Awesome snack bars

7 05 2010

Ever since I saw this video, I have been sort of on a crusade to eat less sugar, and especially to reduce the sugary foods in BB’s diet.  I have always had a sweet tooth, and we would often make cookies or brownies to have on hand as a snack.  Making them was fun, and of course so was eating them, but I think it’s true to a certain extent that sugar is addictive and I don’t want my kids to grow up hooked on overly sweet foods.  Because once you cut back on sugar, you quickly realize that just about everything is overly sweet.  Granola bars that are more like candy bars, yogurt that is sweet enough to qualify as dessert, fruit snacks that are mostly sugar and sort of fruit flavored…the list could go on.  The most disturbing thing I have seen recently is a “yogurt” in the baby food aisle that had sugar as the second ingredient and was pasteurized after culturing, so all the good bacteria were killed anyway!  Now why do babies need sugary snacks too?

The video is a little bit long, so I will just summarize what I thought was the main point.  (Apparently this was on the news recently too, my parents tell me, so maybe it’s old news to you…)   Fructose and glucose are metabolized by completely different pathways.  Glucose is used by your muscles and brain as food, and excess can be stored in the liver as glycogen.  Consumption of glucose triggers a hormonal response that makes you feel full.  Fructose, on the other hand, is metabolized exclusively in the liver, and the majority of it is converted into fatty acids that are released into the bloodstream.  After eating a lot of fructose, he says, there is a measurable increase in your triglycerides.  This newly synthesized fat is then stored in fat cells around your body.  Also, fructose does NOT trigger the pathways that make you feel full.  In short, eating sugar will make you fat.  Now, sugar is 50/50 glucose and fructose.   High fructose corn syrup is 45/55 glucose and fructose, so it’s a little worse than sugar but not a whole lot.

That’s a long lead-in to my great snack bar discovery, but I feel pretty strongly about it.  Refined sugars are bad bad bad, and they are aggressively pushed on children.  (When was the last time you saw a cartoon pushing vegetables?  Now that I think about it, that would be great; Bugs bunny selling carrots, Spongebob on pineapples… Warner Bros. and Nick, if you take that idea, I want a cut!).  If you watch Jamie Oliver’s show at all you saw the children all drinking sugared milk (!!!); it made me want to cry.  If kids are used to eating less sugar they won’t expect everything to be so sweet.  BB will happily eat a bowl full of plain yogurt because that’s what we have.  Snack?  Fruit.  We just don’t have any cookies or fruit snacks or ice cream, so it’s not even an option.  Of course we have sweets occasionally, but they are not permanent residents on the shelves.

Going out is a little harder, because I like to carry snacks (no, I NEED to carry snacks; if you have a toddler you know this universal truth: never leave home without a snack.)  The trouble with processed food is that they hide sugar.  Like granola bars.  So, I’ve been trying to make snack bars for us and today I found snack nirvana.  These are knock-offs of Larabars, which I’ve never tried, but they must be good!  I found the recipe here and followed it more or less.

I guarantee: call them chocolate snack bars and children will eat them.

Chocolate Snack Bars (my slightly modified version using what I had on hand):

* 1 1/2 c. pitted dates

* 1/2 c. raisins

*2 T. cocoa powder (unsweetened)

* pinch of sea salt

Process the above ingredients in a food processor until they are a paste (it will kind of form a ball).  Transfer to mixing bowl.  Then, chop the following in the food processor (no need to clean it first):

* 1  c. pecans

* 1/2 c. almonds

* a sprinkle of shredded coconut (I used sweetened because it’s all I had, but unsweetened would be great)

The nuts should be ground up to be pretty small pieces.  Then add them to the bowl and mix the date puree with the nuts; it’s a stiff mixture and you will have to knead it to mix.  Finally, line a pan with plastic wrap and press the mixture in.  Refrigerate to set (about 30 min) and cut into bars.  Alternately I guess you could roll them into little balls, or something like that.  I’m trying to replace granola bars, so I wanted them to be bars.  The verdict?  They were AMAZING.  Sweet, chocolatey, nutty… everything you could want in a snack without a whiff of added sugar.  The challenge now is to not eat the whole batch!  They still have calories, after all!  I don’t, in general, like to use the food processor because it’s always too much work to get it set up and then cleaned, but overall I would say these are easier than making cookies or brownies, because you only dirty the processor and one bowl, as opposed to one or 2 bowls, spoons, and a cookie sheet or three.  They are more expensive to make than brownies, cookies, or granola bars, because they are not grain based, but they are cheaper than buying Larabars (or powerbars, etc.), so although they are not cheap, I consider them an all around winner on taste, effort, nutritional value and cost. The only thing I would do differently next time is make more!

PS.  I did not soak and dehydrate the nuts as indicated in the original recipe.  I do like to make snacks, but some things are just a little too much effort for the payoff, IMO.



2 responses

15 05 2010

These sound delicious – I am going to try them!! Thanks for sharing!

19 05 2010

I hope you like them! 🙂

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