I’ve been a little preoccupied lately with granola bars. I was given a store-bought granola bar at a lecture I attended the other day as part of their healthy snack bar. At first I was pretty impressed that they ditched the usual Safeway muffins and coffee and replaced them with yogurt, granola bars, and fruit. However as my mind began to wander, as it tends to do during long lectures, I started to read the ingredients list of my “healthy” snack. As a Dietitian, I’m acutely aware that the ingredients found in store-bought granola bars can be pretty horrendous, so I tend to avoid eating granola bars in general unless I (…or my mom…) makes them from scratch. I guess it’s been awhile since I’ve read the ingredients list of the store-bought bars because I was shocked to read what was in this one. It turns out that these things were PACKED with sugar found in all different forms (syrups, fructose, barley malt extract, etc) and every kind of oil under the sun. In a way I felt lied to by the organizers of this lecture, who provided us with these nutritionally devoid snacks and called them healthy! I realize now this may have been a bit of an overreaction, but you get my point.
If you’re looking for a list of granola bars that are approved by this Dietitian, you’re out of luck. There certainly are commercially available bars out there that are nutritionally sound, but they are few and far between. I can’t encourage you enough to READ the ingredients list, and not rely on the nutritional information label (i.e. the label that has the grams and percentages of different nutrients listed). The nutritional info label doesn’t give you an idea of where the nutrients are coming from; it’s the ingredients themselves that offer insight into the nutritional quality of the product. Be sure to watch out for fancy labels and a high price tag – they don’t usually correlate with a healthier choice.
Fortunately making your own granola bars is super simple and they freeze nicely. I took the Salt Spring Island Granola recipe I posted last month and turned them into delicious granola bars. I was looking to make a granola bar that was crunchy and chewy, but most importantly, that would hold together. The whole idea of a granola bar is that it is a grab-and-go sort of snack, so I didn’t want a bar that required a plate to manage the crumbs. I tend to eat them when I’m walking out the door, on my way home from work, or as a snack to tide me over on a long hike. However, these homemade granola bars are also great as breakfast bars, as well as late night snacks when you’ve stayed up too late watching House of Cards…
Chewy Granola Bars
Heat time: 3 minutes Refrigeration time: 60 minutes Yields approximately 8 bars
4 cups Salt Spring Island granola (see recipe)
¾ cup peanut butter
½ cup honey OR ¼ cup honey + 5 dates, pitted
1. Heat the peanut butter, honey, and dates if you include them, on low heat until melted (about 3 minutes). If you are using dates, purée the mixture with a hand blender until smooth.
2. Turn off the heat. Add the granola to a large bowl and immediately pour the peanut butter mixture over the granola. Mix well.
3. Cover a 8’x 8’ pan with greased parchment paper. Pour the granola mixture into the pan and spread it evenly. Pat the mixture down until it is compact.
4. Place the pan in the fridge for 1 hour or longer to cool.
5. Remove the pan and cut the granola mixture into bars. Store them in the fridge or wrap them individually and keep them in the freezer.
Note: If you are using natural peanut butter, you may need to add ½ - 1 tsp of oil to the wet mixture if you find that it is too hard. This tends to happen when you get close to the bottom of the jar of peanut butter.