Who doesn't love a gorgeous charcuterie board? Besides being colorful and beautiful, boards are full of savory and delicious foods to munch on and serve to your guests. Boards are an easy way to entertain friends, enjoy a night in with the family, or celebrate a holiday tradition.
But many boards are loaded down with the wrong ingredients. You may find fatty meats, sugary jams, refined grain crackers and sugar-coated dried fruit.
There is a better way, and it's really not hard to create something lovely AND incredibly healthy.
We're going to show you how to select the BEST ingredients and build a truly amazing healthy charcuterie board that will serve your health and impress your guests. Read on.
How To Think About Your Gut Healthy Charcuterie Boards
If you've made a board before, this is going to be easy. If not, well then this is a great way to get started!
The first way to think about your healthy board is to swap any options out for healthier ingredients.
The second principal is to reduce the amount of sugar on the board overall. If jams, honey and dried fruit are part of your board tradition, leaving these off your board (save the sugar for dessert) will help you create a truly gut healthy board.
Third, you'll want to be thinking about the balance and variety of the items on your board. We'll show you how to accomplish this.
Fermented foods are essential for a gut healthy board, and there are many great options. It's really the olives that anchor any charcuterie board. But not all olives are created equal.
For a healthy charcuterie board, you'll want to have naturally fermented olives like the ones we offer here at Olive My Pickle. (Skip the ones from the grocery store which are pasteurized and shelf stable.) Naturally fermented olives are packed with live cultures and enzymes. Olives offer an array of health benefits that are essential for gut health. Plus, they're delicious!
Better Ingredients for Your Charcuterie Board
Depending on the size of your board, you'll want to have at least 1 and as many as 3 different olives on your board. Although we have over a dozen naturally fermented olives, we recommend these three varieties of olives:
Greek Mix is a simple mix with a variety of colors, shapes and textures. They're lightly herbed for a nice flavor and one of our best selling olives. Greek Mix also has no pits. You'll want to avoid serving olives with pits on a charcuterie board.
Red Pepper Stuffed is a classic looking addition to any board. Although it resembles the smaller pimento stuffed manzanilla olive, Red Pepper Stuffed are actually a sweet red pepper stuffed into a large, firm green queen olive. The sweet of the pepper combined with the salt of the olives makes this a surprisingly delicious olive option.
If you want to go with a stuffed olive that bucks convention and gets your guests talking, consider our Tangerine Stuffed Olives, they're a conversation starter to be sure. When serving stuffed olives to guests, avoid Garlic Stuffed or Hot Pepper Stuffed olives.
Our Muffuletta Mix is a popular crowd pleaser. This mix is made of finely chopped olives, combined with finely chopped fermented vegetables, and marinated in extra virgin olive oil. It's as savory as it gets! Muffuletta Mix also works as a dip for your veggies or a spread for your gluten free crackers.
What's the difference between muffuletta and a tapenade you ask? It's the texture. Olive tapenade is more finely ground and more like a paste whereas muffuletta is chunkier.
Want to know more about the olive varieties we carry at Olive My Pickle? Click to Download Our Olive Buying Guide
Any board needs some pickles, their acid will help to balance the savory meats and cheeses you've selected. When serving pickles, be sure to do so in bite size portions. Options are to cut them coin style, or cut into quarter-spears then slice in half. Sliced diagonally (versus straight) will give an extra touch of flair. Try The Garlic Fermented Pickles, our most flavorful variety of pickles that your guests will devour.
Kraut is another great option for any board, adding another health acidic option for balance. Kraut can be quite awkward to eat as a finger food! Because of this we recommend to chop it up, almost as a relish, and place a small serving fork with it. We recommend our Red + Ginger Kraut because of the gorgeous purple color this specific kraut will add to your board. Avoid any kraut that is spicy on your board, as you don't know about the heat tolerance of your guests.
Our third "MVP" ferment that we have on our healthy charcuterie board? That would be our Veggie Medley. A mix of basics like chopped green cabbage, carrots, cauliflower and red bell peppers, the Veggie Medley is familiar favorite and another opportunity to add gut health variety and acid to your board.
Nuts add savor, healthy fats and crunch to any board. Our two favorite nuts are known for their incredible brain health benefits. Walnuts are the #1 top nut for brain health. They have a significantly high concentration of DHA, a type of Omega-3 fatty acid. Among other things, DHA has been shown to improve cognitive performance in adults and prevent or improve age-related cognitive decline.
Brazil nuts are another fine choice to serve on your healthy charcuterie board. Brazil nuts contain an abundance of selenium, a mineral that helps boost the activity of antioxidants that may protect the brain from damage. One brazil nut supplies all of the selenium you need in a day!
Avoid serving candied or overly salted nuts on your charcuterie board. Many nuts are also processed in highly inflammatory seed oils. A better option is to buy raw nuts (available in bulk) and roast them yourself.
Roasting raw walnuts will remove their bitterness. Use minimal oil: mix the oil into the nuts within a bowl and stir (try coconut or extra virgin olive oil.) Season with high mineral sea salt and use any herbs (such as rosemary or thyme). Spread the nuts on a baking sheet and place in oven at 350 degrees. Depending on the nut type and quantity, baking time will differ. Keep stirring them until desired doneness.
We love cheese! We could have a straight cheese board and be happy.
No board is complete without some delicious cheese. Since processed and pasteurized cheese can be harder on digestion, the best type of gut friendly cheese to serve is raw cheese. If that's not available in your area, try goat cheese (goat dairy can be easier on digestion that cow dairy.)
What cheese do we put on our board? For us its about variety, we'll serve a softer goat cheese to spread on gluten free crackers, a milder white cheese and a sharper yellow cheese. With thousands of options to choose from, variety won't be a challenge so go with your favorites and have fun.
Opt for nitrate free deli meats and salami. Another option is to place better jerky or sliced up better meat sticks into bite size chunks. By 'better' we're referring to grass fed and/or pasture fed meats. These are widely available in most major grocery stores.
Another high quality protein you can add to your board are hard boiled (or better yet, medium boiled) eggs.
Serving veggies is another opportunity to add colors galore plus fiber options to your healthy charcuterie board! Cucumber slices, carrot sticks and colorful bell peppers are some of our favorites.
Some gut health pro tips when serving veggies on your healthy charcuterie board:
Skip the raw broccoli. Raw cruciferous vegetables (including broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and leafy greens like kale) are quite hard to digest and can cause bloating and stomach cramping. These veggies are best served lightly cooked (but not on a charcuterie board) OR fermented. Fermentation predigests them, solving any digestibility issues they present when raw.
For a gut healthy board, leave the peels on your veggies. The peel is where much of the fiber resides. A peels-on cluster of veggies on your board is less polished and more rustic way to serve, and definitely more gut friendly.
Cut veggies into manageable bite size portions OR into "dip-able" finger food sizes.
Instead of sour cream, opt for greek yogurt, which is a much healthier dairy and easier to digest because of its like cultures. PRO TIP: Mix 1 part Muffuletta Mix with 2-3 parts greek yogurt for an AMAZING creamy veggie and cracker dip.
Better Crackers and Breads
The best crackers you can choose are gluten free and crackers made without the use of inflammatory, Omega 6 seed oils. There are so many good brands to choose from available at Trader Joe's, Whole Foods and in the healthy-options section of any mass grocery store. Choose a couple of different options, for variety.
For a more rustic board, serve with sourdough bread. Sourdough is the most gut friendly bread option, due to the dough being fermented and thus predigested. The soaking and fermenting of the grains make sourdough bread much easier to digest.
Fresh fruit should take the place of any candy, candied nuts, dried fruit, jams and honey. Our favorite fresh fruits for your healthy charcuterie board include:
Berries - Raspberries, blackberries and blueberries are packed with antioxidants and potassium, magnesium, vitamins C and K. Berries are a source of prebiotics—soluble fiber that help promote a healthy gut. It's especially important to buy berries organic, as they are a dirty dozen fruit.
Grapes - a traditional favorite for a healthy charcuterie board, grapes are a low glycemic index fruit and their peels are packed with fiber. It's especially important to buy grapes organic, as they are on the dirty dozen list.
Pears and apples - Seasonally appropriate, pears and apples are a perfect charcuterie board fruit. Slice and place on your board last for best presentation. It's especially important to buy both pear and apples organic, as they are both on the dirty dozen list.
Figs - Figs are festive and when sliced in half absolutely beautiful. Packed with fiber, figs are a nutritious addition to any healthy charcuterie board.
Dark Chocolate - Chocolate is technically a fruit! Buy a high quality bar of dark chocolate with 85% cacao (it's still sweet and has the lowest sugar). Dark chocolate contains a decent amount of soluble fiber which makes it a great source of prebiotics for your board, plus its loaded with minerals. Break into bite size chunks (a little bit of 85 dark chocolate goes a long way) and pile neatly on the board.
How to style your board ingredients like a pro
The best advise we can give you is collect some inspiration and just dive in. Because the ingredients are so beautiful, it really is hard to make an ugly charcuterie board. Select an appropriate sized cutting board and place your bowled items first. Then place your bigger items (such as your meats and cheeses) and begin to fill in around these anchor items. Balance color and variety.
When your guests begin to enjoy the board, you can place bowls and small plates with more items around the board. This is a great trick for when you want to present a stunning board with a lot of ingredients, but have some space constraints. You'll want an abundant amount of the good stuff (i.e. the savory items like olives, meats and cheeses which tend to go first), so be sure to have backup of those items so your guests get enough to eat.
The most important part in building a healthy charcuterie board? Have fun!
All of the Olive My Pickle ferments we mentioned in this article are available when you purchase the Big Board Bundle. Save 5% when you purchase a bundle.
Learn more about gut health from these related articles:
We talked a lot about fiber in this article. Learn more from our article The Best Types of Fiber for Gut Health.
Want to read about more gut friendly ways to entertain? Check out 9 Health Appetizers You Can Make in 5 Minutes.
The holidays are a hectic time. Getting quality sleep is more important than ever! Read about how sleep impacts your gut health in our article The Connection Between Gut Health and Sleep Quality.
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