Photo of a veggie, chickpea and whole grain salad (veggies are broccoli and red pepper) photographed from overhead, on an old-fashioned sea green plate.

I write about gut health a lot, for various publications. And of course I care about gut health personally, because, hello, who doesn’t want their gut to function well? Gut health is more about avoiding potentially embarrassing or uncomfortable digestive issues, but a healthy gut environment contributes to a healthy immune system, and a healthy immune system contributes to lower levels of the chronic, systemic inflammation that doesn’t help us, but definitely can hurt us.

While I stock my fridge and pantry with all sorts of foods that provide the kind of high-quality, fermentable fiber that our good gut microbes love to eat, I see it as a bonus when one dish brings a handful of them together. Broccoli. Beans. Whole grains. Onions and garlic. Nuts or seeds. This recipe marries all of those things, with some carrots and red bell peppers for a pop fo color, under a light coating of a delicious (and nutritious) lemon and tahini-based dressing. Enjoy!

Protein Power Crunch Salad

About 8 servings

This is a fresh, light-but-hearty, highly textured salad that is refreshing and satisfying when the weather is hot, but substantial enough to be a good year-round go-to. One of my favorite parts? It keeps well for lunch leftovers. It has moderate protein from the chickpeas, seeds and whole grains, but it would also be nice with some salmon, either fresh cooked, leftover or canned. I don’t specify a specific grain—I tend to use farro (a form of ancient wheat) when I make this recipe, but whole grain sorghum would also be good (it is a little harder to find in stores, in spite of it’s growing popularity), and you could use brown rice. Quinoa is a possibility, but I don’t think it would stand up as well against the sturdier ingredients in the salad.



  • 3-4 cups cooked whole grain (from 1 cup uncooked)
  • 2 14-ounce cans garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
  • 1 pound broccoli, stems peeled, stems and florets chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeds removed and diced
  • 1 carrot, shredded or finely chopped
  • 1 bunch green onions, sliced (white and light green parts)
  • 1/3 bunch parsley, chopped
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/3 cup sunflower seeds

Lemon-tahini dressing

  • 1/3 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2-4 tablespoons water, as needed


  1. In a medium bowl, mix together cooked grains, garbanzo beans, broccoli, red bell pepper, carrots, green onions and chopped parsley.
  2. Place dressing ingredients in a jar and use an immersion blender to blend until the mixture resembles a thick paste. Slowly add the water and continue to blend until the mixture is creamy and pourable. Pour over the salad and toss well to coat. Add additional salt and pepper to taste.

Carrie Dennett, MPH, RDN, is a Pacific Northwest-based registered dietitian nutritionist, freelance writer, intuitive eating counselor, author, and speaker. Her superpowers include busting nutrition myths and empowering women to feel better in their bodies and make food choices that support pleasure, nutrition and health. This post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute individualized nutrition or medical advice.

Seeking 1-on-1 nutrition counseling? Carrie offers a 6-month Food & Body program (intuitive eating, body image, mindfulness, self-compassion) and a 4-month IBS management program (low-FODMAP diet coaching with an emphasis on increasing food freedom). Visit the links to learn more and book a free intro call to see if the program is a good fit, and if we’re a good fit!

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