The Scandi Sense Diet

June 5, 2018   /



A New Fad Diet, or the Most Common-Sense Way to Eat?



Anne Danahy, MS, RDN, LDN 


Most RDNs would agree that the last thing consumers need is a new diet trend to follow. While flexible dietary patterns such as the Mediterranean, plant-based, or DASH diets have been backed by research showing they can not only reduce weight but also result in long-term health improvements, it’s the diets with catchy names, strict rules to follow, and the promise of rapid weight loss that people are attracted to year after year.

Research studies have shown repeatedly, these commercial fad diets which require one to eliminate certain foods or food groups, or follow strict rules, can result in short-term weight loss, but one diet isn’t any more effective than another, and rarely do the results last. When it comes to making long-term changes, it seems that consumers are attracted to a gimmick, but rules and restrictions can get old quickly.

So, is The Scandi Sense Diet, a recently released diet book which is billed in its media reviews as the simplest diet in the world, just another gimmick with too many rules, or a useful tool that RDNs can use to promote common-sense healthy eating?


What is The Scandi Sense Diet?

The Scandi Sense Diet was designed by Suzy Wengel, a Danish dietitian and CEO of a biotech company, who used it to lose a significant amount of weight herself. It’s based on the idea that every meal should have lots of variety, and contain on average, 4 handfuls of foods: 2 handfuls of vegetables; 1 handful of protein; and 1 handful of fruit or starch. A meal can also include up to 3 tablespoons of fat, and some dairy can be incorporated if desired. The author encourages readers to think of your handfuls of food as meal boxes.

The diet sounds (and looks) very much like the MyPlate method of healthy meal planning, combined with the “fist” or palm-of-your-hand method that RDNs often recommend as a way of measuring food portions. No calorie counting is required because people with smaller bodies who require fewer calories have smaller hands, and vice versa.


If it sounds too easy…

This way of eating makes common sense, because it encourages portion sizes based on your body (or hand) size, as well as more variety, which means more nutritious meals. It’s also portable, and something anyone can use, no matter where they are. Most importantly, it encourages readers to put foods that they like in their meal boxes, and eat mindfully and consciously.

The Scandi Sense Diet might be a tool that RDNs can use with their own clients, but there are a few places they might get tripped up:

  • Although it states no foods are off-limits, there is no hand for that glass of wine of slice of cake, so those things must be substituted. The author recommends skipping a grain to have a glass of wine, which is easy enough, but if you want a slice of cake, you’ll need to skip a meal (or meal box). As we know, that is easier said than done, and frequent substitutions can be counterproductive.
  • This method works best when it’s used with individual foods, rather than mixed ingredient dishes because it may be difficult to account for all the ingredients.
  • The Scandi Diet mainly addresses variety and portions but not quality of food. Cheese and bacon can fit into the protein handful along with an egg in one’s meal box.
  • The approach is very much simplified. It makes sense for those who are intuitive and healthy eaters, but would be frustrating for anyone who struggles with healthy eating. Wengel recommends: eat only 3 meals each day and pull foods out of your 3 meal boxes to eat as snacks; cut some meal boxes in half to make room for a 3-course meal with wine later; and if you have too many indulgences, or get off track, simply close that meal box and move on.


The bottom line

There is no doubt most that RDNs already use most ideas in The Scandi Diet to teach and encourage patients how to eat healthier, but it serves as a good reminder, and possibly a different approach we can take. The messages about variety, choosing foods you enjoy without restrictions, and eating consciously by opening your meal box when hungry and closing it when full are all important parts of a non-diet approach to healthy eating.

The concept of using one’s hands as a tool instead of measuring cups or scales, and including 4 different handfuls of foods with each meal is certainly worth incorporating into our teaching toolbox. In addition to helping assess portions and variety, it can also serve to make consumers more aware of exactly what is on their plate and pick it apart to see how it fits into their meal box.

Although it may be overly simplistic, that might be a positive for many people who tend to overthink healthy eating and find it difficult to break out of the fad diet mentality. Sometimes, as RDNs we want to share as much of our knowledge as possible with clients, and that, coupled with mixed messages from the media and other consumers can be overwhelming and send them into a tailspin. Keeping the message basic and simple can be just what many people need.


References and recommended reading:

  1. Atallah R, Filion KB, Wakil SM, et al. Long-term effects of 4 popular diets on weight loss and cardiovascular risk factors: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Circ Cardiovasc Qual Outcomes. 2014;7(6):815-827.
  2. Learn the Scandi Sense Diet in 5 Minutes. Accessed May 22, 2018.
  3. Tobias DK, Chen M, Manson JE, Ludwig DS, Willett W, Hu FB. Effect of low-fat diet interventions versus other diet interventions on long-term weight change in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol. 2015;3(12):968-979.
  4. Wengel, S. The Scandi Sense Diet: Lose Weight and Keep it Off With the Life Changing Handful Method. Mitchell Beazley, 2018.


Review date: 5/25/18