Sweet and savory: Put together a charcuterie board that's healthy and beautiful

MILWAUKEE -- They're a staple in entertaining these day -- charcuterie boards. But they're not always the best food for you. Health coach Heather Ferber joins Real Milwaukee to help us put together a better board.

Charcuterie is a French term that refers to the branch of cooking devoted to prepared and preserved meats. Originally developed as a way to preserve meats, prior to the advent of refrigeration, the term 'charcuterie' has grown to be a trend in the dining world.

Beautiful charcuterie boards have evolved into foodie creations usually mixing aged meat, cheese, chutney, crackers and some type of fermented or pickled product. With that said, charcuterie boards may often be loaded with nitrates, MSG, artificial colors and flavors, poor quality fats, over sweetened jellies, and difficult to digest foods.

Health Coach Heather Ferber is here today to share a few ideas on how to bump up the quality and create a healthier charcuterie board.

Aged Meats
Look for products that do not contain added nitrates and other preservatives. Boar`s Head brand offers many types of meats that are free of artificial colors and flavors, no MSG added, and no fillers or by-products. You can add a variety of dried jerky`s or even dehydrate your own. Applegate offers nitrate free turkey pepperoni, which is delicious. And local butchers, such as Bunzel`s, carry better quality aged meats.

As we age, many people lose the ability to efficiently digest dairy products. Goat cheese may be easier for some to digest. Try a variety of goat cheeses on your board instead of cow cheese. Some of my favorites include Carr Valley and Drunken Goat.

The chutney provides just a hint of sweetness, to cut the salty flavor, when mixing the meats and cheeses. Look for one where the first ingredient is not sugar or one that has no sugar added.

Branch out! Try something new like Flackers or Mary`s Gone Crackers. These are delicious crackers made from flax and chia seeds which have far healthier fats (better omega 3 to 6 ratio) and other benefits than traditional wheat based/grain based crackers.

Fermented Foods
Ferments provide the 'twang' and contrast to the flavors we`ve already discussed. Plus they add a healthy boost of probiotics. Put a couple small spoonful`s in a bowl on your board and experiment with combining flavors. Check out locally made Jeff`s Zymbiotics for a full array of fermented carrots, beets, sauerkraut and kimchi.

BONUS BOARD FILLERS - Make your board look pretty!
Colorful veggies - slices of peppers, celery, carrots, cucumbers, peppercini`s, green beans, and radishes add wonderful pops of color to a board

Colorful Fruits - dried apricots, figs, cherries or berries are a board pleaser. Be careful with fresh fruits if using a wooden board - you don`t want the fruit to stain your board . Put it in a small bowl on the board.

Hummus - pairs nicely with veggies for dipping

Truffles - healthy date/nut/chocolate truffles made by companies such as Made in Nature can finish off any empty spaces on your beautiful board.