By Crystal Leatherman

Meet Maria Gustafsson

It is with great pleasure that I introduce the CR for Sweden, Maria Gustafsson. Maria is a Sweden native and went to college in the U.S. at University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She began her career in private practice and then moved to a position with Cardiology focus at a hospital in Stockholm.  After 6 years in clinical she needed a change and moved to a role for Unilever Sweden, that then lead her into an international career taking her to the Netherlands Canada and USA. Having missed home, Maria moved back to Sweden and is now having her own company working in Communications with organizations and manufacturers in food industry, focusing on innovations and training.

Health Issues and Nutrition Trends in Sweden

Like most of the Western world, top nutrition-related health issues include cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and autoimmune diseases. Gut health including prebiotics and probiotics, gluten-free and other allergies are more discussed now. In the September 2019 issue of Food and Nutrition Magazine, Maria describes, “Economic stability and easy access to food have led to an increase in overweight and obesity in Sweden. Environmental concerns have led to growing interest in using local and seasonal food. Professional chefs and home cooks alike are dusting off recipes from older generations and adding twists.” Food trends emphasize using local food with no additives, and nutrition goes hand in hand with sustainability.

Significance of Swedish Food Culture

The food culture is farm to table and highlights local and seasonal foods. There is plenty of seafood in Sweden, so it is recommended to eat fish 3 days per week. Meals commonly feature legumes, root vegetables and whole grains, as well as healthy polyunsaturated fats such as rapeseed oil, herbs and moderate amounts of ethically sourced meats. Maria’s favorite traditional meal is a smorgasbord on holidays, filled with a wide variety of foods.

Inspiration for Joining IAAND

While Maria was working as a dietitian in Sweden, she did not know any other Swedish dietitians. As a result, she made international connections and interacted with dietitians both in her global role with Unilever and after joining IAAND in 2001.