Sometimes, you don’t have time for breakfast or lunch and need something quick and portable. Maybe you need a before- or after-workout snack with protein. Or the kids are hungry and want a snack, but you don’t want them eating sugary fatty junk or ruining their appetite for dinner.
You’re at work, at 11am or 2pm, and hunger hits, but you can’t leave to get something and your next meal feels like hours away. Or you or your partner is hungry and staring into the refrigerator like a roast chicken may magically appear, but you can’t or don’t want to cook something right now.
This sounds like a job for the granola bar.
Granola has long been a popular breakfast food, differentiated from the similar muesli because it was sweetened and usually baked. To make granola, rolled oats, nuts, spices, honey or other sweeteners, and sometimes puffed rice are mixed together and baked into clusters of wholesome cereal.
The names Granula and Granola were trademarked in the 19th century in America by the Jackson Sanitarium, a prominent health spa near Danville, and John Harvey Kellogg (yes, that Kellogg). And then someone had the bright idea to take this loose granola, which is kind of messy, and press it into a bar shape. These can then be individually wrapped, and stuck in a purse, pocket, or backpack for later consumption.
Granola bar popularity took off, and continues to rise. According to theglobeandmail.com, “Granola bars, breakfast bars and cereal bars, which are referred to collectively as “snack bars,” are part of a food category that’s grown 5 per cent a year since 2005 and is worth an estimated $720-million in Canada, according to figures provided by PepsiCo Foods Canada, which owns the Quaker brand.” All across the Americas, New Zealand and Australia, Europe and China, people love the portability and growing options snack bars offer.
One of the many reasons people love snack bars so much is their perceived healthfulness. After all, they have oats in them, which are full of fiber, beneficial to heart and digestive health. Unfortunately, today’s granola bars’ nutrition facts don’t often match their health claims.
For example, Special K chocolaty crunch bars claim that each bar only contains 90 calories and that they can help reach and maintain a healthy weight. But the bars, which themselves weigh only 22 grams, contain eight grams (nearly two teaspoons) of sugar. Sugar is also listed as the first ingredient. Another popular All-Bran bar claims to be high in fiber, yet each bar contains only 4 grams of the daily recommended 25g (for women) or 38g (for men).
So what’s a health conscious adult looking for a perfect portable food to do? Make your own of course!
It is much easier than you may think. You could get very serious about it, purchase a candy thermometer, meticulously source and weigh ingredients in the pursuit of the perfect bar. But that’s not how we roll here. Soon you will see how simple making your own healthy homemade snack bars can be!
KIND bars have become a favorite of mine lately, because they have ingredients you can see and pronounce, with no preservatives, fillers, artificial flavorings, and each bar is held to high standards for a low calorie count and sugar content. I had no idea there were so many options now though! There are KIND fruit & nut bars, KIND Plus, KIND nuts & spices, KIND & STRONG… you get the idea.
And the best part is, this is a WAY healthier bar than a typical granola bar. There are no oats, just puffed rice, whole raw or roasted nuts, and some sweeteners that also keep everything sticking together. These are inherently gluten free. Obviously, if you or someone you know is allergic to nuts, please don’t make these. But if not, then dive on in!
I based my recipe loosely off of Kelly’s recipe from Eat Yourself Skinny. I personally most love the dark chocolate sea salt bar, so that’s what this recipe mimics. But you are free to add whatever you enjoy to create your own copycat, or a brand new kind of bar!
The general rule I follow is 1 cup nuts/dry fruit : 1 cup cereal : 1/4 cup sweetener. I would use organic plain puffed rice if I had it, but when I wanted to make these and went to the store, Kashi Go Lean puffed cereal was the closest thing I could find. It works.
I’ve tried peanuts, walnuts, almonds, and cashews so far. I’m sure you could use just about any type of nuts in these, but I would recommend always including almonds. And I have not tried any with dried fruits yet, but that is the next experiment in line.
This recipe makes enough for a 9×13 pan, for approximately 30 of the delicious 1 inch x 3 inch bars.
- 3 cups puffed rice cereal
- 3 cups whole nuts (almonds + peanuts/cashews + walnuts)
- 1/2 cup brown rice syrup
- 2 tbsp honey
- 4 tbsp ground flax seed
- 1 tbsp vanilla flavoring
The dark chocolate drizzle is of course optional, but highly recommended. For that you will need:
- 1/2 cup dark chocolate pieces
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- Sea Salt
Step 1: In a large bowl, mix all your nuts, cereal, and ground flax.
Step 2: In a sauce pot, mix the brown rice syrup, honey, and vanilla. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about 2 minutes. It is a balancing act, too short and you will get a syrupy bar, but the longer you boil, the more likely you will create a crunchy bark rather than pliant bars. But regardless, it will taste great in the end, I promise.
Step 3: Pour your syrup over the nuts and cereal, and mix well to combine.
Step 4: Line a pan with foil, and press the mixture into the pan. You can use a spatula, your hand, or a cup sprayed with cooking oil if you want to make it extra flat and compact. Put it in the refrigerator for about an hour to chill and harden.
If you don’t want to add the chocolate drizzle, you can stop here and cut the bars to the desired size. I cut it into 10 strips, then cut each strip into 3 bars so they are about 1x2ish inches. I then wrapped each bar individually in wax paper.
But if you’re a chocolate lover like me, I definitely recommend continuing on to steps 5 & 6 below…
Step 5: In a microwave safe bowl, combine the dark chocolate chips, coconut oil, and a sprinkle of sea salt. Microwave 30 seconds at a time, stirring each time, until melted.
Step 6: Drizzle the melted chocolate all over the granola. You could dip the bottoms in chocolate too, but I found the drizzle on top was the perfect amount. Chill in the refrigerator again for about an hour to harden. Cut into desired bar size.
These will keep well in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks, or you can freeze for handy snacks for months. I doubt they will last that long though…
According to MyFitnessPal.com, these bars only have about 100 calories each, and 8 grams of sugar*. Not too shabby!
Recipe Nutrition Calculator
*This calculation is for the bar without adding the chocolate.
Nuts and Dark Chocolate Sea Salt “KIND” Bars
3 cups puffed rice cereal
3 cups whole nuts (almonds + peanuts/cashews + walnuts)
1/2 cup brown rice syrup
2 tbsp honey
4 tbsp ground flax seed
1 tbsp vanilla flavoring
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1 tbsp coconut oil
Sea salt to taste
In a large bowl, mix all your nuts, cereal, and ground flax.
In a sauce pot, mix the brown rice syrup, honey, and vanilla. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about 2 minutes.
Pour your syrup over the nuts and cereal, and mix well to combine.
Line a pan with foil, and press the mixture into the pan. Put it in the refrigerator for about an hour to chill and harden.
In a microwave safe bowl, combine the dark chocolate chips, coconut oil, and a sprinkle of sea salt. Microwave 30 seconds at a time, stirring each time, until melted.
Drizzle the melted chocolate all over the granola. Chill in the refrigerator again for about an hour to harden. Cut into desired bar size.
These will keep well in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks, or you can freeze for handy snacks for months.