If you follow me on Facebook (and you should, so if you don’t get on it), then you may have seen a recent article I posted listing the top snacks you think are healthy but aren’t (find it here). This is a topic I feel quite passionate about. It actually really chaps my behind that so many companies are making millions from unsuspecting consumers who may really be trying to make better lifestyle choices but are consistently derailed by bogus marketing claims! (deeeeeep breath before continuing)…
One of my main objectives for starting this blog was to dispel popular food myths and help people understand how to choose the best foods for their health as simply as possible, and dammit that’s what I am going to do! And on today’s chopping block (which were noticeably absent from the article’s list): granola bars.
Now I know that for many of us Mr. Quaker holds a special place in our hearts. As a child I remember how much I loved pulling those chocolaty, chewy bars from my lunch bag (which, just to add to you 90s children’s nostalgia, was a Duck Tales one), mostly because that was as close to a chocolate bar as I was going to get in my health conscious household (31-year-old me thanks you for that, Mom). And many people today still think they are making a healthy choice by choosing that Quaker bar over a chocolate bar – but are you really? It might be a better choice, yes. But healthy? No. Why? Let’s take a look at the Quaker nutrition label below:
Many of us (myself included) would first look at the calories. Only 100 (another marketing gimmick that drives me crazy)! Next maybe you look at the fat – again, only 3.5 grams – and none of them trans! Right about now you’re thinking, “Amazing! I will give myself a giant pat with one hand will I shove this bar in my mouth with the other.” Not so fast. Many of us look at that nice neat nutrition bar but fail to take a look at that loooooong list of ingredients beside it. Notice all those black circles I so kindly added for you in order to make my point as easy to grasp as possible? Those are all the times sugar is listed in the ingredients. As you can see, sugar is listed 7 times. 7! And that’s alongside all those other ingredients, many that you can’t even pronounce, as well as that pesky cancer, causing caramel colour we chatted about in my Pumpkin Spice Latte post.
Ok – no need to panic. It’s true that many people don’t know just how bad these packaged bars are for you, they also don’t know how freakin’ easy it is to make your own. And I’m going to tell you how with a simple recipe that contains only 6 ingredients total. And none of them are sugar! Plus they take less than 10 minutes to make then you just pop into the oven, so even during this hectic season you have time to whip up a batch and eat well on the go.
These bars are gluten-free, sugar-free, and packed with fibre. And they are naturally sweetened with bananas, whose one main health benefit is to help stabilize blood sugar (thus controlling hunger), which makes them a perfect snack or breakfast option during the holidays when diet sabotaging treats lurk behind every (Christmas) tree.
So put down the packaged granola bar, give yourself 10 minutes (you and your health are worth that, no?), and bake up a batch of these ACTUALLY healthy granola bars.
The Natural Blonde
P.s. this little rant also applies to other “nutrition” bars. Beware the “all natural” labels and always, ALWAYS check the sugar.
Pistachio Cherry Granola Bars
• 3 large very ripe bananas (I use thawed frozen ones, which I find are sweeter)
• 3 cups traditional rolled oats (not quick cooking, certified GF if intolerant)
• ⅓ cup unsweetened dried cherries, chopped
• ⅓ cup pistachios
• 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
• 1½ tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line an 8×8 pan with parchment paper. In a large bowl, mash banana until smooth. Add oats, cranberries, pistachios, cinnamon and vanilla, and stir until well combined.
Spoon into prepared pan and press it out evenly. Pop into the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool completely then cut into small bars (about 8-12). Eh voila!
These can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for a week or wrap them individually and store them in the freezer indefinitely (I love doing this so I always have a snack to throw in my purse when out and about).
Note: If you want them a little sweeter, add a tablespoon or two of maple syrup, or stevia to keep them sugar free. But I encourage you to try them without first! Also, you can pretty much swap in any nuts or dried fruit you want. I love raisins, dates, apricots and cranberries; and for nuts try pecans, almonds, hulled pumpkin seeds, and walnuts. Just make sure you are buying unsweetened dried fruit and if you add chocolate chips, make them at least 70% cocoa.