Convenience food like energy bars, granola bars and other packaged bars may seem like good choices for a snack on the go, but the ingredient labels on these often read like candy bars than the wholesome fresh snacks their names and packaging would have you believe. You may have heard about the lawsuits brought against Nature Valley and Kashi for their use of the phrase “All Natural” on their packaging, misleading customers with folksy fonts and close-ups of whole grains while also using heavily processed oils and additives.
Wholesome-looking bars are often doused in sugars--including the much-maligned high fructose corn syrup--and artificial sweeteners. They can contain poor quality oils and trans fats, and they’re often loaded up with preservatives.
So what the heck are we supposed to eat on the go? There certainly are some good brands of packaged bars, but there’s nothing like putting together your own! It’s really easy to do, no baking involved, and you can actually create something tastier than the packaged option. Promise. Not to mention these are nutritional powerhouses, with heart-healthy fats from seeds and almond butter, and fiber and carbohydrate from oats.
No-Bake Oat + Seed Bars
1.5 cups Rolled oats (not quick cook)
1 cup Crisp rice cereal (I like to use brown rice crisps)
.25 cup Hemp seeds
.25 cup Raw pumpkin seeds (sunflower seeds would also be great)
.25 cup Unsweetened shredded coconut
.25 cup of Sesame or chia seeds, or a combination of both
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
.25 teaspoon Sea salt
.5 cup Brown rice syrup or raw honey
.25 cup Almond butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
.25 cup raisins or dried cherries or cranberries
.25 cup finely chopped dark chocolate
• Prepare an 8 or 9 inch square pan with parchment paper
• Mix together all the ingredients from the oats through the sea salt in a large bowl
• Microwave the brown rice syrup and almond butter in 30-second increments, stirring every 30 seconds for up to 2 minutes or until the mixture is very smooth and warm
• Add the vanilla to the liquid mixture, then pour it over the dry ingredients. Stir the wet and dry well, scraping the bottom of the bowl to make sure all the dry ingredients are well-coated
• Stir in the optional ingredients if you’re using them. If you’re adding chocolate chips, make sure the mixture has cooled down a bit, or they’ll melt
• Pour out the mixture into the prepared pan, and use your hands to press the mixture down into a compact even square. Freeze it for 20 minutes
• Pop out the giant square bar onto a a cutting board (leaving it attached to the parchment for easy moving), and slice it into bars using a pizza cutter or a sharp knife.
During the summer, these are best wrapped individually and stored in the fridge but they’ll also hold up well in your gym bag or purse for a day.
Adapted from The Oh She Glows Cookbook, Angela Liddon