When my son was a teenager and became interested in working out, he immediately “sparked” to the idea of “energy” bars! He’s not alone; energy bars are a huge industry, many full of heavily processed ingredients. A black mark in my book. That they’re expensive is a double damn. That so many present as healthy when they’re way over the top in calories? Well, that’s a triple damn! Why not just have a piece of cake and be done with it!!
I started looking for healthier options for him, and took the opportunity to talk to him about what he’s putting in his body, and showed him how to read the food labels.
Then we made these Dried Fruit & Nut Bars from the Martha Stewart website. They were great, they were tasty, but they had a nutritional value around that of a Clif Bar. 430 calories, 63 grams of carbohydrates and 6 grams of protein. Fine for an active 17 year old doing heavy work outs with weights, walking virtually everywhere and biking. Not so great for a Grandma, like me, or any one who needs to watch carbohydrate levels.
I knew I wanted to rework these energy bars! Don’t get me wrong, they’re still energy bars, but they’re lower in calories, saturated fat, have more of the good fats, a lower carbohydrate level and the same amount of protein. At 280 calories, 42 grams of carbohydrate and 6 grams of protein, they’re still delicious and a bit better for you. They also have fiber, which is a plus in slowing down all those carbs, so they’ll be energy now and some for later, too.
These bars aren’t “low” carbohydrate, but with six grams of fiber and 42 grams of carb, they come in at 36 grams of working carbohydrate. I can break one in half for a healthy snack or grab a whole one for a quick breakfast on the go or part of a lunch at the desk. They’re filling and easy and far better than skipping a meal or resorting to an additive filled option.
Total Carbohydrate – Fiber = Working Carbohydrate Value
Best of all, I can vary the fruit or the nuts to create my own custom flavors! The sticky date base helps hold everything together and has a surprisingly neutral taste, so I generally stick with the dates. I also eat a serving of almonds every day, so I usually stick with them, but feel free to vary, and everything else lends itself very well to tinkering. Coconut Mango, Apricot Almond and Tropical are some of my favorite flavors, along with this Cranberry Blueberry, shown.
Healthier Energy Bars
- 1 cup (9 ounces) pitted dates
- Vegetable-oil cooking spray
- 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats, finely ground, or 1 cup quinoa flakes
- 4 1/2 ounces (1 cup) almonds, toasted, 1/2 finely ground and 1/2 coarsely chopped (May be substituted all or in part with another nut)
- 4 ounces (about 2/3 cup) of small or finely chopped dried fruit
- 3 tablespoons ground flaxseed
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional or to taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons brown-rice syrup or honey
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place dates in a small saucepan, cover with cold water, and bring to a simmer. Drain. Puree in a food processor until smooth.
Coat an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray. Mix oats or quinoa flakes, nuts both ground and chopped, dried fruit of your choice, flaxseed, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Mix in date puree and brown-rice syrup or honey. Press mixture into pan. (Using a butter wrapper, parchment or plastic between your hand and the mixture to press it is helpful.
Bake until center is firm and edges are golden, about 25 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack. Cut into 9 bars.
from the kitchen of www.frugalhausfrau.com, inspired from Martha Stewart
Calories, using 1/2 Blueberry and 1/2 Cranberry for the fruit: 280; Total Fat 9 g 14 %; Saturated Fat 1 g 4 %; Monounsaturated Fat 5 g; Polyunsaturated Fat 3 g; Trans Fat 0 g; Cholesterol 0 mg 0 %; Sodium 111 mg 5 %; Potassium 376 mg 11 %; Total Carbohydrate 42 g 16 %; Dietary Fiber 6 g 24 %; Sugars 33 g; Protein 6 g 12 %; Vitamin A 5 %; Vitamin C 2 %; Calcium 8 %; Iron 10 %