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13 Pantry Staples to Buy Before You Try the Mediterranean Diet

13 Pantry Staples to Buy Before You Try the Mediterranean Diet

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Keep these items on hand to incorporate the Mediterranean diet into your everyday eating—in addition, of course, to fresh fruits, veggies, and fish.

1. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Eating healthy should still be delicious.

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Extra-virgin olive oil has endless applications in the kitchen. At Cooking Light, we love to use it as a finishing oil for salads and veggies—and for good reason. As nutritionist Brierley Horton says, "Research shows it can lower your risk of heart disease and death from heart disease."

2. Canned Fish

Sustainable tuna, salmon, anchovies, clams, and sardines are all tasty, budget-friendly ways to get the heart-healthy omega-3s that are an important piece of the healthy puzzle of the Mediterranean diet. Not sure where to start? We've got delicious and unexpected ways to cook with sardines, creative uses for anchovy paste, and tuna salad recipes that have nothing to do with sad desk lunches.

3. Dried Fruit

Apricots, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, figs, raisins, and prunes can enhance a bevy of recipes, both sweet and savory. One Mediterranean-inspired dish we can't get enough of is this healthier take on chicken Marbella, which plays the sweetness of prunes against the brine of Castelvetrano olives and bright notes of Meyer lemon.

4. Raw or Roasted Nuts and Seeds

There is every health reason to be nuts for nuts! Not only that, but walnuts, almonds, pistachios, pine nuts, and tahini are so often just the things that add that little something special to a recipe. Try a cauliflower-farro bowl dressed with tahini-chili dressing, spoon this pistachio-herb relish over seafood, or quick-sear shrimp with a decadent walnut-and-herb gremolata.

harpazo_hope/Getty Images

5. Whole-Grain Staples

Whole grains should form a part of any healthy diet. Read our in-depth guide to learn about the health benefits and get started. Then, just pick! Pasta, bulgur wheat (the base of tabbouleh), farro, millet, whole-grain cornmeal or corn grits—there are a wealth of options and, of course, we have recipes for all of them. A good place to start? This simple, seasoned bulgur that you can use for wholesome breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.

6. Tomatoes

Italy's "Red Gold" is just that—gold—in kitchen terms. Whether you stock canned tomatoes, paste, sauce, or sun-drieds, you'll find there's almost no end to the applications of the savory veggie. Whether it's paste adding flavor to a plant-based stew or sun-drieds gussying up a big batch of pasta, the sweet-savory acidity of tomatoes is a requirement in a Mediterranean pantry.

7. Olives

It's no secret that we here at Cooking Light have a favorite olive. Comb through our recipes and you'll see, time and again, vibrant green Castelvetranos peep their heads up to add a briny but buttery pop to a variety of dishes. If you're unfamiliar with olives, Castelvetranos are the perfect gateway olive. Try them in salsa to dress up tuna melts, taking roasted parsnips to the next level, or packing a punch in a quesadilla.

8. Whole-Grain Crackers

What snack platter or cheese plate is complete without crackers? The nuttiness of whole grains adds depth and complexity that white-flour crackers just can't match. Up any snack ante by making your own. We like this crunchy, three-seed cracker recipe.

9. Canned Beans

Cans of beans are a pantry staple for any diet! But for the Mediterranean diet, chickpeas, cannellini, fava, kidney beans, and lentils take on a special importance. Though you may want to stir up a perfect pot of dried beans, their canned counterparts can save SO much time on a hectic weeknight. Looking for something to do with the cans in your fridge? Try these 21 recipes.

10. Herbs and Spices

No pantry is complete without seasonings, and for the Mediterranean pantry we recommend the following: oregano, cumin, basil, bay leaves, black pepper, crushed red pepper, curry powder, dill, garlic powder, ginger, paprika, rosemary, saffron, sage, thyme, and turmeric. We also recommend blends like Italian seasoning or za'atar, which often contains sumac, sesame seeds, thyme, and other herbs.

11. Onions and Garlic

Onions and garlic are essential ingredients in forming flavor bases on 6 continents, and they probably take them to Antarctica, too. Think the distinct sofritos of Spain and Puerto Rico, French mirepoix, and the garlic-scallion-ginger combo found all over Asia. Want to brush up before you buy? Read our guide to onions. Need convincing to buy garlic? Read about its many health benefits.

12. Plain Greek Yogurt

The high protein count of Greek yogurt makes it a nutritional darling. Its versatility makes it a culinary one—from a savory sauce that brightens up any protein to a stunning, indulgent milk-chocolate yogurt parfait that doubles as dessert or breakfast—its uses are myriad. For more facts on the creamy, dreamy stuff, read our guide to yogurt.

vasiliybudarin/Getty Images

13. Artisanal Cheeses

Cheese is magical. In moderation, it's a healthy complement to the whole grains, seafood, and veggies of the Med diet. Briny feta and umami-rich Parmesan are two of the more common cheeses you'll find in many Mediterranean recipes. Just a touch of Parm can add luxury to roasted potatoes and jarred pasta sauce baked with feta turns it into a stunning appetizer.

13 Dietitian-Approved Ingredients That Make It Easy to Make Diabetes-Friendly Dinners in Under 20 Minutes

When you keep these ingredients stocked in your kitchen, you'll always have what you need to create a delicious and healthy diabetes-friendly dinner in as little as 20 minutes.

Meal planning is more than just picking out recipes. It&aposs also about smartly stocking your fridge, freezer and pantry. And if you have diabetes, planning is a key strategy in managing your blood sugar. How? Because having the right foods in your kitchen means no impromptu takeout or impulse buys that could disrupt all of your hard work. Planning also means less stress which is important when it comes to your physical and mental health.

We&aposve gathered a list of our dietitian-approved diabetes-friendly ingredients that can help you create meals in as little as 20 minutes. Find out what we love and why below!

1. Rotisserie chicken

If you&aposre searching for a quick protein source, rotisserie chicken can be an easy solution. Most grocery stores sell rotisserie chickens, and they can be used in a wide variety of recipes, from wraps to pasta dishes. But choose your rotisserie chicken wisely—we recommend selecting one without added flavors and opt for the "plain" variety, if possible. And check sodium content𠅊 3-ounce serving should be less than 360 milligrams of sodium.

2. Canned chickpeas & other beans

If you&aposre in need of a vegetarian source of protein and looking to boost your fiber intake, canned beans are another great option. Fiber can help lower blood sugar levels, so strive to hit your daily goal of 25-35 grams of dietary fiber each day! Drain and rinse canned beans before using to decrease sodium content and choose no-salt-added varieties, if possible.

3. Corn tortillas

Unlike their soft, flour counterparts, corn tortillas tend to be lower in sodium and higher in fiber. Plus, the ingredient list is typically shorter, which we love. Corn tortillas can be used for tacos, tostadas, enchiladas, wraps and even pizzas! If you have more than you need, store them in the freezer and use within 3 months.

4. Garlic and onions

These aromatic vegetables are a fantastic way to add flavor without adding much in the way of sodium or calories. Many great recipes start with these two ingredients, so it&aposs wise to have them on hand. Garlic and onions should both be stored in a dark, cool place with ventilation. However, once you&aposve peeled and/or cut them, they should be wrapped and stored in the refrigerator. Before increasing your intake of garlic significantly, be sure to discuss with your physician and registered dietitian, as some medications, such as blood thinners, may have unwanted interactions with this flavor booster.

5. Quinoa

Whole grains are an obvious choice for this list, but we love quinoa in particular because it cooks up in just about 20 minutes. You can also batch cook a bunch to be enjoyed throughout the week. And like tortillas, cooked quinoa freezes well. Store in a freezer-safe, zip-top bag for up to 3 months. Quinoa also gets our vote because of it&aposs rock star nutrition status! It&aposs rich in complex carbohydrates (to help with blood sugar), fiber and satisfying plant-based protein.

6. Baby lettuces or pre-cut lettuce

No one loves chopping and cleaning lettuce, and these days you don&apost have to. There are plenty of varieties of baby lettuces and chopped lettuces that come in handy when you want to make a salad, tacos, paninis or grain bowls. Resist the temptation to always buy the same kind. Instead, experiment and enjoy the array of flavors and nutrition each one has.

7. Basil, cilantro and mint

Perhaps you don&apost need all three, but having at least one or two of these fresh herbs on hand is a delicious way to add flavor. These delicate herbs are best added at the end of cooking, so save them for last. Any extra can be pureed with a little olive oil or water and then poured into ice cube trays. Freeze and then pop out the cubes as you need them to add flavor to soups, pasta dishes and smoothies.

8. Almonds

We are nuts about nuts! Almonds, in particular. Almonds are perfect as a topping for salads, as a coating for fish and chicken and make for a delicious snack. They supply plant-based protein, heart-healthy fats as well as some fiber and plenty of antioxidants. Once you open the bag, be sure to remove as much air as you can before resealing. Store them in a cool, dark place this way for up to 3 months. You can extend their life by keeping them in the fridge (up to 1 year) or freezer (up to 2 years).

9. Limes & Lemons

The fresh squeeze of lime or lemon is the perfect touch to so many recipes. That pop of acidity adds brightness and life to a dish, often making it so that you don&apost need to add as much salt. We also love citrus for its zest! That outer layer is full of flavor and oils that boost the flavor of salad dressings and grilled vegetables. We recommend removing that outermost layer of skin (go lightly as you don&apost want the white part, which is bitter) first before getting any juice. If you don&apost need the zest right away, place it on a damp paper towel, wrap it in plastic wrap and store in your fridge or freezer.

10. Salsa

Salsa is a versatile and naturally flavorful ingredient to have on hand. It&aposs delicious on tacos, scrambled eggs, grilled chicken and your avocado toast! Some varieties can be rather high in sodium, so make sure you read the label before selecting. Once you open the jar, refrigerate and use within 5 to 7 days.

17 Pantry Staples to Keep on Hand

Don’t feel like soaking dried beans? Canned beans are a great pantry staple, too. From black bean quesadillas to chickpea-based hummus, there are so many things you can do with every type of bean.

Flour is good for way more than baking bread and cookies. Use it in everything from fresh pasta to naan. The possibilities are endless!

Use all-purpose flour in these 16 Delicious Ways to Use All-Purpose Flour.

Sure, you can use it to make pizza. But you can also use pizza dough to make pretzel bites, cinnamon rolls, and desserts. You don’t have to buy refrigerated dough, either—use that all-purpose flour to whip up some pizza dough from scratch.

Spaghetti, shells, elbows, farfalle—whatever your preferred pasta shape is, you can do plenty with that box of carby goodness. Bored of the same old pasta? Try switching shapes, or use a cold pasta recipe like pasta salad to switch things up.

You can’t go wrong with these 17 Easy Pasta Recipes.

If you’re able to get fresh meat at your local grocery store, ground beef is always a safe bet. You can use it in lasagna, tacos, and plenty more!

You don’t have to eat that canned corn on its own. Try making white chicken chili, tortilla soup, or a corn-based salsa. You won’t even have to worry about shucking the corn from the cobs.

If you’re trying to limit your red meat consumption, ground turkey can sub in for ground beef in most recipes. We especially love turkey meatballs and turkey chili.

Grocery store out of ground beef? Don’t worry—ground pork is just as tasty. From Bolognese sauce to Italian wedding soup, there’s not much this versatile meat can’t do.

You bought some jars of pasta sauce to go with all of your new pasta boxes—but you don’t want to keep having the same two-ingredient combo. If you’re willing to get inventive, there’s a lot more you can do with those leftovers, like making meatloaf or eggplant Parmigiana.

Put that sauce to good use with these 18 Delicious Ways to Use Up Leftover Pasta Sauce.

If you aren’t using quinoa in your everyday recipes, now is a great time to start. This protein and fiber-packed grain is delicious in everything from soups to veggie burgers.

Try one of these 30 Healthy Quinoa Recipes.

If you tend to dump canned soup into a bowl and put it in the microwave, there’s a lot more you could be doing to jazz up this pantry staple. Canned soup can be used to make casseroles and even gravy to put over meatballs—it’s a lot more versatile than you might think.

You don’t have to buy all of your protein from the refrigerated section! Frozen seafood can be just as healthy and flavorful as its fresh counterparts. Try tilapia in fish tacos, or blacken it with delicious seasonings.

Have you ever tried making your own chicken breakfast sausage, or cooking a chicken Sloppy Joe? If you’re bored with grilled chicken breasts, chicken sausage is another great way to enjoy this classic protein source.

You can’t go wrong with these 24 Healthy Ground Chicken Recipes.

This cruciferous veggie won’t set you back much, price-wise, and its recipe potential is endless. From being a makeshift pizza crust to being a substitute for rice and mashed potatoes, cauliflower is a kitchen workhorse.

Try the veggie in one of these 17 Genius Ideas for Cooking with Cauliflower.

Ah, eggs. They’re one of the cheapest and most versatile protein sources you can find. Enjoy them at breakfast or to add a dash of protein to your dinner recipes.

You’ll never get bored of eggs with these Healthy Egg Recipes.

Yes, those cans are great for drinking, but there are plenty of delicious beer-based recipes, too. If you don’t know the joys of beer bread and beer cheese dip, you’re missing out!


These canned goods are going to take your meals that extra mile! You really can't go wrong adding any of these to your meals.

  • Pasta Sauce – Obviously you can use this for spaghetti, pizza, and lasagna roll-ups.
  • Salsa – You can use this in taco casserole, fish tacos, and chicken enchiladas.
  • Canned Tomatoes – These are great for making your own pasta sauce, stew, and chili.
  • Tomato Sauce – You can't go wrong using this in tomato tortellini soup, Mexican rice, and eggplant pizzas.
  • Tomato Paste – Great for tomato and spinach pasta, making pizza sauce, and adding to stews. (We have a few tomato paste substitutes that you should know about, too!)
  • Cream of Chicken Soup – This can go into so many different things! Just a few ideas are broccoli rice casserole, chicken and dumplings, and cheesy ham potato bake.
  • Cream of Mushroom Soup – This is another super versatile soup that you can use for green bean casserole, stuffed pork chops, and potato casserole. (You can also easily make your own cream of mushroom soup!)
  • Canned Veggies – These are a great way to have your favorite veggies year-round! You can throw them into a stew, casserole, or just have them as a side by themselves.
  • Stock and Broth – Chicken, veggie, beef, you can't go wrong! These are great pantry staples to keep on hand. You can use them in soups, casseroles, and chicken spaghetti. (You can also easily make your own if you're in a bind!)

Pro Tip: We always stock up on these pantry staples when they're on sale because they last FOR-EV-ER. Just make sure you rotate through them and eat the oldest first so you never have to throw any expired cans away!

Mediterranean Spices

Herbs, spices and other seasonings shape the flavor profile of Mediterranean cuisines. Here&rsquos what you need to make most Mediterranean staples.

Basil, Oregano, Cilantro, Parsley and Rosemary

Leafy green herbs are a must for tasty Mediterranean cooking. You&rsquoll use fresh herbs for sauces and salads, and dried herbs to add a powerful punch of flavor &ndash like the oregano in these Greek chicken burgers with lemon pepper yogurt sauce.

Cumin, Coriander and Cardamom

While lots of Mediterranean food isn&rsquot spicy, many traditional Mediterranean recipes do incorporate warming spices to provide vibrant flavor to meats, veggies and grains.

Sumac and Turmeric

Earthy spices like this pair contribute to the flavor base of many Mediterranean meals. When you use turmeric, your meals take on a gorgeous yellow hue for picture-perfect dinners.

Seasoning Blends and Sauces

Start experimenting with Mediterranean cooking and you&rsquoll start to see some common spice blends popping up over and over.

Stock your pantry for Mediterranean meals with za&rsquoatar , a Middle Eastern spice blend, as well as harissa , a North African mix of chili peppers and warming spices.

Dijon mustard

A little bit in everything, from salad dressing to dips to tuna fish to macaroni and cheese to pan sauces, turns things from blah to not blah very quickly. Even if your family is not a mustard family, when used as an ingredient in various dishes it expands the flavor profile, much like salt or pepper or soy sauce. You can use either smooth ground or grainy mustard. If you fall in love, buy both so you can switch things up.

Mustard is made from the seeds of a mustard plant, and the seeds can be used whole, ground, cracked, or smooshed. The seeds are then mixed with water, salt, lemon juice, and maybe other liquids and seasonings to create a paste. Dijon mustard also includes wine or vinegar, or both, imparting that identifiable tanginess.

Crunchy Salad with Creamy Vegan Avocado Dressing

Remember back when dousing some iceberg lettuce with ranch dressing was considered healthy? We know better now, but a lackluster vinaigrette makes us want to skip the salad altogether. Without the buttermilk and mayo, is it even worth it? This dressing, made with creamy avocado and tangy umeboshi vinegar, will show you the possibilities. You can make it as-is or substitute whatever herbs you have on hand: parsley, basil and cilantro are all great options. The salad itself is a colorful, texture-rich antidote to the stereotypical boring salad, and it's also customizable. Here we use a base of romaine because it's crunchy and sturdy enough to stand up to a creamy dressing, but you can use kale, mixed greens or any blend of greens your heart (and fridge) desires. Same for the add-ins: You can sub in green beans for the asparagus, use black beans instead of chickpeas, or mix in additional veggies you have available like cucumber or shredded carrots. If you want to get extra fancy with it, try grilling the corn for an added smoky flavor. While this salad can be eaten as a side, it's strong enough to star as the entree.

Mediterranean Pasta Salad with Arugula and Feta

This Mediterranean Pasta Salad is tossed with tomatoes, cucumber, avocado, arugula, and feta then tossed with a tasty homemade lemon dressing! Bringing it to a party or picnic? It can easily be made in advance the day before!

Being a food blogger means I’m often playing a never-ending game of Chopped in which I have to use up all the random ingredients I buy for one recipe up by creating other recipes with the leftovers.

If I purchase a big bunch of cilantro just to use a few sprigs as a garnish, you bet your booty I’ll be putting cilantro in my next 2-3 recipes until I’ve used it all up. (I mean is this not the tastiest problem to have? haha!)

Today’s recipe was inspired by a surplus of arugula in my fridge.

This peppery leafy green was the *perfect* not-so-secret ingredient for this tasty Mediterranean pasta salad!

I paired it with a fresh lemon dressing (lemon and arugula are a match made in heaven!) and a whole lot of veggies! A little feta here… a sprinkle of cracked black pepper there… and I am in LOVE!

Add Mediterranean Flair to Your Dinner Table

MISSION, Kan. , June 1, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- (Family Features) During the past year, many people have missed the opportunity to travel and experience the sights, sounds and tastes of the world, but it's easy to explore other cultures and cuisines by experimenting in the kitchen.

If you're looking to transport your taste buds to the shores of Spain or the beaches of Greece , one of the best places to start is with the Mediterranean Diet. Renowned chef Geoffrey Zakarian recommends these tips to help home cooks elevate their dishes and easily incorporate the popular diet into everyday cooking.

Reach for Pantry Staples. There's no single definition of the Mediterranean Diet, but it's high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, olive oil and seafood. By keeping your pantry stocked with canned versions of ingredients like beans and fish you can easily add them to your favorite dishes. Yellowfin Tuna Pasta Salad with Arugula Pesto and Dates, and Tuna Aioli Dip with Balsamic Drizzle are flavorful ways to bring Mediterranean flair to your dinner table.

Add Seafood. Eating more seafood is one of the leading principles of the Mediterranean Diet. Tuna salad is one tried-and-true dish that can help incorporate fish into your menu. To make it more nutritious, opt for tuna that's packed in extra-virgin olive oil, so you don't have to add much mayo to the base. For example, Genova Premium Tuna provides a tasteful addition to recipes and is high in protein, a great source of omega-3s and has a uniquely rich and savory flavor that offers a taste of the Mediterranean in every bite.

Visit for more recipe inspiration.

Tuna Aioli Dip with Balsamic Drizzle
Prep time: 15-20 minutes
Cook time: 10-15 minutes
Servings: 4

6 ounces Genova Albacore Tuna in Olive Oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 dried bay leaf
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1⁄3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons capers, drained
2 anchovies
1/2 lemon, juice only (about 1 1/2 tablespoons)
raw vegetables, such as carrots, celery, cucumber spears, endive leaves, sliced fennel and
bell pepper strips, for dipping

Drain tuna, reserving 2 tablespoons oil.

In small saucepan, combine balsamic vinegar, bay leaf and rosemary sprig. Bring to boil and reduce until syrupy, about 1 tablespoon. Let cool slightly discard bay leaf and rosemary sprig.

In blender or food processor, process tuna and reserved oil, mayonnaise, capers, anchovies and lemon juice to make smooth dip. Transfer to flat serving bowl. Drizzle with balsamic syrup. Serve with raw vegetables.

Yellowfin Tuna Pasta Salad with Arugula Pesto and Dates
Prep time: 20-30 minutes
Cook time: 20-25 minutes
Servings: 4

2 cans (5 ounces each) Genova Yellowfin Tuna in Olive Oil, drained
1/2 cup pine nuts
4 cups arugula
1 garlic clove
2 tablespoons butter (optional)
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus additional for garnish (optional)
2 lemons, zest only (optional)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces whole-wheat orecchiette
1/2 cup jarred sun-dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
1/2 cup dates, pitted and quartered
1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1/4 cup dill, chopped (optional)
1/4 cup parsley, chopped (optional)

On a sheet tray, toast pine nuts 8-12 minutes, or until golden. Set aside to cool.

Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Prepare ice water bath by filling large bowl with cold water and ice. Stir arugula into boiling water and cook until bright green and tender, about 30 seconds. Drain arugula, immediately shock in ice water and set aside to fully drain cover with towel.

In blender or food processor, add arugula garlic pine nuts butter, if desired Parmigiano-Reggiano lemon zest, if desired salt and pepper. Puree on high, incorporating olive oil to desired thickness.

Place pesto in bowl and cover tightly to avoid discoloring.

Bring large pot of salted water to boil.

Add pasta and return to boil, stirring occasionally. Taste pasta for doneness 2 minutes earlier than package instructions. Once cooked, drain and transfer to large bowl. Do not rinse.

Add pesto gently until evenly distributed. Fold in tuna, sun-dried tomatoes, dates and olives.

Divide between shallow bowls and finish with additional Parmigiano-Reggiano, dill and parsley, if desired.

This Mediterranean chickpea salad makes a pantry staple classy

It’s a mix of chickpeas, feta, Kalamata olives, parsley, almonds, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice.

I don&rsquot eat a lot of chickpeas &mdash unless they&rsquove been turned into hummus.

Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are celebrated for their health benefits. The legumes are rich in protein, vitamins and minerals &mdash and they&rsquore a great source of fiber, too. The nutty beans are a kitchen staple all over the world, but they&rsquore not one of mine. Not yet.

I have one recipe that calls for chickpeas, however, that I&rsquom nuts about. It&rsquos a hearty and simple salad that has inspired me to eat more of the legumes with two names.

If you&rsquove been hunting for an easy way to add more chickpeas to your diet, you gotta try this: Make Mediterranean chickpea salad.

It&rsquos a flavor-packed, and dare I say, classy, salad of chickpeas, feta, Kalamata olives, parsley, almonds, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice. It can be enjoyed on its own, as a side dish, wrapped in a pita or as a topping for greens. (I prefer arugula.)

What&rsquos more: All of the ingredients are key to the Mediterranean diet.

The Mediterranean diet is a healthy eating plan based on the cooking styles of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, including Greece, Italy, France, Spain, Lebanon, Turkey and Morocco. The diet is essentially about eating more greens, beans, lentils and olive oil, while also cutting back on butter and red meat.

Research shows that following the Mediterranean diet can reduce your risk of heart disease, as well as diabetes, asthma, inflammation, dementia and some cancers. It can add years to your life.

It&rsquos also a great dish for vegetarians. As a legume, chickpeas are considered both a vegetable and a protein food. One cup of cooked chickpeas has 15 grams of protein &mdash almost as much as a deck of cards-size serving of beef.

Mediterranean-style recipes are nutritious and health-promoting, but that&rsquos not the main reason I like this salad. I like it because it simply tastes good. (By the way, I&rsquom now on the hunt for other recipes that call for chickpeas, be they salads, soups, stews or otherwise.)

I make the salad with canned garbanzo beans, although you can also cook your own from dried or fresh. If you&rsquore cooking your own, you&rsquoll need two cups of cooked chickpeas for the recipe. While dried and canned chickpeas are easily found at the supermarket, fresh ones are harder to find.

If you go with canned, be sure to drain and rinse them in a colander. Rinsing them in cold water makes the beans easier to digest.

While my family makes the salad with black-ripe olives because they&rsquore cheaper, I don&rsquot recommend it. Black olives are bland in comparison to their deep-purple cousins. Kalamota olives have a distinctive rich, smoky flavor that gives this salad lots of class.

A half cup of parsley may seem like a lot, but that&rsquos the point. Don&rsquot skimp on this Italian herb, or you&rsquoll be sacrificing flavor. Plus the parsley adds a pleasing pop of green to a very beige salad.

The olive oil, lemon juice and garlic serve as a simple dressing for the salad. While most of the dressing will initially sit at the bottom of the bowl, the garbanzo beans eventually soak it up while in the refrigerator. I sometimes add a bit more olive oil and lemon juice to prevent leftovers from getting dry.

I also like to buy sliced almonds for the salad, rather than the chopped it calls for. Sliced looks classier to me.

When I served the Mediterranean chickpea salad at The Daily Herald &mdash I doubled the recipe so there would be plenty to go around the newsroom &mdash my co-workers called it &ldquounique&rdquo and &ldquoflavorful.&rdquo I completely agree with them. I had never eaten garbanzo beans like this before, which is probably why I once made it three times in as many weeks.

Mark Carlson, The Herald&rsquos copy chief, liked the salad enough to eat it for lunch two days in a row.

&ldquoI like that the ingredients are cheap pantry staples,&rdquo Carlson said. &ldquoAnd that it can be put together in 15 minutes or less.&rdquo

He then listed off ways to incorporate it into a May cookout: &ldquoThe salad would go great with lamb chops, burgers, sausages or chicken off the grill.&rdquo

Which reminds me: I need to make this for my next family barbecue. We&rsquore having grilled chicken breasts.

Sara Bruestle: 425-339-3046 [email protected] @sarabruestle.

Mediterranean chickpea salad

1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained, or 2 cups cooked chickpeas (from dried)

⅓ cup chopped or quartered Kalamata olives

½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 small garlic clove, minced or pressed

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Place chickpeas, olives, almonds, feta and parsley in a medium bowl. Toss gently to combine. Add lemon juice, olive oil and garlic to bowl, toss again to coat. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate. Can be served chilled or at room temperature.

Makes 2-4 servings. Nutrition per serving (based on 4): 290 calories, 15.5 grams total fat (3.5 saturated fat), 13 milligrams cholesterol, 30 grams carbohydrates, 9.5 grams protein, 616 milligrams sodium, 1 gram sugar, 6.5 grams fiber.

Beware of These Secretly Salty Foods

A high-sodium diet can raise your blood pressure and increase your risk of having a heart attack or stroke &mdash not to mention leave you feeling bloated and unable to zip up your jeans. But the salt shaker on your kitchen table and the potato chips in your pantry aren't the biggest offenders when it comes to sodium, says Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson Kim Larson, R.D.N.

To avoid too much sodium, Larson suggests reading labels when you&rsquore food shopping (look for products with less than 140 mg per serving, and if you must buy a frozen meal, look for one under 500 mg), picking low-sodium versions of your favorites, and watching out for the following foods.

When shopping for canned pantry staples, always look for low-sodium or no-salt-added versions, says Larson. For example, a half cup of canned tomato sauce has an astonishing 642 mg of sodium (more than four times the recommended amount per serving), while the no-salt-added version only has 13 mg.

If you start your meal with a dressed salad, you could be consuming hundreds of milligrams of sodium before you even get to the main course. A 2-tablespoon serving of low-fat Ranch dressing has 336 mg of sodium, and 2 tablespoons of low fat Italian dressing has 267 mg. Dress your salad with oil and vinegar instead, which are sodium-free.

The plain grains you buy in bulk? Totally fine. The pre-seasoned stuff in a box is a different story. A serving of pre-seasoned yellow rice has a whopping 750 mg of sodium, while a half cup of cooked brown rice has practically none.

Moms, pay attention to this one: A single slice of American cheese has 468 mg of sodium &mdash that's more than three times the recommended dose per serving! Swap in Swiss for those grilled cheese sandwiches &mdash it has a mere 20 mg per slice. If the kids won't eat Swiss, try cheddar. It packs more sodium than the 100 mg per ounce Larson recommends, but at 174 mg per slice, it&rsquos a much better pick than American cheese.

Even low-salt deli-style turkey meat packs a painful sodium punch: A single slice has 216 mg! (And who eats just one slice?) The same amount of rotisserie chicken breast has 97 mg &mdash and is just as yummy on a sandwich.