Today I would like to discuss nutrition bars. You know what I’m talking about: Luna, Clif, Lara, et al. Bars are near and dear to my heart because they kept my husband alive during his single days before he married me. I’m not going to bash a snack that can be a great choice for convenience alone, but I’m a big believer in whole foods, so an ingredient list that reads like an Old Testament genealogy doesn’t sit so well.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll admit that I’ve been known to grab the occasional Luna bar when I’m in a pinch, but I enjoy them for what they are: Candy bars with added fiber. Brown rice syrup is usually the first ingredient, and this is a sweetener. KIND bars are pretty fab since they mostly contain just nuts and dried fruit, but I like to make things herself. Plus, at about two bucks a bar, making my own can save some major cheddar.
What I have for you today is an all-natural, all-real, pronounceable-ingredient candy bar. It’s not technically diet food (though you’ll notice the calorie count isn’t all that bad), and should be eaten in moderation. But it hits all my healthy notes in that every ingredient is easily recognizable and it contains naturally occurring protein and fiber (no isolated soy proteins). It has a true, resonating sweetness that beats the heck out of mass-produced milk chocolate.
Like my grandmom always said, the key to life is “everything in moderation.” It’s likely that in the next week you will make a few poor choices when it comes to your diet—so why not have a plan in place for the slip-ups? That’s what this recipe is: a plan—something real to reach for when you’re craving something sweet. You can wrap these bars individually and freeze them, removing one at a time, to increase your self-control. Best part: They take all of five minutes to whip up.
Homemade Nut Chocolate Whole-Food “Candy” Bars
Makes 30 bars
1/2 c. (heaping) oats, ground
1 1/2 c. roasted cashews
1 1/2 c. dates (pitted), roughly chopped
1/2 c. almond butter
1/2 c. maple syrup
1/2 c. unsweetened shredded coconut
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. bittersweet chocolate chips (I recommend Ghirardelli)
1. Grind oats in food processor until powdery. Remove from food processor and set aside.
2. Grind cashews in food processor until finely ground. Add dates, almond butter, maple syrup, coconut, oat flour (that you just ground), and vanilla. Pulse until combined, about 10 pulses.
3. Add chocolate chips and pulse several times so that some of the chocolate breaks up but the chips stay mostly whole.
4. Line an 8×8 baking sheet with a parchment or foil sling (so that it’s flat across the bottom and hangs over two opposing sides). Transfer mixture into pan and using a moistened hand, press mixture tightly and smoothly into pan.
5. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least three hours.
6. Cut into 30 squares and store in the refrigerator. Bars will freeze well, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap for several months.
Per bar: 151 calories, 8.3 fat grams (including 2.9 grams saturated fat), 7 milligrams sodium, 17.8 grams carbs, 1.6 grams dietary fiber, 12.1 grams sugar, 2.9 grams protein.
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Becca Boyd is a wife and new mom who teaches culinary courses to students in the Radnor School District. She creates healthy and delicious recipes in her West Chester kitchen and blogs about them on her website, Home Beccanomics.