Happy Sweet-Tooth Friday! This is Christine and instead of my normal frilly-healthy-dessert post, today we are getting down and dirty with homemade vegan superfood energy bars.
An energy bar fit for fueling workouts
There has been a lot of talk about natural running fuel here lately. Matt’s series of posts on pre, during, and post workout nutrition got me thinking about the original homemade energy bar recipe I created in the early days of Sweet-Tooth Fridays. For those bars, my goal was to get away from the crazy-processed and overly sugared “health” bars on the market and create something actually nutritious from whole, real food— not corn syrup and soy.
And the result was a hit, both in taste and nutrition. We’ve made these bars again and again, and I’ve been known to tuck them into my workout bag for a pick-me-up snack. But now Matt has risen the bar with his research so I decided to give my old recipe a makeover, meshing it with ideas from the 5 essentials of pre-workout nutrition and elements of Thrive’s Raw Chia energy bars.
What makes them super?
I decided to leave beans as the backbone ingredient in my new bars, this time opting for adzuki beans instead of white. I also left the dates in as the main source of sweetness since I now know that they have a high-GI for immediate energy. Then I added agave nectar as suggested since its low-GI provides for sustained energy later on.
I wanted to lay off the “starchy” forms of carbs in my new bars after learning that they require extra energy for digestion before their sugar can be used as energy for the body. So I swapped the wheat flour, oats, and cereal with the less starchy pinole and puffed millet (yeah it’s the same puffed millet from my vegan ‘rice cripsy’ treats!)
To make up for the dry ingredients I removed, I also added hemp protein, which is listed in the “superfoods that go the extra mile” category. Do you think I stopped there? Nope! I threw in flaxseed and chia seed, and even maca root to help the adrenal glands recover. Don’t forget the salt for electrolytes!
I was hoping to make bars that fit with the 3:1 carbs to protein ratio, but couldn’t quite do it without adding significantly to the fat content. The protein here comes mainly from nut butter, chopped almonds, hemp protein and beans, and is assisted by the flaxseed, chia, maca, and pinole. My only other option was adding soy protein which I wasn’t willing to do, so I let my bars stay at a good 4.7:1 carbs to protein ratio (which does fall within the recovery food ratios anyway.)
Matt offered the option of using caffeine as a way of improving performance, but I’ve never run with caffeine before and was nervous about it. I intentionally left a significant amount of water as the liquid part of this recipe so that it can be up to you whether to brew it as yerba mate, green tea, or even coffee if you want. I made mine with water and they tasted great, so don’t think you’ll be missing out on flavor if you stick with water.
Finally, with a dash of cinnamon for antioxidants and a squeeze of lime as an acid neutralizer…voila! New and improved superfood energy bars!
Homemade Vegan Superfood Bars
- 2 cups cooked adzuki beans
- 1 cup (about 15) fresh medjool dates, chopped
- 1 1/2 cups water (may substiute yerba mate, green tea, or coffee)
- 4 tbsp agave nectar
- 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1/2 cup natural nut butter (I used cashew but almond, sunflower seed or peanut butter is fine)
- 4 tbsp fresh lime juice
- 3/4 cup pinole, or stoneground cornmeal
- 1/4 cup maca root powder
- 1/2 cup hemp protein
- 1/4 cup chia seeds
- 2 tbsp ground flaxseed
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 cups puffed millet
- 1 1/2 cups chopped raw almonds
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13 casserole dish with baking spray or 1 tbsp melted coconut oil.
Mix together the pinole, maca root powder, hemp protein, chia seeds, flaxseeds, salt, and cinnamon; set aside.
In a food processor, puree the beans, dates, and water. Stir the agave nectar, cashew butter, applesauce and lime juice into the puree. Combine the wet ingredients with the dry. Fold in the puffed millet and almonds.
Spread the batter into the prepared pan; bake for 30-35 minutes or until firm. Allow to cool, then cut into 24 bars. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Nutrition facts approximated for 1 bar/whole pan
Calories from fat: 112/2679
Fat: 8 g/201 g
Saturated fat: 0.7 g/18 g
Protein: 6 g/143 g
Sodium: 84 g/2008 g
Total carbs: 28 g/675 g
Sugar: 15 g/369 g
Fiber: 5 g/129 g
And yes, I drizzled these with a confectioner’s sugar icing that’s not accounted for in the nutrition facts–once again, decorating baked goods is a compulsion!
I’m packing these bars along for this weekend…I’m running my first race, the Shamrock 5k here in Baltimore! I’ll be wearing my NMA shirt with pride. Wish me luck and let me know how you like the new and improved bars!
See you next Sweet-Tooth Friday!