BACKGROUND: Adolescents, influenced by modern youth culture, may have a diet containing too little iron and other vital nutrients. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Adolescents from Finnmark county, situated well above the arctic circle in Norway, from a Sami culture, and from a coastal culture, were examined to study hemoglobin, iron stores, dietary composition, food habits and life-style. A short intervention with dietary instructions was made, followed by re-examination after one year. RESULTS: The inland adolescents had larger iron stores, higher dietary intake of meat and protein, and lower intake of sugar than coastal ones, in accordance with traditional Sami diets. All groups had too high intake of sugar and fat, and too low intake of vitamin D and fibre, compared to national recommendations. The adolescents hardly consumed fish. About 1/3 of them had a high dietary iron density, as well as higher concentrations of other dietary nutrients and a more health promoting life-style in general. The short intervention did not have any effect on the magnitude of the iron stores, and only minor effects on food habits and life-style. CONCLUSION: The adolescents from the Sami community still had a diet based on tradition. This was not found in the coastal community. The iron density in the diet may serve as an indicator of positive food habits and life-style in general. The modest effect of intervention, emphasizes the need for a creative, preventive medicine.