Wild Garden Hummus
Credit: Photograph by Michael Pirrocco

Wild Garden Hummus

We love hummus with pita, as do most people, from vegetarians and Whole Foods-shopping sophisticates to football-watching carnivores and those who prefer ramen noodles and fast-food burgers to soba bowls and quinoa cakes. And almost everyone thinks they're making the healthier choice when they go for the hummus and pita over, say, the potato chips and ranch dip or the guac and Tostitos.

In general, that's true: Hummus, usually made from only chickpeas and tahini (sesame paste) or olive oil, with herbs, spices, lemon juice, and salt for seasoning, is not as processed or replete with weird preservatives and food additives as ranch dip, and it's typically not as high in calories as guacamole. Chickpeas offer some protein and fiber, olive oil provides heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, and tahini is rich in copper, manganese, B vitamins, and other essential nutrients.

But that doesn't mean you can eat unlimited quantities of hummus and not think you're doing harm to your waistline. As tasty as it may be, most homemade hummus (and many store-bought brands like Sabra) contains at least 80 calories per serving – which, when you're talking dips, is almost always a minuscule two tablespoons. (And if you eat hummus mindlessly, you can easily scoop up and eat a whole cup, which is the equivalent of 16 tablespoons.) From a purely caloric standpoint, you're better off dipping your pita into Lay's Creamy Ranch Dip, which boasts only 60 calories per serving.

While you can flip nutrition labels in the supermarket to find a hummus with fewer calories, we have yet to try one that is as creamy and flavorful – and as calorically low – as Wild Garden Hummus Dip. We know, we know, you've never heard of the brand. And we hadn't either, until we chanced upon a rave review from a blogger who was trumpeting that, no matter which of its six flavors you try, Wild Garden has only 35 calories per serving. That's 45 fewer calories than most Sabra flavors and a good 15 calories fewer than the lowest comparable supermarket hummus we've seen. (Fifteen may sound minuscule, but when you eat a cup of the stuff, that translates into 240 extra gut-packing calories).

So what's in this miracle hummus? The same thing in most hummus: chickpeas, tahini, salt, and spices. The key to the lower calories is a less energy-dense tahini, but the good folks at Wild Garden have mastered the mixing process to make a hummus that's still rich and creamy. We've had to add oil to some awful low-cal hummus, but never, ever have we considered doing so with Wild Garden since it tastes like the 80-calorie stuff. Two other benefits: First, it's shelf-stable, so you don't have to refrigerate it until you open it, making it ideal for camping, the beach, or on car trips. Second, it's sold in glass jars, so you don't have to worry about gross chemicals leaching out of plastic into your hummus.

You can find Wild Garden online or at national retailers like Target for $3 to $4 per 13-oz jar. Flavors include Traditional, Black Olive, Jalapeno, Fire Roasted Red Pepper, Sun Dried Tomato, and Roasted Garlic. Whichever you try, make sure you pair your healthier hummus with crudité or whole-grain toasted pita – not tortilla chips or oil-soaked, enriched-flour pita chips. If not, you'll undo all the calorie savings and health benefits of your hardworking hummus. [wildgarden.biz]