Tuesday, June 8, 2010
The problem with most granola bars is that they are full of sugar, fat and, sadly, often lacking in flavor. Even worse is that when you compare their nutritional labels with that of a Snicker's bar, you see that there isn't much difference in the fat and calorie department.
I began trying to figure out a homemade answer to this back in March but the process was slow-going. Part of the empty calorie issue that I kept finding with all of the granola recipes that I encountered was in the binding. More simply, they need something to hold them together and sugary syrups, rice syrup or honey seem to be the most commonly used granola glues.
I read somewhere about using prune puree in baking to replace fat and thought, why not glue some granola together with ground up prunes? So, I went to work. My first successful effort was in this Cherry Chocolate Granola Bar though my kids weren't instantly won over on the ground prunes.
Eventually, I decided to try making a date paste that the kids all gave the thumbs up in this recipe for Chocolate Date Granola Bars. And then, after tinkering even more, I found out I could sneak the prunes back in when I masked it with cocoa powder and natural peanut butter in the Chocolate Peanut Granola Bar recipe.
What, besides antioxidant-rich chocolate, makes these bars healthful? I don't deny that they are high in calories or fat; but the fats are beneficial and these can either be used as a meal replacement, a hardy snack or cut one in half and replenish lost nutrients after a workout (or a long hike!). Here's a little more about some of the good stuff inside:
Prunes: with more antioxidant value than any other fruit, plus lots of digestive-friendly fiber, prunes are a food we all should be eating more of.
Chia seeds: high in fiber, calcium, and iron these little nutritional powerhouses were used by Aztec warriors and it's believed that they were used as far back as 3,500 B.C. They're full of heart and brain healthy Omega-3s.
Pumpkin Seeds: high in iron, zinc, manganese and a bunch of other nutrients, pumpkin seeds are noted for decreasing the risk of heart disease and stroke due to their high magnesium content.
Sunflower Seeds: are so full of natural anti-aging nutrients that they are like little fountains of youth. They are very high in vitamin E, magnesium, and heart healthy polyunsaturated oils.
Oats: How can we forget oats? Oats, even rolled, are still a whole grain with all the good stuff in tact. The soluble fiber found in oats make them not only great for our bad cholesterol level but also for keeping our heart healthy. Their whole grain goodness brag of phytonutrients that have antioxidant value as well.
A lot of granola and energy bars have added vitamins, minerals and fiber to make them look healthier than they are. The nutrient values shown on the links above are 100% food-derived nutrients, the way nature intended. And I promise, these taste really good. See? Real food really IS better!
Wishing you the best,
For additional ideas for using Oats in Everyday Cooking see this week's edition of SERVING up a SMILE.