Let’s be honest: The craving for a fast, tasty snack isn’t always satisfied by eating a banana or a bag of peeled carrot sticks. And to make matters worse, bored tastebuds are too often the culprit lurking behind failed healthy eating plans. Learning how to make nutritious yet fully delicious homemade snacks that cater to cravings—the “break glass for emergency” foods that busy lifestyles depend upon—can be the small investment that turns an earnest healthy effort into an easy healthy lifestyle. And, as far as snacks go, it doesn’t get much simpler than making an energy bar.
Of course, most stores are already overflowing with pre-made energy bars. But just because we buy them in little wrapped packages doesn’t mean they have to come that way. Homemade energy bars are remarkably easy to create, and also allow full control over the ingredients (many “nutrition bars” contain unhealthy filler ingredients, refined sugars, and difficult-to-digest protein isolates). Additionally, the DIY route also produces a bar that is less expensive, cuts down on excess packaging, and is often much more delicious! If you can make a smoothie, you can make an energy bar: They’re that easy.
To make a truly natural bar, try this general architecture: use a base of equal-ish parts of dried fruit (like dates or raisins) and nuts or seeds (like almonds or hemp seeds). Then, seize the opportunity to pack in the goodness by adding various energy-giving superfood powders like acai, cacao, or chia to skyrocket your snack’s nutrition with natural antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Mix everything in a food processor until a chunky “dough” has formed that sticks together, and form into bars.
To get you started, try this popular recipe from my book, Superfood Cuisine, for Chocolate Energy Superfood Bars. The cookbook as a whole serves as an inspiring roadmap of how to utilize nature’s most powerful foods to create amazingly delicious cuisine, and this recipe is no exception. I like to double the batch, wrap them up, and stick them in the freezer until a “something” is needed when on the go. Plus, they’re a wonderful excuse to enjoy chocolate at any time of the day (including for breakfast). Meet your new healthy snack addiction…
Chocolate Energy Superfood Bars
(Recipe and image from Superfood Cuisine: Cooking with Nature’s Most Amazing Foods)
Makes 8 bars
1½ cups soft Medjool dates (about 15 or 16), pits removed
¼ cup raw almonds
¼ cup raw cashews
¼ cup cacao powder
3 tablespoons cacao nibs
6 tablespoons hemp seeds
1 tablespoon chia or flax seeds
2 teaspoons maca powder (optional – enhances nutrition)
1 teaspoon mesquite powder (optional – enhances flavor)
2 tablespoons raw nuts/seeds (use favorite kind)
¼ cup dried fruit (use favorite kind)
Grind all ingredients together in a food processer—except for the last 2 tablespoons of nuts/seeds and ¼ cup of dried fruit—until a coarse dough has formed (this process may take a couple minutes). Stop the machine and check the consistency: pinch the dough between two fingers and make sure it sticks together easily so that your bars don’t end up crumbly. If the dough is too dry, add a tiny amount of water—about ½ teaspoon at a time—and blend again until the desired stickiness is achieved. Add the last 2 tablespoons of nuts/seeds and dried fruit and pulse several times until just coarsely chopped to give the bars a nice texture.
Place a large sheet of plastic wrap on a flat surface and spill out the dough on top. Gather into a solid mass in the center; then use the sides of the plastic to wrap over the dough as tightly as possible, pressing, pounding, and shaping into a compact 1-inch thick rectangle.
When solid, remove the wrap and cut into 8 bars. (For extra clean cuts, you can place the bars in the freezer for 30 minutes before cutting.) Wrap and keep in the freezer for long-term storage.
Variation: Add hemp protein, a teaspoon of freeze-dried wheatgrass powder, or bit of chlorella to boost the protein and nutrition even further.