Cheese boards are trendy — but are they healthy? They can be! Read on to get ideas for how to develop a healthy cheese board for holiday entertaining.
Cheese board basics
Cheese boards are very flexible, but it’s traditional to begin with three types of cheese.
Is cheese good for you? There is evidence that cheese can help protect teeth from cavities. It is also nutritious, packed with calcium, protein, vitamins A and B-12, zinc, phosphorus, and riboflavin.
Cheese is high in fat and calories compared with other foods, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. High-fat cheeses contain conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which may help protect against obesity. The type of fat in cheese is associated with good outcomes in cardiovascular health.
Plan on 2-3 ounces of cheese per person when you create your cheese board to keep fat and calories in check.
So what three cheeses might you choose? It’s good to include three different kinds of cheese to get a range of nutrients and to make a satisfying spread.
- Semi-soft cheese Swiss cheese and Mozzarella are lower in fat and salt than many other cheeses. Havarti cheese is high in protein and Vitamin A.
- Soft cheese Ricotta cheese is creamy and yet relatively low in fat and high in protein. Boursin is another creamy cheese. It is higher in fat, but lower in calories. Since it’s strong flavored, people may be satisfied with less than if you choose plain cream cheese.
- Hard cheese Cheddar cheese is high in protein and calcium, and also in Vitamin K. Gruyere is high in butyrate, which may be anti-inflammatory.
Arrange those three cheeses in a triangle and add something crunchy for contrast. Whole grain crackers, nuts, crisp pickles, or toasted whole-grain bread provide crunch and nutrition, too.
Whole grains and nuts provide more protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Don’t forget crunchy vegetables! Carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers, celery, and broccoli are good choices. Artichoke hearts or marinated vegetables can be tasty, too, and vegetables are nutritional powerhouses.
Include enough veggies that guests can fill half their plates with nonstarchy vegetables.
Sweet or sharp
When we eat very mild flavors, like processed cheese on white bread or cream cheese on a plain bagel, we may eat more than we really want or need. Sharp or spicy flavors are more stimulating and often more satisfying, too.
Pickles and olives are traditional ways to bring in strong flavors. Consider chutneys, mustard, horseradish, or small pieces of flavorful meats like salami.
Finish up with something sweet. Fruit is the perfect go-with for cheese, and it’s just sweet enough. You might also want to add jam or even honey.
Some of these items work best in small bowls. Arrange all the elements in a relaxed, inviting way and set your cheese board out for an hour or two to bring your cheeses to room temperature. This is best for flavor.