Better-for-you energy bars and bites
Energy bars are great for a grab-and-go breakfast or snack but the store-bought ones are often filled with sugar and unhealthy oils and additives. Creating energy bars at home means they are filled with the nutritious and delicious ingredients of one’s choice!
Search online for recipes for homemade bars with tempting combinations such as blueberry vanilla, chocolate coconut, peanut banana, mixed berry, key lime or lemon, or pumpkin spice. All bars start with these base ingredients: either rolled oats or coconut flakes for fiber and complex carbs; nuts and seeds, which add crunch and are rich in magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids; dried fruits; flour of choice; and something sticky such as honey, dates, molasses or nut butter. For those allergic to nuts, try sunflower butter or tahini. From there, it is all about the mix-ins to pack in flavor.
For nuts and seeds, choose from a combination of almonds, pecans, walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pepitas, sunflower seeds, chia or flax seeds, or hemp hearts. For dried fruits, consider cranberries, raisins, currants, figs, blueberries, apricots, cherries or apples. Cacao nibs will add a chocolate flavor, and crystallized ginger or pineapple will give a tropical vibe.
For spices and flavorings, consider cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, citrus zest or cocoa powder. Mashed banana, pumpkin puree or unsweetened applesauce are flavorful options. Extracts such as vanilla, almond or coconut add concentrated flavor. Nearly all recipes call for a dash of salt. Protein powder can be added if desired.
An optional step is to toast the oats or coconut flakes in a dry skillet until fragrant. Some but not all recipes include combining the chosen ingredients in a food processor to make a coarse but spreadable mixture. Once the mixture is prepared, it can be spread into a parchment-lined baking dish. Some recipes will require baking time and some just need to set in the refrigerator. If you have only fifteen minutes, look for a no-bake, five-ingredient recipe with pantry staples.
A tip from an energy bar expert is to spray a pizza cutter with cooking spray before cutting the mixture into bars. Or, instead of spreading out the ingredients to cut into bars, roll the ingredients into round bites which can be rolled in coconut flakes or chopped nuts.
Store bars or bites in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Freeze bars or bites for up to three months and thaw before enjoying.
Article and photo by Lisa Nicklanovich