Whether you are constantly on-the-go or travel frequently for business (and pleasure) or have kids that are always hungry, you know the importance of having a steady selection of snacks in your bag. Rather than allow anyone to get hangry (hungry+angry), a well-placed and well-timed energy bar can improve attitudes (and stabilize blood sugar) in just one bite.
As an avid lover of energy bars (or protein bars), there have been times these mass produced snacks saved the day. For years, I relied on them a few times each week to provide me with a “little something” before I could sit down to a real breakfast or as a mid-afternoon snack to power through until the work day was over.
Then I read that my favorite bar was one of the worst bars for you. Honestly, I was shocked and felt stupid. My “bad” bar of choice was packed with 20 grams of protein which comes from “cheap, processed sources and paired with canola oil and natural flavors.” Plus, the 0 grams of sugar claimed on the label really means it is loaded with sugar alcohols that “may do a number on your gut.”
While I was sad to come to terms with this reality, I admit this list of the 5 best and 5 worst bars opened my eyes to the truth in advertising (or perhaps this is better known as the lying in marketing?) and made me realize I can (and should) make my own bars at home. Making your own bars means you will never fall for bars wrapped in slick packaging and labeled with health claims that, as I now know, are dubious at best.
I soon discovered there were hundreds of recipes for hearty and healthful energy bars and realized that with merely a few ingredients, homemade bars, balls and bites would lift and carry me through a snack attack. All you need is a food processor and homemade bars are well within your reach.
Nuts, unsweetened coconut and dates are the obvious contenders for making a healthy energy bar. Together they provide sources of protein, fat and a natural sweetener. Toss in a few seeds like poppy, sesame, chia or hemp and you’ve boosted your recipe with both texture and omega-3’s. Depending on your taste preferences, coconut oil, almond butter, raw cacao and dried fruit are also players when developing your own creative recipe.
Having made at least six different styles of energy bars and balls, I feel I have a better understanding of what I like and don’t like and I always (repeat: always) cut back on the sweetener. I recently rejected a bar recipe I came across simply because it hailed from the GOOP website and the name of the bars, Beauty Seed Bars, seemed equal parts egotistical and shallow.
A few days later, when a friend told me she made “those” bars and commented on how good they are and that she was able to eliminate one of the sweeteners and the bars were still sweet enough, I decided to give these obnoxiously-named bars a real chance.
Because the recipe calls for heaps of nutritious nuts, oats, seeds and spices, along with a few tablespoons of both coconut oil and maple syrup, I was ready to decide for myself whether these bars were worthy. Worthy of f repeating. Worthy of sharing. And worthy of a name change.
Now that I know they really are good, I want to share the recipe with you, but let’s agree to change the name to something a bit more realistic. How about Supersede Bars? Or Super Seed Bars?
My vote is for Supersede Bars. And next time, I will build on that name by replacing half a cup of oats with a combination of nuts and seeds making these bars even more super seedy.
- 1 cup walnut halves and pieces
- 1 1/2 cups organic oats or gluten-free oats divided into 1 cup and 1/2 cup)
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
- 1/4 cup flax seeds
- 1/4 cup hemp seeds also known as hemp hearts
- 1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
- 1/2 cup roasted sunflower seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or cardamom I used cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt such as Maldon
- 3 tablespoons melted coconut oil
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8x8 baking pan with parchment paper and grease with coconut oil or cooking spray. Set aside.
Place the walnuts, 1 cup of the oats and the coconut in the food processor. Process for 30 seconds or until finely ground.
Remove processor bowl and dump ground walnuts, oats and coconut in a big bowl. Stir in remaining 1/2 cup of oats and all of the other seeds (flax, hemp, pumpkin and sunflower), cinnamon (or cardamom) and salt and toss to combine.
In a glass measuring cup or small bowl, stir together melted coconut oil, maple syrup and vanilla and stir well to incorporate. Pour liquid onto the nut and seed mixture and, using a spatula or your hands, mix everything together and coat thoroughly.
Carefully dump the nut and seed mixture into the prepared baking pan and use your fingers, an offset spatula or the bottom of a measuring cup to press it down evenly. Alternatively, you can top the mixture with a piece of parchment paper and press down thoroughly with your hands or back of measuring cup or glass. When you think it is well-pressed, press again so the ingredients really stick together well.
Bake for 25 minutes, or until the edges are golden. Let cool completely before cutting into 12 bars. Reserve any remaining granola bar crumbs and sprinkle on yogurt. Store bars in an air-tight container and refrigerate.