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Granola bars have really evolved over the years. Now commonly referred to as snack bars, they also consist of an ever-growing array of ingredients in efforts to appeal to health-conscious consumers looking for quick, convenient food. People searching for more protein, fortified fibre, full servings of fruit or vegetables, or entire meal replacements have been flocking to these individually wrapped bars.
The snack bar seems to have become a separate food category, with sales growing substantially year after year. However, can these mass-produced, heavily processed snack bars really be nutritious? There is even speculation that these snack bars are really masters of disguise. Turns out what I thought were healthy treats to throw into my kid’s lunch are often nothing but glamorized chocolate bars, with huge amounts of fat, partially hydrogenated oils, high-fructose corn syrup, artificial preservatives and flavours.
We all have the power to read our labels before buying, taking the time to make more informed decisions. Companies are trying to cater to the demands of health-conscious consumers, and there are certainly snack bars out there that are high in protein and fibre, while also being low in sugar. But, we do have to think twice before reaching for that chewy, caramel, rainbow-sprinkled, chocolate-coated granola bar that the runny-nosed child in your grocery cart is reaching for. And, we can start to make more of these nutritious snacks from scratch at home, with total control over ingredients, knowing that the best meals are the ones we make ourselves.
These granola bars, a family favorite, mimic the well-known Larabar food bar. The sweetness comes solely from the dates, and they are packed with nut and seed proteins, essential fatty acids and lots of flavour.
The From Scratch Method
• Gather your dry ingredients and mix them together in a bowl:
- 350g raw almonds, coarsely ground
- 50g sunflower seeds, coarsely ground
- 50g sesame seeds
- 75g flax seeds, finely ground
• Form a Date Paste by mixing the following ingredients in a food processor and then kneading it together with clean hands.
- 500g dates, pitted
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Pinch of salt
• Transfer the Date Paste into a large bowl, and start adding in your nut & seed mix. Do this in 3 to 4 additions.
• Date Paste is very concentrated; all dry ingredients will get fully incorporated, but this will require some muscle on your part.
• Place the mixture into a square baking dish lined with parchment. Press paste to form one nice, even layer. A good, sturdy spatula helps.
• Cover the baking dish with plastic wrap, and let it firm up in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight.
• Cut into bars, and store them in the refrigerator until consumption.
- Food processors work well for coarsely grinding nuts. An extra coffee grinder used only for nuts and seeds will work better for finer grinds (like the flax seeds in this recipe) and for smaller batches.
- Try substituting a bit of dried fruit for some of the nut & seed mix. I like coconut and chopped apricots.
- For more decadent-looking bars, or for a healthy dessert, melt chocolate, and drizzle over top.