Yes, you can build your own healthy platter or charcuterie board! Here are six themed ideas brimming with nutrients that support health, along with tips and tricks for serving up a seriously epic platter.
No matter whether you’re the host or guest at another abode, a grazing platter of colourful nibbles is always a welcomed addition at social gatherings.
Fresh, colourful and brimming with options, you’re bound to get a collective ‘oooh’ when you place a loaded board in front of peckish guests.
As a nutritionist, I often get asked for easy and healthy snack ideas; not just for every day, but when entertaining too! The below will guide you on how to make delicious healthy platters that totally fit the brief.
This post is divided into 5 parts. Keep scrolling to read on or click on any of the following links to go direct to that section:
A grazing platter (sometimes called – depending on the featured foods – a charcuterie, party or cheese platter) is a board loaded with bite-sized and complimentary things to eat.
Think crisp veggie sticks and crackers; colourful dips and fancy cheeses; crunchy nuts and cold cuts; fresh or dried fruit, and decadent dark chocolate. Total eye candy for the taste buds!
While often served on a platter or board, grazing tables take shape as lavishes table-sized feasts; best suited when there are plentiful mouths to feed.
1) This simple summer fruit platter celebrates seasonal produce, like stone fruit and berries. A dark bitter chocolate pairing helps balance the sweetness from the fruit!
An Entertaining Dream…
Platters can be an ideal way to feed a group when entertaining, as:
They’re easy (and fun!) to set up. Great for those who hating slaving away in the kitchen when entertaining! Make your platter as low maintenance as you’d like, keeping food prep minimum outside of purchasing, slicing and placing.
They wow the crowd. With a few styling tricks up your sleeve, people will think you’re some kind of foodie Michelangelo!
They’re a slow, relaxed, sociable way to eat. Perfect for both low-key catch ups and fancier events.
They offer dietary flexibility. With options galore, guests can select what and how much they want to eat.
2) Loaded with omega-3 and zinc, this seafood-inspired platter heroes the oceans bounty.
Tools of the Trade
Every grazing platter needs a base. Depending on the crowd is the best bet on what to use. If serving a small group go for a small to medium serving board. If serving a medium to large crowd, use one or more large serving boards.
For a rustic-looking set up, go for a wooden board. For something more contemporary, marble is nice. To keep it simple, place baking or parchment paper directly onto a table and just build on that!
You might need an assortment of small bowls to load up with dips (also great at providing height and dimension!), cutlery or small plates for walk-and-fork style eating, and cheese knives for smearing things onto crackers.
3) This fruit and dark chocolate fondue platter packs a hefty antioxidant punch. Dunk chocolate-dipped fruit into your pick of seeds, cacao nibs and coconut. Fancy!
Grazing Platter Food Guide
The fun begins! For a healthy grazing board, load up with a balance of protein-rich foods, healthy wholefood fats (like those in nuts and olives), fibre-rich grainy crackers, and an assortment of antioxidant packed fruit and veggies.
Not only will this provide great nutritional diversity, but flavour and textural variety too. The sweetness of the fruit will balance the saltiness of the nuts, which will balance the acidity of the pickled onions…you get the picture.
Check in with guest for dietary requirements (e.g. gluten, dairy or nut free; vegan; seafood allergies…). If you’ve got gluten free pals, opt for rice crackers over grainy ones. If you have low carb pals, you could swap the crackers for cucumber slices!
From each of the groups below, aim to select one or more items:
The Vehicle (aka things to dip into dips)
Include your pick of fresh veggie sticks like celery, carrot or capsicum; crackers e.g. oat, grainy or rice crackers; vegetable rounds e.g. cucumber slices; and quality bread like sourdough sliced thinly, wholegrain pita or grainy toast cut into squares.
Dips and Spreads
Like hummus a chickpea-tahini based dip; tzataki, a Greek side dish composed of yogurt with cucumber, garlic, and mint; pâté, rich in vitamin A and delicious with crackers; pesto, perfect to make when your garden is overflowing with fresh herbs, like basil; guacamole for when avocados are ample; olive oil with dukkah; and condiments e.g. mustard (dijon/whole grain).
Go for fresh fruit, whatever is seasonal; dried fruit e.g. figs, apricots, dates, prunes or sultanas; honey or a block of honeycomb, amazing with cheeses, fruit paste or smeared onto crackers; homemade or store-bought sweet treats, like your favourite bliss balls;Medjool dates stuffed with nut butter; or a high percentage dark chocolate – it’s packed with antioxidants!
You could include seafood e.g. smoked salmon wedge or slices, sashimi (raw fish), oysters on ice or marinated mussels; mini meatballs, cooked with grated veggies in the mix for a nutrient boost; roasted crunchy chickpeas, great for plant-based platters; boiled eggs sliced in wedges or halves; cooked meats, like chicken; an assortment of nutse.g. walnuts, almonds or cashews; and cheeses, the hero of any platter. Softer cheeses like brie or camembert work well, as well as aged cheddars and crumbly feta.
Brined, Pickled & Other Goodies
Olives, make sure to add a little bowl to discard pips; marinated veggies e.g. artichokes, gherkins or peppers; popcorn, awesome for kiddie snacking; or a small bowl of gut-loving kimchi and sauerkraut.
4) Plant-based cheese board🧀 No dairy? No problem! Plant-based cheeses are made sans animal products, with varying ingredients based on the recipe or brand. Find your favourite!
Practicality Tips & Tricks
Without a pragmatic considered approach to your platter, it’s easy to face a budget blow out or food waste. Remember to:
Count your guest heads to ensure you’re planning and buying accordingly. Keep in mind ratios of ingredients that pair together – if you’ve got more dip than veggie sticks, you’ll wind up with wasted dip!
Budget-wise, Check your kitchen for what could star on your board. This is a great way to use up nuts, crackers, dried fruit or condiments.
Celebrate seasonal produce as it will always be cheaper, fresher and more accessible than out of season.
Keep items bite-sized for ease of eating. A whole pear will likely be left untouched, but slices will disappear into bellies.
Be food safe. Platters evoke a slow, sociable way to eat. Consider serving smaller amounts and replenishing fresh as needed. Be mindful of temperature, time and even insects (particularly when serving outdoors) – some foods spoil quicker than others and shouldn’t be out for longer than two hours. For more advice on food safety at home, check out MPI’s guide here.
5) Vegetarian Mediterranean mezze platters are ideal for those who don’t eat meat. Load it up with olives, feta, hummus, artichoke hearts, crisp oven-baked pita, dates and plant-protein packed falafel.
There are no set rules on how you lay out a platter – let your creative juices flow and have fun! Here are some tips:
Less is more does not apply. Abundance (and colour!) is the wow factor with platters. Put down larger items first, then add medium-sized, followed by smaller items (like nuts or berries) to fill in gaps and make it look overflowing.
Channel the rainbow. Aside from being visually pleasing, different colours equal different nutrients! Pair like-colours together for true rainbow vibes.
Swirl crackers or layer on top of each other. Snake them around the edges of the board and dip bowls (the latter ideal for ease of eating on larger scale platters!).
Use edible flowers or herb sprigs to garnish. Totally not necessary, so you can have extra brownie points for this one. Big stalks of rosemary add a lovely rustic vibe.
Some fruit, like sliced apple and pear, tend to go brown once cut. A squeeze of fresh lemon juice will keep them looking fresh as.
6) Rainbow platter🌈 A treat for the eyes. Simply group coloured items for this vibe.
Prepare ingredients as required. Slice or chop produce, load dips into bowls etc.
Onto your serving board or parchment paper, place bigger items of food down first. Fill in the gaps with smaller items e.g. dried fruit, olives or nuts. There's no set flow or order you have to follow – lay down what feels right, where it feels right.