If I could add any recipe to my Mediterranean Table cookbook, it would be this Pesto Chickpea Smash recipe. It’s simple, delicious, and 100% Med Diet approved. Each  year, the U.S. News & World Report ranks over 40 different diets, and this year the Mediterranean Diet ranked as the No. 1 Best Diet Overall as well as the easiest diet to follow, and the best diets for diabetes and heart health.

Watch Jennifer’s segment on Show Me St. Louis

The Mediterranean diet isn’t really a diet plan, its more about an eating pattern rich in fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and fish, moderate in chicken and dairy and limited in red meat and sweets.
Here are 3 ways you can eat more “Mediterranean” in your own home:

 TIP 1: Put More Plants On Your Plate  

  • The Med diet is rich in fruits and veggies. In fact, they eat about 7-10 servings of produce per day.
  • Including veggies at breakfast can help us meet that goal.
  • Simple produce forward ways to start your day could be eggs with the pesto recipe below, fruit and yogurt, or green smoothies.

Tip 2: Flip your fats

  • The Mediterranean diet is rich in healthy fats from olive oil, nuts which have been shown to protect us against inflammatory related conditions like heart disease to Alzheimer’s.
  • Make olive your go-to in cooking when you sauté meat, roast vegetables or even when baking brownies.
  • In addition to using nuts and seeds for snack, try new uses for them like a topping for chicken or fish or subbing in our Pesto Chickpea Smash in lieu of deli meat.

TIP 3: Treat Meat as a Flavor Enhancer

  • The great thing about a Mediterranean diet is that it doesn’t eliminate any food or food group, and it still includes meat, cheese, and even wine. Meat, however, is treated as a flavor enhancer compared to being the star of the dish.
  • When you meal plan, look for recipes that use smaller portions of meat or meal plan for more meatless based dishes that include plant-based proteins, like beans or soy.
  • As an example, whenever I make beef tacos for my family, I smash a can of black beans into the sautéed meat.  This not only ups the nutritional ante, but it saves $ as well.

As always, at McDaniel Nutrition, it’s all about small, sustainable changes. Gradually evolving your diet to include more plants, healthy fats and less meat gives your palate a chance to change over time and prefer this way of eating.

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Pesto Chickpea Smash

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  • Author: Jennifer McDaniel
  • Prep Time: 10
  • Cook Time: 10
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 6 1x


Pesto is a topping traditionally made with pine nuts, but I subbed pistachios because I love their sweet nutty crunch. Research suggests that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as pistachios, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease. Nearly 90% of the fats found in pistachios are the better-for-you mono and polyunsaturated type.  And, as with any pesto recipe, this one is quick and easy to make in the food processor or blender. It can be used in countless dishes, beyond pasta and pizza like a topping on eggs or fish.




  • 6 c. packed arugula
  • 1/3 c. shelled Wonderful pistachios
  • ¼ c. Parmesan cheese
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 12 cloves garlic
  • ¼ c. olive oil
  • 1 T. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 t. honey
  • 1/2 t. salt


  • 1, 15 oz. canned chickpeas, drained, rinsed, patted dry


  1. Combine pesto ingredients  in a food processor and process until combined. I like mine a little chunky.
  2. In a medium bowl, smash chickpeas with the back of a fork or a potato masher.
  3. Transfer the “pesto” to the bowl with the chickpeas and combine with a spatula.
  4. Spoon mixture onto your favorite whole-wheat or sourdough bread.


Nutritional information below does not include bread.


  • Serving Size:
  • Calories: 277
  • Sugar: 3.5 g
  • Sodium: 412.4 mg
  • Fat: 20.4 g
  • Saturated Fat: 2.7 g
  • Carbohydrates: 18.7 g
  • Fiber: 5.8 g
  • Protein: 8.7 g
  • Cholesterol: 0.2 mg