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Every third Nordic teenager claims to be on a ‘free-from’ diet

A new study reveals that 31 per cent of teenagers in Sweden, Denmark and Finland state that they are on some type of ‘free-from’ diet. However, they don’t necessarily live by it. One in three teenagers claiming to be vegetarian still consumes meat.


Flexitarian, lactose-free, vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free are among the different types of special diets that 31 per cent of the Nordic teenagers say best describe how they eat, according to a survey conducted by Ipsos on behalf of Arla.

However, the survey also shows that some teenagers have not necessarily fully committed to, or understood, their choice of diet.

For example, 36 per cent of those who describe themselves as vegetarians stated that they had eaten chicken in the past week, while 23 per cent had eaten beef and 16 per cent pork. The same tendency is seen for the teenagers claiming to be vegan. A third of these also had some type of dairy product (cheese, skyr or yogurt) in the past seven days.

“This insight is very interesting, because it indicates that for some Nordic teenagers, choosing a free-from diet is part of a certain lifestyle that they identify with, rather than a strict guideline for what to eat,” says Lea Brader, PhD and nutrition scientist at Arla.

Nutritional experts are least turned to for food guidance

Arla has initiated the study to get a better understanding of teenagers’ views on the official dietary guidelines and how they define a healthy and sustainable diet - a topic that is increasingly debated online.

The study shows that health is top-of mind, however, only half of the teenagers know of the official guidelines. Nutritional experts, school teachers and official nutritional guidelines are perceived as being least influencing sources of information when looking for guidance on what to eat and how to live healthy and sustainably. Instead, the teenagers perceive parents to be the top influencers of their food habits, while their friends and social media are rated second and third.

The survey shows that more than half of the teenagers have actively searched for food inspiration during the past six months. 27 per cent have searched for guidance on how to eat more healthy and 13 per cent on how to eat more sustainably. Actively seeking information on food is most prevalent among older teenagers between the age of 17 and 19. Teenagers in this age group mention social media as the most influencing source of information, while friend and parents are second and third.

“Seeking information about diet and health is positive as long as the information provided is true and not misleading. When you are in your late teens or a young adult you are laying the foundation for your future food habits. You should be critical towards the sources of information that you use and which products you choose to exclude. You need to be mindful that you still consume all the nutrients you need, otherwise there is a risk that your diet will be one-sided,” says Lea Brader.

A healthy and balanced diet includes lots of vegetables, fruit and legumes, nuts, seeds, dairy, egg, fish, lean meat and poultry.


The survey was conducted by Ipsos. The data collection took place between 19th June and 10th July 2020. 1,500 teenagers in a nationally representative sample in Sweden, Denmark and Finland answered questions via an online survey. The study can be accessed here.


Arla Foods is an international dairy company owned by 9,700 farmers from Denmark, Sweden, the UK, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Arla Foods is one of the leading players in the international dairy arena with well-known brands like Arla®, Lurpak®, Puck® and Castello®. Arla Foods is focused on providing good dairy nourishment from sustainable farming and operations and is also the world’s largest manufacturer of organic dairy products.

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