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Health & Fitness

How to Create Your Own Charcuterie Board



– Nutrition –

A charcuterie board offers a medley of flavors and textures — and is a tasty, minimal-effort dinner option that’s ideal for the season.

Summertime often calls for simpler meals, and building your own charcuterie board is about as easy — and tasty — as it gets. The vibrant array of foods is not only a visual treat, but also quick and easy to assemble, and the variety of options encourages the whole family to pick and choose what they love.

Start with a few meats, the traditional components of a charcuterie board. From there, you can select cheeses and other elements based on the flavors you want to complement. Elizabeth Nerud, an American Cheese Society–certified cheese professional, suggests making friends with the cheese­monger at a local cheese counter. “They know the cheeses, their flavors and their stories, and if you tell them what you like, they can guide you.”

Once you’ve selected meats and cheeses, mix in fruits, crackers, veggies, and simple hors d’oeuvres. Include toothpicks, spoons, and other small utensils for ease and cleanliness, along with some napkins and small plates. You’ll have a satisfying summer­time spread everyone can enjoy. Here are some of our top tips and recipes for a DIY charcuterie board:

  • You can purchase your favorite nut- or seed-based crackers, or try our Almond Seed Crackers recipe (see below).
  • Select a couple of meats or seafood. Salmon, prosciutto, salami, and mortadella are good options.
  • Dried dates add a pleasantly chewy texture, while pickles provide acidity to balance the salty richness of the cheeses and cured meats.
  • Pick two or three cheeses with different flavors and textures. “Focus on flavors you find friendly and inviting,” advises cheese professional Elizabeth Nerud, “and plan on about 2 ounces per person.”
  • Nuts offer a crunchy contrast to creamy cheeses.
  • Add some fresh fruit to your board; the sweetness will cut through the savory elements. If you’re serving apple or pear slices, spritz them with lemon juice to keep them from browning.
  • Include some veggies for their crisp, fresh flavor and satisfying crunch.

Robin Asbell
is a Minneapolis-based recipe developer and cookbook author.

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Health & Fitness

Small Shifts to the USDA Dietary Guidelines



The recent updates to the USDA nutrition guidelines recommend lowering sugar and alcohol intake and opting for breastfeeding over infant formula.

Every five years, a government-appointed committee draws up a national healthy-eating menu. Since the first Dietary Guidelines for Americans was issued in 1980, this nutritional advice has been broadly focused on our health, but it also affects food-stamp policies and school-lunch menus.

It influences processed-food formulations for the food-manufacturing industry, as well — and this is where politics and big business enter in.

More than half of the members of the panel formulating the 2020–2025 guide have food-industry ties. And those involved in adding first-ever advice for pregnant mothers and toddlers are all connected to baby-food makers.

“My concern is that these guidelines, heavily influenced by the food and beverage industry, will dictate what kinds of food are offered at schools and set the eating habits of children, particularly Black and brown children, for the rest of their lives,” says pediatrician Yolandra Hancock, MD, an obesity expert at George Washington University’s Milken Institute of Public Health.

Despite her own reservations, Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH, author of Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health, has been pleasantly relieved by this panel’s work. “I was concerned about this when the committee was first appointed because so many of the members had worked with companies making products high in sugar, salt, and fat. But the committee surprised me. It stuck to the science and came out with recommendations quite consistent with previous recommendations, but even more restrictive.”

Among the new guidelines:

  • The committee reduced the recommended limit for alcoholic drinks from two to one daily.
  • The panel advised lowering daily consumption of added sugars by 40 percent, cutting intake from 12.5 to 7.5 teaspoons, or a maximum of 120 calories or 30 grams.
  • For the first time, the guidelines recommended breastfeeding versus infant formulas, stating that being breastfed “may reduce” the risk of obesity, type 1 diabetes, and asthma.

For her part, Nestle — who served on the 1995 committee — recommends the dietary guidelines be taken with a grain of salt compared with our own intuitive common sense.

“I always have concerns about the guidelines’ increasing complexity — it’s now 835 pages,” she says. “From my standpoint, [journalist] Michael Pollan’s seven-word mini-haiku takes care of things quite nicely: ‘Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.’”

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