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The Norwegian Bread Belly

Today I want to talk to you about a problem I have in Norway. It's not only personal to me, for it seems most newcomers to Norway suffer from this condition within the first year or so. It's called… the Norwegian Bread Belly.

Visibly, the condition bears a striking similarity to the “British Beer Belly”, caused by my home nation's addiction to a “quick pint after work”.

One of the best things about Norway is the bread.

I expected to adjust to a diet featuring more fish and seafood when I moved to Norway, but what I didn't expect was this much bread – and of this quality.

I don't think I've ever seen a cheap “Tesco Value” style white loaf here. Your bog standard supermarket is stocked high with a staggering variety of freshly-baked bread, with even the cheapest being a vast improvement on the bread I was used to back in the UK. Supermarket chain Meny have been trying to differentiate themselves lately purely on bread:

Vi har ovn i alle våre butikker og steker brød hele dagen lang.
(we have ovens in every store and bake bread all day long)

Away from the supermarkets, bread is available almost everywhere.

If you want breakfast on the go, you'll find boller (small buns) from a kiosk hard to resist.

Lunchtime at many workplaces consists of salmon, hams, and cheeses, but all served on top of… bread.

The most popular snack food, pølser (hot dog sausages) usually come in nasty white bread rolls.

Bread really is hard to avoid!

Bakeries are the pubs of Norway.

Bakeries are everywhere – Baker Hansen, United Bakeries, Godt Brød, W.B. Samson – plus countless coffee chains and independent bakeries.

On every corner they advertise freshly-baked loaves, buns, cakes and other treats. At any of time of day these bakeries are full of people. Commuters grabbing breakfast, mums nattering while their kids run amok, bloggers on their laptops, schoolkids on their way home – the list is endless. And for each and every one of these people, that intoxicating smell of fresh bread is hard to resist.

All this adds up to a hell of a lot of carbohydrate.

A bakery in Oslo

But Norwegians are so fit!

Now I come to the most confusing thing about the Norwegian Bread Belly – it only seems to affect newcomers!

Norwegians, in general, are a pretty fit bunch. Almost from birth, kids are thrust onto skis, into boats or up mountains. The carbohydrates in this bread-based diet provide essential energy for this activity.

But for us expats who haven't quite taken to exploring the great outdoors (yet), the Norwegian diet means just one thing…

Cartoon of a fat guy

Norway Weekly Email Newsletter

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About the Author: David Nikel

Originally from the UK, David now lives in Trondheim and was the original founder of Life in Norway back in 2011. He now works as a freelance writer for technology companies in Scandinavia.

11 Comments

  1. Great post! What a great concept; “the Norwegian Bread Belly”! Havn’t heard it before! As a native Norwegian I’m suffering from it as well, I’m afraid …

    Yes, we Norwegians do eat lots of bread! It looks to me that more people than say ten years ago don’t make their own “matpakke” at home, but instead buy their lunch at the work cafeteria or at the nearest bakery or shop. This has incresed the consumption of bread for many, I think (at least for me). If you for instance buy a bauguette with cheese & ham in the bakery there’s lots of bread, and not so much cheese & ham. Better to make your own “matpakke” with less bread and more ham & cheese! And more salad, perhaps! And maybe take a somewhat longer Sunday walk as well … in order to avoid (an even larger) Norwegian Bread Belly … 😉

  2. I moved the other way, from Norway to England and I never realised how good the bread back home was before it became unavaliable. This blog post is so true! I’ve started baking my own bread because I can’t find proper bread anywhere in Birmingham…

  3. i work in norway on a farm, we eat tons of bread but the belly seems to drop off every time i come back for my summer job, the key is to keep moving. best bread in the world by far!

  4. I grew up in Minnesota, USA in the 60’s and 70’s where there was a great Scandinavian influence and we always had good healthy bread on our table to help us fill up and stay warm. Most of us were very active and there were few over weight children to be found. I would love to visit Norway or Sweden and see the origins of my heritage!

  5. I started baking bread about 3 years before my daughter was born, so about 14 years. A few months after moving from the UK to Norway 4.5 years ago, I decided to bake more bread, because I found shop bought bread in Norway quite unsatisfying, too sweet, poorly prepared and too doughy. Even extortionately expensive ‘ecologically friendly artisan stone baked’ loaves were inconsistent. The most frustrating thing is how difficult it is to buy ingredients, e.g. whole grains and different types of flours, for bread making in Norway. Supermarkets generally in Norway do not offer much choice at all. In fact, as a bit of a ‘foodie’ who once looked forward to the weekly shop (in the UK), I find food shopping in Norway a genuinely depressing experience. Of course, if you live in or near one of Norway’s few cities, you might be lucky enough to have a specialist shop nearby or even a bakery that bakes passionately with pride. If you’re lucky. The prices are truly ridiculous, though.

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