Move over pita chips and sliced veggies there's a new way (or three) to enjoy hummus!

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Last night my dinner choices were limited to airport offerings, so to build a healthy meal I got a little creative. I ordered a salad made with greens and lots of veggies and bought a side of hummus. I scooped the hummus into my salad, closed the lid of the container, shook, and enjoyed my salad with a side of whole grain crackers I had stashed in my carry on. A fellow traveler sitting near me asked, "did you just use hummus as your salad dressing? I never would have thought of that." I told her it was one of my tricks for skirting the not so healthy pouches of dressing that are full of sodium, sugar, and artificial stuff. Plus it's a great way to enjoy a creamy dressing that packs a healthy dose of protein, fiber, antioxidants, and flavor. When she asked, "What else do you do with hummus?" I was already writing this post in my head. Here are three more fun ways I use the tasty spread:


When I make chilled pasta salad I toss penne or spirals with hummus and lots of minced or shredded veggies, like artichokes and sundried tomatoes or carrots, red onion, and zucchini.


Hummus makes a great substitute for mayo on an open-faced sandwich. My favorite is a slice of toasted whole grain rye bread spread with hummus then piled high with roasted veggies like sliced eggplant, onions, and bell pepper.


Probably the most traditional use for hummus is as a dip for raw veggies or whole grain crackers. I also like to fold a cooked chilled whole grain, like quinoa, into hummus, hollow out veggies and then fill them with the hummus mixture. It works great for vine-ripened tomatoes, Romaine leaves, and mushrooms. For zucchini or cucumbers I slice them lengthwise, carve out some of the veggie to create space for the hummus, chop and add the ‘veggie meat' to the hummus mixture, and then re-fill the space.

To quickly whip up my own hummus I puree a half-cup of chickpeas with either one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil or two tablespoons of tahini (or half of each), and add fresh squeezed lemon juice, roasted garlic, and any other seasonings I'm in the mood for (sometimes chipotle, cumin, turmeric, or dill). To serve, I take two cups of veggies, like leafy greens, red onion, cucumbers, and green pepper, add a half-cup of cooked chilled bulgur or quinoa and top the salad with hummus. Then I try to get a little bit of the hummus and whole grain with each bite of veggies. Yum! Do you love hummus as much as I do? How do you use it? Please tweet your thoughts to @cynthiasass and @Shape_Magazine

Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she's a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is S.A.S.S. Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.