By Zoe Bradbury
Cheese platters have always been a wine-and-dine staple, a perfect accompaniment to any gathering.
But typically, they can be less than healthy, with calories adding up fast due to piles of dairy and wheat products.
There is also the issue of making a cheese platter look presentable. Anyone can throw some cheese and crackers on a plate and call it a cheese platter.
But it never hurts to make a cheese platter that is as lovely to look at, as it is to eat, especially with society’s reliance on Instagram and getting the perfect picture.
This month, we’re taking inspiration from Instagram user @cheesebythenumbers, who has created a foolproof template for creating the perfect cheese platter.
Her imagery is gorgeous, and the platters are exactly what one would want at an event. But can these cheese platters be made the healthy way? Read on to find out
To create a great cheese platter, follow these steps:
The main things to consider when opting for a healthier cheese are the sodium and the saturated fat content.
Ricotta is one of the lowest fat cheeses, with only four grams of fat per ounce. Similarly, feta is another option, with only six grams of fat per ounce.
As these are both soft cheeses, it’s also a good idea to include a harder cheese on the platter to provide a different texture. Swiss, Monterey Jack, and Gruyere are all hard cheeses that have low-sodium.
Another option is to include cheeses with a high protein or calcium content. Parmesan has the highest protein content, with 10 grams of protein per ounce, while swiss cheese is another good option, with 7.5 grams per ounce.
Many crackers can be high in sugar, unhealthy fats, sodium and artificial flavours.
Check the nutrition label and choose products that have minimal ingredients. Generally speaking, if you can’t pronounce an ingredient or are unsure of what it is, this means it is an artificial additive, says Dana Angelo White, registered dietitian for the Food Network.
Look for a low sodium content – less than 230mg per serving, which is roughly 10 per cent of the daily recommended value.
As for the fat content, choose options that have less than 10 grams of fat per 100g serving.
For healthier options, use wholegrain crackers, but check that the label says “100% wholegrain” or that whole grains are the first ingredient.
These are usually high in fibre, which is beneficial for digestion and feeling fuller for longer.
Rice crackers and crispbreads are another good option as they are low in fat.
Additionally, halve the amount of crackers on the platter and replace them with vegetables such as carrots or celery.
Instead of buying store-bought dips that may be laden with sugars and artificial additives, spend a little extra time and make some dips at home.
This way, one can be exactly sure of the ingredients.
Guacamole is an easy, yet healthy option. Avocados are rich in healthy fats, vitamins and potassium. They aren’t called a superfood for nothing.
For a large bowl serving, take three avocados, juice of one lime, 1/3 cup chopped red onion, 2-3 gloves of minced garlic and sea salt. Mash the avocados together and then mix in the other ingredients. Garnish with some chopped tomatoes for freshness.
Another healthy, low-carb option is a skinny basil pesto. Traditionally, pesto can be high in oil and fat, but this recipe uses minimal oil and instead focuses on whole ingredients.
Take 1 cup of basil, 1 clove of garlic, ¼ cup grated parmesan, 2/ ½ tbsp olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.
Pulse all the ingredients, besides the oil, in a food processor until smooth. Slowly add the olive oil while pulsing. This recipe by SkinnyTaste makes five servings, so for large platters, double or triple the ingredients.
Limit the amount of processed meats on the platter, such as salami or ham. These are high in fat and salt, and have even been linked to a modest increased risk of bowel cancer, says Cancer Council Australia.
Instead, choose cold meats that are high in protein, like smoked salmon, which is also high in omega-3 healthy fats. Another option is a lean meat, such as turkey slices.
Pack on the fruits and vegetables not only as a colourful addition, but to increase the number of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre on the platter.
Vegetables such as celery and carrot can be cut into sticks for easy dipping, and they also add a crunchy texture.
Figs, strawberries, pears, blueberries and cherries are all healthy additions, but any fruit can be placed and still have nutritional benefits. Another option is to choose seasonal fruits; for example, berries, melons and peaches in Summer, or apples, grapefruit, oranges and kiwifruit in Winter.
Nuts can provide a crunch to the platter, as well as different health benefits.
Almonds have the highest calcium level of all nuts, and they can also help lower cholesterol, while cashews are rich in iron and high in magnesium.
Olives can also add another taste. Olives are rich in antioxidants, and they can help reduce inflammation and the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer.
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