Think back to the last time you had an incredible meal at the airport.
You are stumped, aren’t you?
Why is it when we fly, we tend to accept intolerable food, choking it down merely to sustain ourselves until we arrive at our destination or stave off starvation, kill some time or because we sense that hangry moment fast approaching?
While there are a few airports such as Denver and LA that are the anomaly, decent airport eats are near impossible to find. Rather than succumb to a soggy pre-made sandwich, questionable BBQ, sodium-filled Chinese food or a pathetic excuse for pizza, plan ahead and make some protein bars to keep you company.
Whether we are flying one leg or several or a long non-stop, I cannot travel without my goody bag filled with a batch of homemade protein bars, along with some nuts and fruit. But it’s these amazingly easy, simple and good-for-you bars that keep me energized without being full so we are ready for a great meal once we get to our final destination.
Over the last year and many, many trips, I have tested countless different energy and protein bar recipes and this is the one I return to again and again. Coincidentally, my husband, travel partners and, on occasion, lucky seatmates are in complete agreement. This bar has now been approved by nearly a dozen people–all of whom have divergent tastes but who readily agree that this is THE bar. They either ask for another bar (pretty please?) or the recipe and those are both signs of success.
With so many supporters of this clean, homemade protein bar that costs way less than the store-bought variety priced at about $2.59 each, I knew it was time to share it with you so you could protect yourself from being the cranky flyer and even pay it forward on your next flight.
Filled with nutrient-rich shredded coconut, seeds and nuts, you can toss in your favorite dried fruit to personalize the bars and make them exactly what you want. The glue is the seed or nut butter and honey that holds everything together with a generous dose of protein combined with a built-in immunity booster–both of which we need more of when traveling.
So plan out 15 minutes to make these bars and you’ll never travel without them or go hungry (or hangry) again.
The Best Protein Bars Ever
- 3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1/2 cup pecans walnuts or almonds, chopped (replace with another seed if you want to make these nut-free)
- 1/3 cup sesame or hemp seeds
- 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
- 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
- 1/4 cup ground flax seed
- 1/4 cup dried unsweetened fruit of choice raisins, cranberries, cherries, apricots, blueberries
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 cup raw honey use maple syrup if you want to make it vegan
- 1/4 cup almond butter or other butter such as sunflower, cashew or peanut
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8x8 glass dish with parchment paper and grease very lightly with coconut or olive oil.
To a large frying pan, add the coconut, pecans, sesame or hemp seeds, pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Place over medium-low heat and stir occasionally, cooking for about 5 minutes, or until lightly toasted.
Remove from the heat and place toasted mixture in a large bowl. Let cool for a few minutes and add in the ground flax and dried fruit.
In a small bowl (please note the turmeric-stained plastic bowl I won't throw away), add the honey, almond butter and salt and mix well with a spatula so the salt dissolves.
Then pour liquid over the toasted mixture and mash everything together to distribute evenly and coat thoroughly.
When everything is combined, transfer the mixture to a parchment-lined dish and press down evenly. Using the back of a measuring cup or the palm of your hand and/or knuckles (if you do use your hands, rub them with a touch of coconut oil first to moisten), pack the bars into the pan. Take your time with this step, as the bars will crumble if not pressed down firmly enough.
Bake for 15 minutes or until slightly golden on the edges.
Remove from the oven, set aside and let cool completely. After 1 hour, lift parchment paper and bars out of the pan. With a sharp knife, slice into 8-10 bars and enjoy.
If you want to be Martha Stewart-y about this, you can wrap each bar in a strip of parchment paper and store them all in a single container. Or layer them in a container with parchment paper so they don't stick together.
When traveling long distances, these will keep at room temperature for 3-5 days. If at home, keep them refrigerated, frozen or at room temperature.