Most of us could use more energy. Energy bars are one solution.
Photography by Cindy Momchilov / Food Styled by Muriel H. Wilkins
[dropcap]March[/dropcap] is a busy month. Whether you’re running in the Little Rock Marathon, running after toddlers or running around getting ready for spring break, it’s a busy time. Most of us could use more energy. Energy bars are one solution. They offer healthy calories to keep us going, but it’s important to note that all bars are not created equally. In general, if a bar is called an energy, cereal or granola bar, you will find the main ingredient is sugar. On the other hand, “protein bars” are usually just that, protein. Vegan, vegetarian, organic or natural bars sound good, but there are calories and fat to consider.
So, how do you choose?
Step 1. Start by reading the nutrition facts label. Look at the ratio of sugar to protein and the number of calories. Also, make note of the fat content: Bars with nuts usually have a higher fat content; however, it’s often under the recommended daily value of 30 percent.
Step 2. Taste it.
Step 3. If it’s to your liking, judge the results. Do you feel sated? Do you feel energized? How long does the energy boost last? How do you feel two hours later?
This month’s recipes have the “thumbs up” from both kid and adult testers and a registered dietician. If you try them, let me know. I welcome feedback on both recipes.
Oat Bars with Peanut Butter and Almonds
These bars do not require baking. If you’d like to use less sugar, reduce the honey to ¼ cup and use sugar-free peanut butter. This bar has a crunchy texture, because of the seeds and nuts, and the peanut butter and honey make them moist.
- 1 cup almonds, roasted preferred
- 1 cup whole oats
- 1 cup (8 ounces) dates, pitted
- ½ cup wheat germ
- ¼ cup toasted sunflower seeds
- ¼ cup dried cranberries
- 1/3 cup honey
- 2 cups peanut butter, reduced sugar or sugar-free preferred
Put the almonds and oats into a food processor; pulse until coarsely chopped. Transfer to a bowl, and set aside. Puree the dates in the food processor; add the chopped almond mixture and pulse briefly to combine. Combine this in a large bowl with the wheat germ, sunflower seeds and cranberries. Put the honey and peanut butter into a small bowl or glass measuring cup, microwave for 20 to 30 seconds. Stir and pour over the almond mixture. Mix until the oats are moistened. Spread mixture into an 8-inch by 8-inch foil-lined pan, and press down firmly. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set, about 30 minutes. Lift from the pan and cut into 16 bars. Wrap individually in plastic wrap and refrigerate until consumed.
Yield: 16 servings.
Cook’s Note: If possible use peanut butter that has no added sugar. Otherwise, you may want to reduce the amount of honey.
Optional toppings can be added to the tops of the bars after the mixture is pressed into the pan: sesame, pumpkin, sunflower, flax or chia seeds; dried coconut flakes; golden raisins; or even dried cherries. However, none of these ingredients are included in the Nutrition Facts label.
Kitchen Notes: Don’t skip lining the pan with foil.
Kids Cook!™ Homemade Oat Bars
These have a soft texture similar to dessert bars and are well received by kids of all ages. They come out crumbly if they’re not pressed firmly enough into the baking dish.
- 2 cups oats
- ½ cup slivered almonds, optional
- 1 cup toasted wheat germ
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup water
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ½ cup plain, low-fat Greek yogurt
- ½ cup honey
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- 1 teaspoon sesame seeds or sunflower seeds, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 11-inch by 7-inch baking dish with foil.
Combine the oats and almonds, if using, on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer into a large bowl.
Turn the oven up to 375 degrees.
To the oats and almonds, add the wheat germ, cinnamon and salt; stir. Melt the butter with the water; add into the oat mixture. Stir in the yogurt and honey. Mix until well combined. Stir in the dried cranberries.
Press the mixture evenly and firmly into the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Score into 24 bars. Sprinkle the bars with the sesame or sunflower seeds, if using. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy around the edges. Cool in the pan about 10 minutes, then cut into bars.
Cool completely, and store in an airtight container.
Yield: 24 servings.