Happy Sweet-Tooth Friday! This is Christine again, so get your ovens revved up for some Athletic baking! Instead of dessert, this week I’m tackling home-baked Energy Bars! Most “healthy” bars on the market are fairly expensive and fall into one of two categories; they have enough sugar and processing to qualify as candy or they just flat out taste like cardboard. The challenge was clear: create a healthy bar that is both enjoyable to eat and chock full of whole foods. You’re not going to believe how yummy these are!
A Better Way to Bar
When my brother suggested baking a protein/energy bar, my first question was “What’s the difference?” It turns out that energy bars are used mainly as recovery in endurance training, and can be eaten before, during or after a workout. They are calorie-dense so they can be used as a quick breakfast or something to keep you going until that late lunch. Protein bars are more for body-builders looking for bulk muscle. We decided to go for an energy bar, but one that included some protein since vegetarians don’t always get a lot in their diets.
I read a lot of different recipes for home-baked bars, trying to find one with the ideal balance of ingredients. They included everything from silken tofu to protein powder to peanut butter to corn syrup. Like the packaged energy bars, a lot of the recipes included way too much sweeteners and fake stuff. I finally stumbled across a promising recipe from the Idaho Bean Commission. Yep, the same site that inspired last week’s elegant apple tart. (big shout out to the No Meat Athlete readers in Idaho for providing the tax dollars to this sweet commission!)
Their recipe for Beananza bars included a full cup and a half of white beans, plus grape nuts cereal, coconut, cinnamon and dates. Those are some great ingredients that can be hard to include in your diet each day, so it is exciting to roll them into a more convenient form. (Did you know that dates have as much or more potassium than bananas?!) However, there were a couple of elements I wanted to change to make this bar marathon-ready.
The first easy swap was whole wheat flour for the all-purpose flour. Then by subbing in canola oil and applesauce, I was able to eliminate the 7 tablespoons of margarine in the recipe. I figured the applesauce was naturally sweet enough on it’s own so I axed the added sugar as well. There’s also a lot of sweetness from the dates, so I brought the half cup of honey called for down to just 2 tablespoons, then added some flax-water paste to fill in the gaps.
Homemade Vegan Energy Bar Recipe
The “dry” Ingredients:
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2/3 cup oats
1 cup Grape Nuts cereal
3/4 cup raisins (I used golden)
1 cup shredded coconut (I could only find sweetened)
1/3 cup unsalted almonds, chopped
1/3 cup unsalted cashews, chopped
1 cinnamon stick, ground (or 2 tsp ground, but I totally recommend the taste of freshly ground!)
The “wet” ingredients:
2 tbs flax seed
1/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 cups cooked Great Northern Beans (or 1 15 oz can)
15 dates, seeds removed and chopped (about 1 cup or 1/2 a lb)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbs honey
1 tbs canola oil
1/2 cup applesauce (I made mine on the stove by cooking two peeled and diced apples for about 30 minutes with 1/4 cup of water, 2 tbs pomegranate molasses, and 1 tbs maple syrup)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
If starting with dry beans, soak a half pound over night, then simmer for about one hour or until soft. If starting with canned, rinse well to remove saltiness. Chop the beans roughly either by hand or in a food processor. They don’t need to be processed into a puree, just tiny pieces.
Grind the flax seed and mix it with the water, set aside to thicken.
Combine the dry ingredients together first and mix well. Add the wet ingredients and mix until uniformly incorporated. Press into a greased 9×13 pan or casserole dish. Bake for a total of 20-25 minutes, rotating the pan half way through. (Mine were finished at about 23 minutes). Cool completely, then cut into 24 bars. I cut a line down the middle of the pan lengthwise then 12 cuts across. Leave unwrapped for harder bars; put in airtight container for softer bars. Toast cut bars in the toaster oven for a crispy outside. If keeping longer than one week, wrap and freeze.
Nutrition facts for whole pan / one bar
calories from fat: 919 / 38.3
calories: 3779.3 / 157
fat: 105 / 4.4
sat fat: 30 / 1.25
protein: 109.2 / 4.6
sodium: 1584.3 / 66
total carbs: 713 / 29.7
sugar: 333 / 13.9
fiber: 178.2 / 7.4
Ok I hope you enjoy the benefits of baking your own energy bars! They really turned out great! Compare the nutrition info to your current favorite bar and you are sure to be pleasantly surprised…
That’s it for this week- keep your energy up and stay sweet!
P.S. These energy bars were vegan before I squiggled them with white chocolate, and it’s not accounted for in the nutrition facts. What can I say, decorating baked goods is a compulsion!
For more natural sports nutrition posts and recipes, check out the Running Fuel page.