Research Shows a Lower Protein Diet Could Be the Key to Healthier Eating Habits

Healthy Food Selection

By the time they were 18 months old, infants who began receiving taster portions of the new Nordic diet were eating 46% more vegetables than those who were fed a conventional diet.

Introducing infants and toddlers to a lower-protein Nordic-style diet that places an emphasis on plant-based foods could allow them to obtain healthy eating habits

New research recently presented at the 54th Annual Meeting of the European Society of Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN) suggests that the key to healthier eating habits may be to introduce babies and toddlers to a lower protein Nordic-style diet with a greater focus on plant-based foods.

By the time they were 18 months old, infants who began receiving taster portions of the new Nordic diet, which includes fruit, berries, roots, and vegetables, along with breast or formula milk, were eating nearly twice as many vegetables (a 46 percent increase) as those who were fed a conventional diet.

As part of the OTIS experiment, researchers from the University of Umeå in Sweden, the Stockholm County Council Centre for Epidemiology, and the University of California in the United States studied two groups of infants from 4-6 months to 18 months. 250 infants in total participated, and 82% of them completed the study.

Nordic Diet Benefits Graphic

A graphic explaining the benefits of a Nordic-style diet. Credit: The European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN)

The toddlers in the 2 groups had quite different eating patterns, according to the study. Those who followed the new Nordic diet, who received Nordic home-made baby food recipes, protein-reduced baby food products, and social media support from other parents, ate 42–45% more fruit and vegetables at 12–18 months of age than those who followed the traditional diet currently advised by the Swedish Food Agency.

Although in the traditional diet group, fruit consumption remained constant, but between 12 and 18 months, infants receiving the traditional diet consumed 36% fewer vegetables.

Babies on the Nordic diet had an average protein intake 17-29% lower than those on the conventional diet at 12-18 months of age. This was still within recommended protein intake levels and the overall calorie count between the two groups was the same. The protein reduction in the Nordic diet group was replaced by more carbohydrates from vegetables, not more cereals, together with some extra fat from rapeseed oil.

Lead researcher Dr. Ulrica Johansson, a Medicine Doctor in pediatrics and registered dietitian at the University of Umeå, Sweden, said there did not appear to be any negative effects from having a lower protein intake.

Commenting on the findings, Dr. Johansson says: “A Nordic diet with reduced protein introduced to infants naive to this model of eating, increased the intake of fruit, berries, vegetables, and roots, establishing a preferable eating pattern lasting over a 12-month period.”

“There were no negative effects on breastfeeding duration, iron status or growth.”

“A Nordic diet reduced in protein is safe, feasible, and may contribute to sustainable and healthy eating during infancy and early childhood,” she added.

The novel research could pave the way to broadening the taste spectrum in infants and potentially provide an effective strategy for instilling healthier eating habits early in life.

The Nordic diet has a higher intake of regionally and seasonally produced fruit, berries, vegetables, herbs, mushrooms, tubers, and legumes, as well as whole grains, vegetable fats and oils, fish and eggs, and a lower intake of sweets, desserts and dairy, meat, and meat products.

Typical Nordic fruits include lingonberry, buckthorn berry, cranberry, raspberry, and blueberry, as well as fiber-rich vegetables such as turnip, beets, swede, root celery, carrots, parsnip, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and kale.

Chair of the ESPGHAN Nutrition Committee, Professor Jiri Bronsky, stated: “The authors have shown a significant effect of the diet in 12 and 18 months of age of the children. The Nordic diet group consumed more fruit and vegetables and less protein than the control group. The Nordic diet was well tolerated and did not negatively affect the growth of the child or breastfeeding duration. Importantly, this research demonstrates that this diet is safe, feasible and exposes infants to a variety of flavors which may influence long-lasting food preferences.”

Meeting: 54th Annual Meeting of the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN)

13 Comments on "Research Shows a Lower Protein Diet Could Be the Key to Healthier Eating Habits"

  1. Alison Kretzer | July 18, 2022 at 3:00 am | Reply

    Sounds like a lot of globalist agenda be coming from the EU and California. Who could have guessed? Down with meat and protein and use children as bait. Time for people to wake up and put a stop to the socialist destruction of humans. Shame on SciTechDaily for jumping on the woke bandwagon.

  2. Alison get over your taste buds it is time for us to evolve and perhaps save the planet also.

  3. So, let me get this straight.

    Lower protein is beneficial (for eating habits, kidneys and cancer). Lower carbs are beneficial (for diabetes, heart disease and dementia). And lower fat is beneficial (for arteries and heart, diabetes and cancer).

    And fiber is great for your gut health, microbiome, heart health and cancer risk.

    Maybe I should go on an all-fiber diet! Oh, wait. I’d die of starvation!

  4. I think this is less extreme than some other diet recommendations I have heard of, because it doesn’t say to straight cut out stuff completely. Diets are so individualistic though, some people have to eat more dairy because they do not tolerate meats as well and may be allergic to nuts/legumes. And some have to cut down on dairy to lower mucous formation, or because of lactose intolerance, or allergy. Some are allergic to many fruits, or have oral food allergy to certain fruits and vegetables, so they may need more meat. So basically… any time someone makes a diet recommendation, I take it with a grain of salt (just a grain, for those of you on low-salt diets). 😉 But this one isn’t so bad.

  5. There’s a book called Protein Power you might want to check out. It explains how increased daily protein helps weight loss. This article does sound a bit one-sided.

  6. This is utter nonsense. What have humans done for millennia, far before we started farming our food? They hunted and gathered. Protein and fat is essential to humans. Fruit is great, provides us with many vitamins and minerals. Veggies are good, sure, but they aren’t essential to human development. The only reason humans were able to evolve into the smart, problem-solving beings that we are is because we started cooking our meat and eating a lot of that. Not from eating kale… There’s a reason normal people think meat is delicious and kale tastes bad. There’s one we are meant to eat and one meant to be treated as a garnish. I feel sorry for those kids. They’re eating more food because you have to eat a lot of veggies to get the equivalent amount of calories in meat and fat. The Nordic countries are sadly a giant hub for this insane socialist propaganda. This is a lie and those kids aren’t getting properly nourished.

  7. Why not research creating new sports for uninterrupted play during pandemics like Covid-19 to help the global society with emotional, physical, and economic wellbeing? It can be done. See National Museum of American History New Gender Neutral Sport That Keeps Players Separate.

  8. why not published my Emailsddress

  9. I am unable to find the study on the internet. A press release is not a study.
    This is click bait at its worst since this seems unlikely to provide all the nutrients a child needs when they are growing so most likely we will find it was worthless. Plus it seems like the aim of the study was to show kids only fed fruit and vegetables will eat more fruit and vegetables. WOW not surprising. Look on the internet and you will see kids hospitalized for following vegan diets. This is not good.
    Why is it cited so widely when there is no supporting evidence to look at.

  10. Jason Cornish | July 19, 2022 at 6:02 am | Reply

    It’s amazing that the researchers got the kids to eat this way. I’d like to know more about how they did that! This diet is clearly better than most standard diets in the USA. However, this is another example of how protein is portrayed as a problem. It is true that kids probably don’t need to pay attention to protein nearly as much as people older than 35 years old. Kids have tons of growth hormone which means they can turn about anything in the bones in muscle.

  11. Jane Gundlach | July 19, 2022 at 10:55 am | Reply

    This isn’t useful. How many grams of protein is low? Percentages are meaningless. The accepted minimum is .8 grams per kg, which means a small adult requires at least about 45 grams. And the quality of protein matters. A smaller portion of high quality lower fat protein will have a greater concentration of grams of protein per serving. Nordc diets have this as they eat cold water fish a lot. This article no way gives any information that really informs people. Eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains is always standard good advice. But people need to eat at least a minimum number if grams based on body weight with certain life stages, illness or higher activity levels requiring a higher intake. One size does not fit all.

  12. So many people are communicating as if they did not actually read the article. It did not say NO meat/protein it said LOWER meat/protein.
    It was still within recommended range for health.

  13. Fruit/vegetable in Nordics countries! Really? Not very sustainable with they environment.

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