Like many people, you’ve probably been cooking at home a lot lately. But keeping your menu plan fresh and healthy and finding time to cook after your daily tasks can be tough (let alone tackling the piles of dishes that follow).
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And while takeout from your favorite local restaurants is a great solution, it can also get pricey rather quickly — and you may not know all of the ingredients you’re getting.
“More often than not, eating at home is generally the best option,” says dietitian Anna Taylor, RD. “While your favorite restaurants might offer healthy options for you to choose from — you have more control over your ingredients at home and aren’t tempted by larger portion sizes in your own kitchen.”
That’s where the “dinner board” comes in — also called a charcuterie plate — to shake things up, use what you have and save some prep and cleanup time.
“The benefits of these large platters full of proteins, fruits and veggies, breads, spreads and salads are that they’re quick, fun ways to eat healthy any night of the week,” Taylor says. “Plus, you’re not cooking anything, You’re just assembling, which means it’s super-quick and easy. You’ll be amazed at what a memorable and healthful meal you can make out of what you already have.”
Here are some tips Taylor recommends to build your healthy and enticing charcuterie dinner board easily any night of the week.
Grab a platter or cutting board
Charcuterie plates are generally large plates or boards loaded up with a variety of foods in smaller, shareable amounts and there are no rules how to put them together. The idea is that everything is bite size, grab-able and shareable that you just open, unwrap, assemble and enjoy. So unearth your favorite platter and really go for the visual.
You‘ll also want to grab a few small bowls and a couple of spoons and spreading knives for dipping sauces or small salads. Otherwise, the possibilities are endless and the dishes are few.
Pilfer your own pantry, raid your refrigerator
You may wish to stick to the traditional style of charcuterie — servings primarily meats and proteins, or create your own food theme. Or you can go pescatarian, vegetarian, vegan or other. It all depends on what you’ve stocked your shelves with already.
Because this is technically dinner, try to make your dinner board with a balanced representation of all of the nutrients you need — proteins, vegetables and the recommended amount of carbs, fruits, low-fat dairy and healthy spreads, sauces and salads.
Peek in your pantry for those bite-sized canned goods and vegetables you might not always think to use. Grab the chickpeas and artichoke hearts, go for the olives and canned tuna.
Get creative with these foods
Here are the items that lend themselves well to a healthy dinner board you can assemble in minutes. Any combination is a good one, so try different combos on different nights.
Canned and jarred
- Dill pickles.
- Marinated artichokes
- Stuffed grape leaves.
- Roasted red peppers.
- Fermented vegetables or kimchee.
- Red onion.
- Sliced fennel.
- Endive spears.
- Low sugar dried fruits like raisins, sultanas, prunes or figs.
- Red or green grapes.
- Cherries, strawberries, raspberries or blackberries.
- Leftover cold boneless, skinless chicken breast.
- Cold salmon drizzled with olive oil, salt and lemon.
- Nuts of any kind.
- Roasted chick peas.
- Dried edamame.
- Rolled ham or turkey.
- Canned tuna in water with salt, pepper and rosemary.
- Canned sardines, trout or herring (serve with low-fat cream cheese and pepper).
- Cooked shrimp squeezed with lemon.
- Hard boiled eggs.
Grains and crackers
- Gluten-free nut and seed-based crackers.
- Brown rice cakes.
- Whole wheat pita wedges.
- Woven whole wheat crackers.
- Thin wheat crackers.
- Whole wheat bagel chips.
- Whole grain pretzels.
- Hummus with chick pea, tahini and squeeze of lemon.
- Mashed eggs, olive oil, salt, pepper and paprika.
- Chunky avocado crushed with a dash of lime juice and sprinkle of salt.
- Tapenade made with chopped olives, capers, anchovies or red pepper and olive oil.
- Skim mozzarella.
- Vegan nut cheese.
- Arugula drizzled with lemon, olive oil salt and pepper.
- Whole chickpeas tossed with lemon, salt, pepper, tomato, feta, red onion and olive oil.
- Mozzarella pearls and tomato sliced with basil or cilantro and olive oil.
Condiments and dips
“All of these options are healthy in moderation. And now that you know the best things to put on a charcuterie dinner board, all you need to do is assemble, place in the center of the table and enjoy,” Taylor says. “And the best part? Fewer dishes.”