Grazing boards are great for entertaining and celebrating special occasions such as the festive season. While they are often associated with indulgence, they don’t have to be bad for you. Keep reading to find out how to build a healthy grazing board.
What goes into grazing boards
Broadly speaking, these are the categories of food that make a grazing board:
- Cheeses (dairy or non-dairy)
- Charcuterie or cured meats
- Other (nuts, chips, etc.)
How to build a healthy grazing board
You don’t want to have too many of any of the food categories in your board. This keeps things interesting but also helps even out the energy content. For example, if you only include full cream cheeses and dried fruit, you are driving up the energy and sugar content of the board. While including elements with different energy, sugar and fat content does not guarantee everyone will eat in a balanced manner, it gives people options.
Cater to your crowd
Think about who will be eating from your board in order to choose items they will and can enjoy. Make sure you cover all dietary requirements.
Don’t sacrifice quality in order to save money. If budget is a constraint, buy smaller quantities or good quality items on sale. Likewise, take advantage of fruits and vegetables in season.
Homemade vs store-bought
If you can, make your own dips, crackers, pickles, etc. This way you can save money, avoid ingredients you don’t want (e.g. added sugar, allergens, preservatives, etc.) and take pride on the fact that you made it!
Make it practical for people to eat (e.g. provide cheese knives, toothpicks, serviettes, etc.).
Also think about bringing ice packs if you will be outdoors and it’s going to be hot.
Choose a variety of cheeses based on your taste and that of your guests. In general, you want to have a variety of textures, for example: one soft cheese, one semi-hard cheese, one hard cheese. Also try to experiment with different milk cheeses (cow, goat, sheep, etc.) or non-dairy alternatives if needed.
- Soft cheeses: Brie, Camembert, blue cheeses (Gorgonzola, Stilton, Roquefort), chevre, feta
- Semi-hard cheeses: Cheddar, Gouda, Havarti, Edam, Gruyere
- Hard cheeses: Manchego, Parmesan, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino, Grana-Padano
Charcuterie or cured meats
Cured meats can be a great addition to an omnivorous grazing board. Try to choose good quality meats, preferably with fewer additives. If you’re in Sydney, I recommend Feather and Bone.
- Beef: bresaola, roast beef, corned beef
- Pork: prosciutto, jamón ibérico, salami (Italian, Hungarian, Danish, spicy, fennel), Spanish-style chorizo, cacciatore, coppa
I also like Kooee! meat sticks which are a terrific substitute for cabanossi.
If budget is an issue (either monetary or energy-wise), you can get some leaner sliced deli meats from the supermarket (e.g. turkey breast, leg ham, roast beef, etc.).
Choose a variety of vegetables to use as dipping vehicles or to eat on their own. Raw vegetables are better when bought in season.
- Raw: cherry/grape tomatoes, baby cucumbers or cucumber sticks/slices, celery sticks, carrot sticks, capsicum sticks, sliced radishes
- Pickled: gherkins or cornichons, pearl onions, jalapeños or other chillies
- Canned/jarred: sundried tomatoes (preferably not packed in oil), roasted capsicum (preferably not packed in oil), olives (in brine, vinegar or marinated in extra virgin olive oil), artichoke hearts (in brine)
Choose fruit based on what’s on season and what matches the cheeses on the board. Fresh fruit is more nutritious and lower in energy and sugar than other options.
- Fresh fruit: apples, pears, grapes, nectarines, peaches, plums, berries (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries), figs, kiwifruit
- Dried fruit: muscatels, dates, prunes, dried figs
Choose mainly vegetable-based dips, preferably homemade.
- Hummus (traditional or try these alternatives: roasted zucchini, cauliflower and black sesame)
- Baba ganoush (traditional or try these alternatives: black sesame, smoky eggplant dip)
- Guacamole (here is an easy recipe)
These are not mandatory but can be a nice complement to certain cheeses and meats.
- Fruit-based preserves such as jams, chutneys, fig/quince paste, etc.
- Caramelised onions
- Butter, if serving bread
- Extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, if serving bread
An alternative to crackers that requires a bit more preparation (i.e. slicing) and take a bit more room in your board. A good sourdough baguette is ideal as it can be sliced in canapé-size servings.
Other great additions
- Nuts, preferably dry-roasted or raw
- Pâté, mousses, rillettes and/or terrines: make them yourself or find a good quality option. For the pescatarians and vegetarians there are options made fish, mushrooms, etc. as the main ingredient.
- Fine Fettle Flats, which can be used as crackers are much more nutritious
- Plain corn chips, especially if you have guacamole in your board
- Vegetable/legume chips (e.g. lentil, chickpea, beetroot, sweet potato)
If you need nutrition advice, click here to check out our range of available services.