunost cheese slices on bread.
Coffee and brunost cheese slices on bread.

Brunost, a brown cheese like no other, is beloved in its uniqueness. It’s a whey cheese that’s sweet and has a caramel-like texture. It’s often peeled in thin slices and eaten on open-faced sandwiches (as pictured above).   

The cuisine is shaped by the need to preserve.

Freshly made lefse.
Freshly made lefse.

Norway is not only surrounded by the sea, but its climate is such that it demands preservation. The short growing season and cold weather in Norway make it a necessity for survival.

Even the nation’s flatbread bread, lefse, was first developed to stay good in the pantry for months. (This is not the type of lefse typically made today, which is made with potatoes in place of flour, that’s not as shelf stable. Lefse might not be as common as it once was, but when it is made its served as a sweet and wholly delicious.)

Norwegian fish (and seafood) is unparalleled. 

Norwegian salmon, on a piece of bread.
Norwegian salmon, on a piece of bread.

And that’s one of the reasons that cured, smoked, pickled, dried, and yes, even sometimes just fresh fish, is so popular in Norway. It makes sense that Norway has such a strong seafood culture ― there’s a high coast-per-land ratio. They eat fish for breakfast, as we mentioned above. They serve it for lunch on open-faced sandwiches. You can even get tubed caviar at the grocery store ― that’s how serious they are about their seafood.

Their cold, wet climate means they get some of the sweetest berries around. 

Freshly-picked cloudberries.
Freshly-picked cloudberries.

The most prized being the cloudberry. The cloudberry only grows in the wild, and picking locations are guarded like family secrets. They’re often served simply, with whipped cream, or made into jams to preserve them for the many months when cloudberries aren’t in season.

Waffles are eaten as an afternoon snack.

Norwegian waffles.
Norwegian waffles.

They’re thicker and richer than American waffles, and they often come heart-shaped. Norwegian waffles are often eaten with brown cheese, naturally, or with sour cream and jam. Of course, they aren’t only eaten in the afternoon, but it is common to have a waffle with coffee as a snack.

The Norwegians’ love of cake is strong.

Kvæfjordkake, the country's national cake.
Kvæfjordkake, the country's national cake.

Norwegians are credited with creating the world’s best cake, after all. It’s called Kvæfjordkake and is the beautiful culmination of sponge cake, vanilla cream, almonds and meringue. But that’s not their only noteworthy cake ― they’re all show-stoppers in their own right.

Looks like even the healthiest nations have a sweet tooth.