At a recent webinar on bone health that I taught jointly with the wonderful BCH oncology PT Brandy Whitney, I had exactly two minutes left to produce a bone-healthy dish. Here’s what I made.

The thinking behind it?

  • Sardines are packed with calcium (from the fish bones)
  • Sardines are rich in high-quality protein (since about half your bones are made of protein, it’s essential to eat enough of the stuff)
  • Sardines supply omega-3 fatty acids (which may decrease bone loss and fracture risk)
  • Sardine skin & bones are rich in collagen (another bone-healthy nutrient)
  • Fermented onions (garnish) supply probiotics and prebiotics
  • Horseradish (a member of the cruciferous family) doesn’t have bone-health benefits that I know of, but it may have other health benefits (it’s antibacterial, diuretic, supports metabolism, digestion, and immune function, and is thought to contain cancer-fighting compounds)
  • Apples contain a compound called phloridzin (in the skin) that may help improve bone density and reduce bone breakdown in women after menopause
  • Alternatively, if you replace the apple with arugula you’ll get an additional 64 mg of bioavailable calcium — unlike raw spinach, whose high oxalate content makes its calcium less bioavailable and can contribute to kidney stone formation

Yes, I know, not everyone loves sardines, but consider giving them another chance. Trust me, once you pair them with all the gutsy-flavored ingredients listed above, you’ll barely notice their oily taste.

Moreover, you may be interested to know that a growing crowd of “a-fish-ionados” has elevated sardines to a hot new food trend. (If you don’t believe me, I suggest you read this New York Times article about the Tik-Tok-fueled tinned fish craze that’s taking the U.S. by storm.)

Bone-Building Sardine Lunch

Keyword: 15 Minutes Max., Appetizers & Snacks, Dairy-Free (or can be), Fish & Seafood, Gluten-Free (or can be), Keto (or can be), Low-Carb, Lunch
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 1 serving
Calories: 378kcal
The fastest meal in town -- and one of the most nutritious!
Print Recipe


  • 1 slice Norwegian crispbread I love Trader Joe's or Sigdal's crispbreads (esp. their Everything or Oats flavors -- I buy these at Sprouts)
  • 1/2-1 tbsp grated horseradish
  • 1 can sardines in extra virgin olive oil bone-in, skin-on; drained. Check the nutrition information on the packaging to see whether the sardines contain bones; if it says something like "Calcium 15%," they have bones (don't worry, thanks to the canning process they are so soft you can eat them without even noticing them). If it says "Calcium 0%," the sardines are boneless and contain no calcium.
  • 1-2 tbsp raw fermented onions I used Small Town Cultures' Red Onions
  • a sprig of fresh dill
  • ½ large apple skin-on, cut into wedges


  • Spread the horseradish evenly onto the crisp bread.
  • Top with the drained sardines.
  • Garnish with fermented onions and dill sprig.
  • Place on a plate, accompanied by the apple wedges.
  • Enjoy.


If you're eating a keto diet, replace the apple with a low-carb vegetable like sliced cucumber, tomatoes, or sugar snap peas, or 2 cups of arugula (adding another 64 mg calcium) tossed in an olive oil dressing. 


Serving: 1serving | Calories: 378kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 0g | Cholesterol: 56mg | Sodium: 541mg | Potassium: 620mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 13g | Vitamin A: 60IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 366mg | Iron: 4mg