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A Balanced Plate (& A Cheesy Giveaway!)

Posted Mar 06 2013 2:56pm
When I want it decadent and gooey, I hit up San Francisco’s American Grilled Cheese Kitchen. When I feel like a little kid, I peel thin strings off a cheese stick and pretend I have a cheese beard. When I’m really hungry? Slices of comté. Bread knife. Kitchen counter. But, when I’m feeling fancy, I pull out my cheeseboard, cheese knives, and a bottle of wine. And sometimes I invite other people to join me.

As a dietitian, I want people to enjoy eating. We typically eat at least three times a day, every day for our whole lives. Let’s say you start eating regular meals at about a year old and you live until you’re 90 – that’s at least 97,455 eating opportunities. And that doesn’t count standing outside the refrigerator plucking out handfuls of grapes, eating frozen mini chocolate peanut butter cups from Trader Joe’s, or enjoying healthy snacks throughout the day.

Food is both personal and social, and if you stress about everything you eat, you’re going to spend…well, a lot of time stressed out. And that’s going to do a number on your body’s ability to regulate its own hunger and fullness signals and desire to retain or lose weight.  Not to mention bolster its uncanny ability to wind and warp feelings of hunger and fullness with emotion, totally confusing us inside and out.

On the whole, I believe that if you like something, eat it. If you feel better not eating it, and you can maintain a healthy attitude and get all the nutrients you need, don’t eat it. I’m not a fan of “forbidden foods” because that all-or-nothing mindset leads to guilt, and more guilt. Better to balance your diet by eating lots of healthy food so when you make an indulgent choice that’s got the whole delicious fat-salt-sweet thing going on, you’re all good.

This leads me back to cheese.

My typical advice for people who are trying to eat healthfully is to enjoy small amounts of full-fat cheese, and use reduced-fat cheese when you're making a dish that calls for a lot of dairy and you just need that cheesy flavor and texture. For example, when I make lasagna , I use skim milk shredded cheese for the majority of the dish, and mix in some full-fat cheese to boost the flavor.

When Culture gave me the opportunity to throw a cheese party, I jumped on it, and prepared a bunch of healthy apps to go alongside the main attraction.

They sent a pretty box of cheesesBayley Hazen BlueComté , and  Great Lakes Cheshire , along with spiced pecans and oat crackers.

While the cheese was a huge hit, the Zingerman’s Spiced Pecans  may have won the popularity contest. Friends dipped their fingers into the empty bowl to scoop up the sweet powder. 

Another unexpected hit was celery and carrot sticks dipped into spicy Thai peanut sauce. It went with chicken skewers, but people seemed more interested in dipping the veggies! The Barefoot Contessa’s spinach gratin made with skim milk went over well too. Special thanks to Saffron Road and TraderJoe’s for letting me pour some appetizers out of a bag. I chose a mix of high-stress (raw chicken on the counter 30 minutes before people arrived) and low-stress appetizers (open plastic container of edamame, insert spoon, place on table). There are shortcuts for pretty much everything – you gotta pick your party prep battles.

I’ve posted my recipes and other healthy app ideas on my Pinterest page!

THE GIVEAWAY: You could win a copy of   Cheese for Dummies , courtesy of  Culture  magazine! 

To enter, tell us: what are your favorite healthy appetizers? You must post a comment to enter the giveaway. For every tweet or facebook post, you get an extra entry! The giveaway ends on Tuesday, March 12th at 12pm EST. I'll announce the winner later that day. 

I can't wait to hear about your favorite healthy appetizers - if you have links to the recipes, please share them with everyone!

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