Charcuterie board, cheese board, snack board, adult lunchable – whatever you call it. This assembly of sweet and salty, soft and crunchy, bite-sized treats is a popular statement piece for entertaining, girls night, or a quick appetizer to throw together in a pinch.
If you’re anything like me and are conscious about your intake for fat-loss or weight-loss maintenance, but love the experience and taste of charcuterie, you’ll likely benefit from lightening up some options on your next board. For more meal building tips, subscribe to my newsletter and receive your free copy of my Meal Planning Workbook!
Healthy Charcuterie Checklist
Healthy Charcuterie Board Ingredients
While there is a high potential for nutrient density – calcium in cheese, protein in meat, healthy fat in nuts – charcuterie boards are often packed with high calorie foods that can send you over your needs in a pinch – mainly coming from the macronutrients fat and carbs. We can make some adjustments to reduce excess calories and increase the protein and fiber content for hunger management. Read on for my tips for a lighter board!
We’re going to start off with the best part of charcuterie boards – in my opinion – the cheese. Cheese will mainly consist of the macronutrient fat with some protein. A full-fat cheese will have more fat than protein, while a reduced-fat variety will flip that to have more protein than fat (a great swap for fat-loss or weight-loss maintenance goals). When I purchase cheese for sandwiches and cooking, I typically go with reduced-fat options. I don’t personally notice a difference when using these items in my day-to-day meals.
But…That changes when I’m building a board. In this case, I’ll usually go for higher quality options – flavored cheddars, striking blue cheese, or a triple cream brie. It’s fairly uncommon to find reduced-fat versions of these speciality products. I firmly brie-lieve we can just leave the cheese as-is here, and make adjustments to the other board ingredients.
The good news? You don’t have to make adjustments to EVERYTHING on your board. There’s power in understanding the composition of food and how to make some adjustments without the all-or-nothing mindset creeping in. I recommend picking 1-2 of your favorite cheese options and simply monitoring your portions. However, you can certainly find reduced-fat options for some cheeses – especially cheddar!
Traditional boards will use a combination of higher-fat, processed meats like pepperoni and salami. Similar to cheese, most of these options will have more fat than protein per serving. I prefer to choose two lower-fat options to balance out the fat present with the cheese. For example, prosciutto, turkey pepperoni, beef jerky, sliced deli meat – turkey, ham, or chicken. Don’t be afraid to get creative here!
If you can find a whole-wheat cracker, fantastic. You could also find lower-fat options like reduced-fat wheat thins. I simply suggest choosing one cracker to pair with your meat and cheese. Have it on your board, but don’t make it the focus.
Fruit & Veggies
Alright, here we go. Once we get past the meat, cheese, and crackers…we can really make an impact with the final additions. Filling your board with some higher fiber & lower calorie options like fruit & veggies can help balance the focus with the meat, cheese, and crackers.
I suggest throwing in a sliced veggie and/or fruit in place of your second cracker. Try adding some carrot sticks, sliced cucumbers or bell peppers, and/or sliced apples.
If you’re going to have some veggies on your board, you’ll need something to dip them in, because who actually enjoys just eating plain vegetables? Not me. My favorite veggie dips are hummus and greek yogurt ranch (try mixing plain, whole milk greek yogurt with some ranch seasoning). If I’m adding some sliced apples, I also like to include my high-protein fruit dip (1/2 cup plain greek yogurt, 2 tbsp powdered peanut butter, 1 tsp honey, and some cinnamon).
I personally choose to also include honey on my boards (IYKYK). Adding a second dip like honey or jam is appropriate when portions are in check and adjustments are made to other ingredients.
Mixed nuts are a popular filler on charcuterie boards. Of course they are a nutrient-dense food with healthy fat, but it’s important to note that they are calorie dense. Since we will already have some fat coming from the meat and cheese, I suggest saving the mixed nuts for a different day. However, if you truly enjoy them, put a handful in a small dish to make it less of a focus – sometimes I like to add a little sweetness with chocolate covered almonds! Instead of filling in the gaps on your board with mixed nuts, try filling them in with berries.
Another lower calorie filler that I love to include is pickled vegetables – pickles, olives, okra, etc. These are fairly low calorie items with a PUNCH of flavor. There are some really fun varieties out there, so be creative and try something new!
*While I aim to be aware of my portions with calorie-dense items, there are times where it’s appropriate to just enjoy the traditional board without being focused or concerned with the calories. If you need help navigating your own needs and lifestyle habits for fat-loss or weight-loss maintenance, apply for nutrition coaching here.