Snack platters and grazing boards are the hot thing in entertaining right now. Artfully arranged and overflowing with cheeses, crackers and charcuterie, they’re great for Instagram snaps and make entertaining a breeze, but they can also trip up a healthy eating plan.
That doesn’t mean you have to forgo the trend completely, just follow these five tips, and you’ll be serving chic appetizer boards that keep everyone on track during the indulgent holiday season.
Abundance is the common thread among these platters, with mounds of salami, heaps of creamy cheeses and tons of crackers or bread snaking through. They look so appetizing, it’s very easy to overindulge. One way to keep portion sizes in check is to serve your abundant board with small side plates. “Using a smaller plate can be helpful, it requires you to check in with yourself before helping yourself to more. You’re always welcome to seconds (or thirds), but you now have the opportunity to pause, take a breath and become more mindful,” says Carly Kellogg Knowles, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Portland, Oregon.
Don’t stop at just cheese and meat. Slices of juicy pink watermelon radish, dainty peapods, mini red peppers and thin batons of multi-colored carrots add color, nutrients and fiber without adding significant fat and calories. Fruit like sliced apples, pears, grapes and dried apricots or figs are also a healthy addition, plus they pair beautifully with cheese. “Certain pairings of fruits will bring out different flavor profiles that you wouldn’t pick up by just eating an artisan cheese by itself,” says Janee’ Muha, certified cheese professional and author at The Mobile Monger.
Salami, pâté and other fatty meat products are a go-to for party platters, but you may want to rethink how much you put on your plate. “Processed meat often contains nitrates used as preservatives, which can increase your risk for heart disease. They also contain high levels of saturated fat and sodium,” warns Kellogg Knowles. Consider including leaner, less processed protein options such as rolled-up turkey slices, boiled shrimp, salmon or a white bean spread instead of, or alongside, the charcuterie.
Most party platters include baguette and crackers made with refined white flour, which don’t offer much from a nutrition standpoint. For more fiber and nutrients, reach for whole-grain crackers made with ancient grains and nuts or whole-grain seeded breads. “Make sure you flip the box or bag around and read the nutrition label. You’re looking for a product that has few ingredients, includes the word ‘whole’ or ‘100% whole-grain,’ does not include added sugar, preservatives or artificial colors and contains adequate amounts of fiber,” says Kellogg Knowles.
It’s fun to pick from the wide array of cheeses available now, but keep in mind you get what you pay for. It’s better to serve modest amounts of a few artisan cheeses that pack a big flavor punch than to serve loads of rubbery, mass-produced cheese. “Something like Cabot Clothbound Cheddar has 9 grams of fat per ounce, but the flavor is more concentrated with brothy, oniony and with slight horseradish notes making each piece more satisfying, it’s about slowing down and savoring,” says Muha.
You may also want to consider cutting the cheese up in advance. “I often pre-portion cheese because I like the way it looks on the board, and it relieves the confusion for guests on how to eat a fine cheese and how much to take,” advises Muha. Pre-portioning also relieves guests of the burden of wrestling with a cheese knife with a drink or plate in their hands.