The Diet of Icelanders
National Dietary Survey 2019-2021

Main findings

A dietary shift was observed in present survey conducted in 2019–2021, in comparison to the last national dietary survey in Iceland 2010–2011. Indeed, some progress was made towards the goals of the national Food Based Dietary Guidelines and nutrient guidelines, although the opposite was also observed, depending on food categories and nutrients under examination. The results also varied greatly between gender and age groups. The dietary survey is based on two 24–hour dietary recalls and a food frequency questionnaire.

Main results:

  • The total consumption of vegetables and fruits is on average about 213 grams per day, but it is recommended to consume at least 500 grams per day. Only about 2% of participants reached that level, which is less than observed in the last survey.

  • Just over a quarter of the participants met the criteria for consuming whole grain products as recommended (70 grams per day) during the two days of the 24–hour dietary recall.

  • 25% of participants consumed plantbased meal as the main course once a week or more. A similar number (23%) ate nuts and/or seeds on the days of the 24–hour dietary recall. Based on current recommendations, consumption of plant-based meals, nuts, and seeds should be higher among the public.

  • Fish consumption remains the same between surveys (315 grams per week) and is still lowest in the youngest age group (18–39 years). Fish consumption is particularly low among women in the youngest age group as only 1% of participants in this group reaches the recommended 2–3 fish meals per week (375 grams per week).

  • Consumption of red meat has decreased by 60 grams per week on average, or 10%. However, approximately 60% of participants still exceed the criteria for maximum consumption of red meat, which is 500 grams per week.

  • Milk consumption has decreased since the last survey although cheese consumption has increased. There has been a change in the types of milk consumed, as the consumption of full–fat milk has increased, while the consumption of low–fat milk has decreased.

  • Consumption of sugary soft drinks has decreased by 40% since the last survey, but consumption of sugarfree soft drinks remain unchanged. Simultaneously, consumption of energy drinks has increased.

  • Total energy is unchanged from the last survey and is on average 2044 kilocalories per day. Approximately 16% of the total energy comes from sugary soft drinks, sweets, cakes, and biscuits.

  • Protein intake is plentiful, or about 18% of total energy on average and has not changed since the last survey. It is recommended that proteins provide between 10–20% of total energy.

  • The proportion of total energy from carbohydrates has decreased since the last survey, from 42% to 37% on average. It is recommended that carbohydrates provide between 45–60% of the total energy.

  • Consumption of fiber has decreased by 6% since the last survey and is now almost 16 grams per day on average. It is recommended to get at least 25 grams of fiber daily from whole grains, fruits and vegetables but also beans and lentils, nuts, and seeds.

  • On average, the proportion of energy from added sugar has decreased, from 9% to 7%. Consumption of added sugar is still highest in the youngest age group where one third gets more then 10% of their total energy from added sugar. It is recommended that added sugar provide less than 10% of the total energy intake.

  • Apart from vitamin D, folate and iodine, the average intake of most vitamins and minerals is above the recommended daily intake.

  • Just over half of the participants (55%) report that they take vitamin D as a dietary supplement regularly (fish oil, pearls, or tablets) as recommended. Vitamin D intake of those who do not take fish oil or other source of food supplement containing vitamin D is however well below the recommended daily intake (15-20 micrograms per day) or 5 micrograms on average. The youngest age group of men and women receive the least amount of vitamin D. Vitamin D is most abundant in fatty fish and is for example necessary to help the body absorb and retain calcium.

  • The average consumption of folate from food is below the recommendation, especially among women. Folate is an important nutrient during pregnancy and deficiency can increase the risk of birth defects of the spine and brain of the fetus. Folate is mainly found in vegetables, nuts, beans, and some types of fruit. Only 12% of women of reproductive age take folic acid containing supplements. All women of reproductive age are advised to take folic acid as a dietary supplement.

  • Average intake of vitamin C has decreased by 23% since the last national survey. About half of the participants do not reach the recommended daily dosage of vitamin C from their diet, which is mainly due to reduced consumption of fruit and berries. Vitamin C alleviates collagen production, a connective tissue in the body, and is also of importance for various hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain and nervous system.

  • Iron consumption has decreased since the last national survey. None of the female participants of reproductive age reaches the recommended daily dose for iron, which is higher for their group (15 milligrams per day) compared to other adults (9 milligrams per day). Iron is mainly found in meat, fish, beans, peas, lentils, tofu and other soy products, dark green vegetables, nuts, and whole grains. Iron is important for oxygen transport in the blood, the immune system and for neurological development in children.

  • Iodine consumption has decreased by an average of 20% since the last national survey. It is lowest in the youngest age group of women due to low milk and fish consumption in that group. Sufficient iodine must be ensured during pregnancy as this nutrient is important for fetal development.