FUNCTIONAL FOOD | Behind Bars

More often than not, we find ourselves hungry in the middle of a long afternoon or even a long morning. We had our breakfast, we had our lunch, but there is so much time between meals that sometimes we want a snack, right?! That’s great. Having a snack will help keep our blood-sugar levels stable and give us that extra boost of energy that we might need–providing it’s a nutritious snack, that is. Enter the ever-so-popular-and-famous energy bars, or what many brands now call “protein bars”. Hmmmm...my thoughts on this subject vary. Many people think that high levels of protein is all that matters in a bar. Some even judge a meal by its protein content alone. Tisk tisk.

While most brands brag about being all “natural”, after actually reading the ingredients, I usually find myself asking: “vegetable glycerine”? Why is this in here? What’s lecithin–an emulsifier–doing in there? “Natural flavors”? (e.g. Natural vanilla flavor, natural blueberry flavor, natural chocolate flavor) Shouldn’t all flavors be natural?

Added flavoring, be it artificial or natural–which in reality and sadly are actually quite similar to one another–can contain up 50 to 100 different ingredients; and nasty ones at that. Uh, why is this stuff in my food? Why add flavoring if fruit and nuts/seeds/spices contain everything you need when it comes to FLAVOR. And what are all these other words I can’t pronounce? Butylated hydroxyto…whatever! Why isn’t the sweetness in my bar coming simply from the fruit? Why add more sugar to it? Could it be that maybe sugar is an addictive substance that we keep wanting and coming back for more and more? What the f@#!?

 Most of these energy/protein bars contain isolated nutrients instead of whole foods, and a lot of weird and funny ingredients. As Michael Pollan says: Real food doesn’t have ingredients; real food IS ingredients.

I don’t know how you feel about this but I’d rather not be putting all these weird things into my body. I just want a damn snack! How hard can it be? I just want something easy that I can carry around in my purse in case of emergency! (Oh, I can get hangry...really hangry).

But I get the appeal: some of these bars are quite tasty and they give you just the right amount of pick-me-up that some of us need. The problem is that many of them are filled with weird stabilizers, additives, and processed sugar (even if it’s organic sugar, it’s just sugar). It really bugs me that most bars are marketed as containing whole foods, and then they bulk up the product with all of this other weird stuff. Why? It’s so unnecessary! Well, mainly because bulking agents provide more shelf life. But anyway…I can ramble all day about this (as you can see ;)

Instead of constantly spending money on boxes of energy/protein bars for the family, how about making your own?

It really is very easy: simply throw everything into a food processor–which, by the way, are not expensive and save so much time in the kitchen! (Especially if you hate chopping things as much as I do)–and then you put the mixture into the mold of your liking and voilà! It’s that easy. 

The whole thing won’t take you more than 5 to 10 minutes; and that’s if you are taking your time. The only thing that you need to do is buy these seeds and fruit. Once you have these, you will be able to make big batches of naturally-high-in-protein and nutrient-dense bars.
 
These bars contain a ton of iron, omega 3s, vitamin E, protein-rich seeds, high-on-fiber dates (among many other nutrients), and some of my favorite blood sugar regulating spices: cinnamon and cardamom. No nuts are included in this recipe because some of you kitties are allergic to nuts and, to be honest, I think seeds are another one of those foods who don’t get half the attention they deserve and you know me: I’m all about bringing your attention to these overlooked but nutritionally-dense foods.

Enjoy!

RECIPE
1 tbsp flaxseeds
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp hemp seeds
2 tbsp chia seeds
6 tbsp buckwheat groats
3 tbsp sunflower seeds
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
11 dates
1 tbsp coconut flakes (or shredded coconut OR coconut meat)
1 tsp cardamom (you can add an extra tsp if you love cardamom like me ;)
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp vanilla powder
Pinch of salt
1-2 tbsp unrefined cold-pressed coconut oil
1 tbsp goji berries (optional)

Put all the ingredients in a food processor. Mix for 30 seconds. Depending on your food processor, you might want to run it for a couple of more seconds until you have a good mix. You will notice that things get sticky and mixed pretty fast.

Take the mixture out and place it on a baking sheet or mold (a glass container will work as well), pressing the mixture firmly with a spatula.

Place the backing sheet or mold in the refrigerator. Let sit for at least 2 hours for better consistency but you can eat these right out of the food processor.

Cut into 8 equal parts and try not to eat them all in one day.


Every two weeks, I will be posting nutrition and wellness advice, recipes, and interesting findings worth sharing with all of you. I know that we all have different interests and needs so I will try to cover different topics with every post. I would love to read your feedback so I encourage you to share your thoughts and/or questions in the comments section below.

If you would like to know more about me, please visit my website Alimental G.