With the totally awesome Oregon Coast 50k two weeks now past, I meant for my next blog post to be a race report of that experience (it was an AMAZING experience). Having just presented the second of two gluten-free, grain-free homemade energy snack demonstrations at the NW Military Natural Grocers in San Antonio, without yet having published the recipes I demonstrated for the sweet, well-informed people who attended the demonstrations, I decided to delay the race report in favor of finally getting the energy snack recipes online. Healthy, portable energy snacks are very simple and quick to make. They are fun to make, too. By making your own nutritious high carb or high protein snack, you can combine your favorite ingredients to develop your favorite flavors. You can also adjust the amount of sugar, protein, carbs, and nutrients according to your individual needs.
Sometimes buying pre-packaged manufactured energy bars or snacks seems more convenient than making them at home, and sometimes we have to choose convenience over the optimal. Grocery stores (and even some convenience stores) offer a wide array of convenient energy / protein bars that appeal to just about every type of specialized diet. Many of these commercially processed energy bars and snacks are fairly healthy with clean ingredients. They are pre-packaged and convenient to buy and to carry around through the day. The problem with these commercially produced energy snacks is that many manufactured nutrition bars or snacks, even gluten-free versions, include ingredients (such as soy protein isolate, sucralose, and inulin) that many people find undesirable for one reason or another. Another disadvantage of buying pre-packaged manufactured energy snacks is that they are expensive.
For people who want to control the ingredients of their food, and for whom the ingredients are more important than convenience, making energy snacks at home is an easy and less expensive option than buying them off the grocery shelves. People who are carb or protein conscious can even calculate the nutritional content of their snacks by using a free online nutrition calculator such as this one on Spark Recipes.
When you make your own energy snacks, you will want to have a nut base and a sweetener. You can grind your own nuts, or you can simply use nut flours. If you use almond (which, by the way, is botanically the seed of a drupe, not a true nut) flour purchased from the store, buy almond flour made of ground almonds blanched to have the skins removed rather than almond meal. Almond meal consists of almonds ground with the skin on; it’s more coarsely ground and has a slightly more bitter flavor than blanched almonds.
Energy bars or balls bind better when sweetened with liquid sweeteners. Some liquid sweeteners are overly processed, contain unnecessary ingredients, or are often adulterated with ingredients not listed on the label. Sweeteners that fit into this category are such sweeteners as liquid stevia, agave nectar, and liquid sucralose. Choose instead one of the following liquid sweeteners:
Minimally processed. Sugar cane juice is boiled down to syrup. Blackstrap molasses results from the third boiling (the first two grades are sulphured and unsulphered) and retains the most nutrients: iron, potassium, magnesium, manganese, copper, zinc, and calcium.
-Brown rice syrup
Highly processed. Brown rice is fermented to break down the starch in the grains; the resulting liquid is then boiled down to syrup. Though highly processed, this sweetener contains fiber, as well as sodium and potassium. The body absorbs it more slowly, which means it retains the energy gained from the syrup longer while preventing the negative affects of sugar (fatigue and irritability).
Minimally processed. Because it is naturally sweet, coconut nectar can be boiled to syrup at a low temperature. The low temperature processing allows the nectar to retain its naturally occurring amino acids.
Minimally processed. The sap of maple trees is boiled down to syrup. Retains elements of calcium, potassium, iron, zinc, and manganese.
Sap from the Maguey plant, minimally processed so as to preserve its phytonutrients and antioxidants. Maguey sap also contains 1 gram of prebiotic fiber per tablespoon.
Use local brand, or trusted national brand. Unfiltered, raw honey retains phytonutrients that gives honey its natural nutritional value.
Minimally processed. The juice of crushed sorghum cane is boiled down to syrup. Retains elements of manganese, B-6, magnesium, and potassium.
Any nuts and seeds will work in your snacks, but the following seeds and nuts are among those that contain the highest protein:
Hulled hemp hearts
A note about measuring ingredients: baking, especially gluten-free baking, is an exact science. For this reason, I always weight my flours when I bake; I never measure by volume. Making energy bars is not an exact science, however, so measuring by volume works just fine. For ease in the following recipes (unlike the recipes on my food blog Deglutenized and Delicious), the ingredient measurements are by volume.
This first recipe is the most simple. It requires only four ingredients: two types of dried fruit, nuts, and chia seeds. These snacks travel well. They can be wrapped in plastic wrap and carried to work or on a work out.
Apricot Cherry Almond Bars
1 cup dried apricots
1 cup dried cherries
1 cup ground almonds
1 tablespoon chia seeds
Press a piece of plastic wrap into an 8 x 8 x 2 inch square baking dish, leaving several inches overhanging the ends of the baking dish. Place all four ingredients in a food processor fit with the chopper blade. Blend until the mixture forms a ball in the food processor bowl. This process takes longer than it seems as it should; just keep processing and eventually the mixture comes together. With hands slightly oiled with coconut oil, press the fruit / almond mixture evenly onto the plastic wrap in the baking pan. Fold the over-hanging plastic wrap over the top of the fruit mixture; refrigerate for at least an hour. Cut into twelve pieces. Store in the refrigerator or freezer.
Nutritional Facts: Servings Per Recipe: 12, Amount Per Serving Calories: 130.8, Total Fat: 5.0 g, Cholesterol: 0.0 mg, Sodium: 2.8 mg, Total Carbs: 13.6 g, Dietary Fiber: 4.0 g, Protein: 2.9 g
Lemon Coconut Energy Bars
2 cups ground pecans
1 cup coconut
zest of one lemon
juice of one lemon
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup dried blueberries
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
In a food processor fitted with a chopper blade, place the ground pecans, coconut, lemon zest, lemon juice, and honey. Process until the mixture is well blended. Add the dried blueberries and sunflower seeds. Pulse until berries and seeds are well-blended into the mixture and the mixture begins to form a ball. Spoon the mixture evenly into the cavities of a 12 cavity silicon mold. Cover with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm. Store in the freezer or refrigerator.
Nutritional Facts: Amount Per Serving: Calories 293,Total Fat 23.3 g, Saturated Fat 7.5 g,Polyunsaturated Fat 5.8 g, Monounsaturated Fat 8.5 g, Cholesterol 0.0 mg, Sodium 50.7 mg, Potassium 132.4 mg, Total Carbohydrate 21.5 g.Dietary Fiber 3.5 g, Sugars 9.2 g, Protein 3.5 g, Vitamin A 0.2 %,Vitamin B-6 4.2 %, Vitamin C 4.6 %,Vitamin E 15.8 %,Calcium 3.1 %, Copper 16.4 %, Folate 4.0 %, Iron 4.2 %, Magnesium 7.6 %, Manganese 49.9 %, Niacin 2.9 %, Pantothenic Acid 5.1 %, Phosphorus 11.0 %, Riboflavin 2.4 %, Selenium 6.5 %, Thiamin 9.1 %, Zinc 7.8%