Granola bars, snack bars, cereal bars, protein bars. Whatever you want to call them, they are an amazingly convenient and tasty. Snack bars are advertised as healthy, wholesome goodness that everyone loves, from a teething toddler and her grandma to elite body builders. Portable, delicious, and nutritious, what’s not to love? The list of ingredients.
Ingredients list for Strawberry NutriGrain Cereal Bar (from nutrigrain.com)
CRUST: WHOLE GRAIN OATS, ENRICHED FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, VITAMIN B1 [THIAMIN MONONITRATE], VITAMIN B2 [RIBOFLAVIN], FOLIC ACID), WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR, SOYBEAN AND/OR CANOLA OIL, SOLUBLE CORN FIBER, SUGAR, DEXTROSE, FRUCTOSE, CALCIUM CARBONATE, WHEY, WHEAT BRAN, SALT, CELLULOSE, POTASSIUM BICARBONATE, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, MONO- AND DIGLYCERIDES, SOY LECITHIN, WHEAT GLUTEN, NIACINAMIDE, VITAMIN A PALMITATE, CARRAGEENAN, ZINC OXIDE, REDUCED IRON, GUAR GUM, VITAMIN B6 (PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE), VITAMIN B1 (THIAMIN HYDROCHLORIDE), VITAMIN B2 (RIBOFLAVIN), FILLING: INVERT SUGAR, CORN SYRUP, STRAWBERRY PUREE CONCENTRATE, GLYCERIN, SUGAR, MODIFIED CORN STARCH, SODIUM ALGINATE, CITRIC ACID, DICALCIUM PHOSPHATE, METHYLCELLULOSE, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, CARAMEL COLOR, MALIC ACID, RED 40.
The ingredients list for Clif’s Builder Bars and most other major bars are similarly long and hard to pronounce. Our goal is to be rid of highly processed foods made with chemicals; therefore it makes no sense to replace a meal with a snack or protein bar, for one and two, fuel our bodies with artificial ingredients when real food is plentiful.
Having been to both Regionals and the Games, snack bars are all the rage. Samples abound and some of them weren’t too bad (and some tasted like cardboard). ZoneBars are not even close to paleo. NoGii has three paleo bars and average $2.50 per bar. And not all bars advertised as paleo are actually paleo. Here is the list of ingredients for The Paleo Bar :
Coating (Maltitol, Cocoa Butter, Nonfat Milk Powder, Whole Milk Powder, Lecithin (An Emulsifier), Natural Vanilla), Protein Blend (Whey Protein Isolate, Whey Protein Concentrate, Rice Protein Concentrate, Whey Crisps (Whey Protein Isolate, Rice Flour)), Maltitol Syrup, Almond Butter, Glycerine, Dry Roasted Almonds, Digestion Resistant Fiber (Fibersol 2), Coconut Oil, Fructooligosaccharides, Lecithin, Natural Flavor, Omega 3 Concentrate Complex, Xylitol, Covalent Bonded Glutamine (GlutImmune™), Sea Salt, Green Tea, Elderberry, Rosemary Extract.
LaraBars are a great paleo alternative to the cereal or protein bar. They are hearty, filling, tasty, and portable. Ingredients list for the Cashew Cookie LaraBar : cashews and dates. However, $2.50 a bar is a steep price to pay for paleo convenience. We almost broke the bank with the amount of LaraBars consumed this past summer. We’d buy boxes at Costco thinking we’re getting a good deal; Corey would keep a box in his desk at work. With two busy kids on the go, and seemingly always hungry, it came to the point I had to ration them out, one per kid per day.
Thanks to Pinterest, I came across this recipe with all real ingredients and, in an effort to save a buck, gave them a try. According to the experts in my house (and a few other taste testers) these are better than LaraBars.
Homemade LaraBars (modified a bit from Espresso & Cream)
10 ounces pitted dates
1 cup prunes
2 cups slivered almonds
1 tsp almond extract
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ cup creamy almond butter
5 ounces mixed dried no sugar added fruits (blueberries, cranberries, cherries, whatever you want)
- Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until everything is finely chopped and begins to come together in a paste, about 1-2 minutes.
- Remove ingredients and press into an 8×8 pan lined with parchment paper.
- Refrigerate until solid and cut into desired size.
Utilize the bulk section at your favorite grocery store or the nuts and fruits aisle at Trader Joe’s. These are much more economical: I spent $14 on ingredients (with almond extract and cinnamon already on hand). I spent 5 minutes with the food processor and pressing into the 8×8 pan which yielded 16 bars equaling $.87 per bar. That’s a savings of $1.63 per bar! Wrap these in squares of wax or parchment paper and you’ve got a portable, affordable, healthy snack.