Build your own healthy charcuterie board

Charcuterie boards are a great way to get creative in the kitchen and can be healthy for any diet with minor tweaks.

COLORADO, USA — Charcuterie boards are trending right now and understandably so. In the social media age, we are drawn to food trends that are both delicious and visually appealing. Traditionally, charcuterie boards consisted of mostly preserved meats, but this has evolved to incorporate a range of ingredients, including cheese, crackers, olives, nuts, and more. While these boards typically feature a variety of options, it is equally as important to focus on the quality of the selection for a healthier charcuterie board.

Cured meats like salami, speck, prosciutto, and other types of sausage style meats are often found on traditional charcuterie boards. These types of meats require various additives, such as sodium, nitrates, and nitrites for preservation. Because of this, processed meats are known to increase the risk of dementiaheart disease, cancer, and other health issues. Although a good source of protein, finding meat with fewer additives and without nitrates or nitrites is a way to create a healthier protein selection.

Cheese is another important component of a charcuterie board. Calcium, protein, phosphorus, vitamin B12, and vitamin A are all nutrients found in cheese, which make this a delicious and functional addition to any board. For those sensitive to lactose, opting for hard cheeses, such as parmesan and Manchego, or a goat cheese may be suitable based on individual tolerance. Although it has its health benefits, cheese is still relatively high in saturated fat and cholesterol. For individuals looking to reduce dairy, preparing a nut-based spread with cashews or walnuts can mimic the texture of a softer cheese for a healthier option.

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Choosing the right crackers or breads to go alongside charcuterie ingredients is another way to increase the nutrient density of the board. Whole-grain options are recommended for added fiber, which will aid digestion and support healthy blood sugar levels. When reading the nutrition label, look for the first ingredient to be a whole-grain as not all food labels are accurately advertised.

Other ingredients that can be added to a charcuterie board are dried or fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, olives, and select condiments. Adding fruits and vegetables will greatly increase the nutrient quality of the board with antioxidants, which help prevent cancer, heart disease, and other chronic health issues. Dried fruits, fresh grapes, or baby carrots can be effortlessly added without much preparation, but sliced apples or bell peppers are good choices as well. Last, but not least, olives and nuts provide heart-healthy unsaturated fats, which are not found in the cheese or meat.

Searching for minimally processed meat and cheese is a healthy first step to building a charcuterie board. By adding whole-grain carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and olives, more variety is available, encouraging less consumption of the meat and cheese, which are sources of saturated fat and sodium. Overall, creating a charcuterie board is a great way to get creative in the kitchen and can be healthy for any diet with minor tweaks.

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