I love to snack on toasted pita bread and hummus, a traditional Middle Eastern dip made from pureed chickpeas (garbanzo beans), tahini (sesame seed paste), olive oil, lemon juice and spices—including lots of fresh garlic. In fact, it’s easily a light meal, and all of the ingredients can be found at your natural and organic food store.
“The garbanzo beans in hummus provide the protein and minerals found in meats, along with dietary fiber that meats lack,” says nutritionist and registered dietitian Karen Collins, a consultant for the American Institute for Cancer Research. “However, you’ll need about a half-cup serving of most hummus recipes to get enough protein to substitute for a serving of meat.”
But there are a few nutritional pitfalls, Collins warns.
“Because of the high fat content of the tahini added to the mashed beans in hummus for flavor, a half-cup of hummus might contain from 200 to 700 calories and 10 to 60 grams of fat,” she says. “Although some vegetarians may need a concentrated source of calories like hummus, most Americans should eat it in moderation to avoid excess calories. For example, you can use small amounts like two tablespoons to accompany raw vegetables and rely on other kinds of bean dishes that are lower in fat as protein sources. You could also make some of the lower-fat versions of hummus featured in healthy cookbooks, magazines and websites to enjoy a low-fat meat substitute.”
Book Pick of the Day: Hummus: And 65 Other Delicious & Healthy Chickpea Recipes