On-the-go healthy snack bars
Article and photo by Lisa Crockett
Imagine the following scenario, if you will: the last of the snow has melted, and it seems safe to finally pack your coats and boots away for the season. The sun is shining, and the East-West Trail (or Daniels Park or Rocky Mountain National Park or Red Rocks or Waterton Canyon) is calling your name. It’s a perfect day for a hike, a bike ride or, possibly, even a swim. So, you grab the sunscreen and a water bottle, lace up your boots and head for the door. But just before you get out of the house, you realize that your adventure is going to require some fuel.
What to do? Sweets will leave you sluggish and tired. Salad is great, but not handy for tossing in a backpack. Protein sources like eggs and meat won’t survive a warm day, and fast food will sit in your stomach like a brick. For outdoor adventures, it seems that commercially-prepared snack bars fit the bill just about the best. Bars, though, tend to be expensive. And their deliciousness is hard to count on – I once ate a bar during a distance run that I’m pretty convinced was a mixture of banana and sawdust. It filled me up, but I did not enjoy the experience.
Years ago, I spent a month eating only nutritionally-valuable foods doing something called “Whole 30,” so named for 30 days of whole foods. It was pretty challenging since the rules forbade many of the things I love, namely wheat flour and sugar, but I lost a few pounds and felt better for doing it, especially because it forced me to examine my snacking habits and find ways to fill up with quality calories.
After my Whole 30 adventure, I spent several months eating a mostly “paleo” diet, following a plan that was said to mimic a way of eating similar to hunter-gatherer societies of ages past. One of the favorite snacks of paleo die-hards is something called pemmican – a mixture of dried fruits, nuts and dried meat. And while I don’t now adhere to the Whole 30 or paleo plan on a regular basis, and I never could bring myself to eat pemmican, I did pick up several tricks I still use all the time. One of my favorites was a delicious homemade energy bar, sort of a meat-free version of pemmican, bursting with flavor and nutritious to boot.
The recipe does require special equipment – in order to blend the ingredients you must use a food processor – but other than that, they’re a snap to make. Simply combine equal amounts of dried fruit (avoid ones with high sugar content), nuts and dates, then process them into a sort of paste, and voilà! A tasty, portable snack packed with fiber and filled with whatever your heart desires.
The bars will last a long time in the refrigerator or freezer, and they can be eaten on the go for a tasty and lasting source of energy, which is great for a hike in the mountains or simply the walk from your car into the office on a busy morning. Either way, they’ll cost you less and satisfy you more than their store-bought counterparts. And whether you’re adhering to a special eating plan or simply looking for a way to stave off hunger pangs and save money, these bars will keep you supplied with energy and nutrients with a minimal amount of processing. Make a few batches, and you can count on a summer of well-fed adventures.
Super portable snack bars
1 cup nuts (any kind – walnuts, almonds, peanuts)
1 cup dried fruit (apricots, cranberries, cherries)
1 cup dates
Combine all ingredients in a food processor, then pulse the ingredients a few times to start the mixing process. Then let the processor run for about 90 seconds or until a ball forms, scraping the sides of the bowl and running the processor again if necessary. Press the paste into an eight-inch by eight-inch square pan on a sheet of waxed paper and refrigerate for at least an hour before cutting into squares. Store in an airtight container in the fridge, layering bars with sheets of waxed paper to prevent sticking.
For variety, add a tablespoon or two of cocoa powder, coconut or even chocolate chips to the mixture.