Saturday, July 10, 2010

Granola Bars

One of the chapters in my ACE Personal Training Manual is all about nutrition and the role it plays in physical fitness. We spent a week on the subject at Blue Heron Academy, talking in detail about deceptive "healthy" foods. To supplement the discussion, we were instructed to bring in a food label to scrutinize. A few of us chose granola bars—mine was a Quaker Oats Chewy 25% Less Sugar Granola Bar of the Chocolate Chip variety. According to my instructor, not so healthy. It contained a lot of processed sugars and preservatives that, when I actually looked at the label, I couldn't even pronounce. Sign #1 that it's not a healthy option. I've since learned to judge wisely.

Always read the list of ingredients. Not every granola bar is bad, you just have to hunt for the good ones. When they're good, they're really good. Especially post workout. Stay away from trans or saturated fats, and any additives like chocolate chips or "yogurt" coatings. They just add sugar. You want something with quality carb and protein counts. Remember that any post workout snack should contain a healthy portion of each. And if all else fails, make your own. So I did! I'm not completely satisfied with the recipe yet, but I'm going to share it anyway so that you can experiment with me. I scoured the internet for some healthy options and found a few that seemed promising. I took stock of what I had on hand and finagled the recipes until I had one that I thought might work.

1 tbsp. ground flax seeds
1 tbsp. wheat germ
1 tsp. salt
3/4 c. Black Cocoa Almonds, chopped
1/4 c. hazelnuts, chopped
1 tbsp. pecans, chopped
1/2 c. unsweetened shredded coconut
3/4 c. dried cherries, chopped
1/4 c. dried pomegranate seeds
1/2 c. agave nectar

Preheat your oven to 350F, then prep an 8x8" pan with a nonstick spray. Combine all ingredients, except for the agave nectar, and mix completely—after which you can add the agave. Mix until everything is covered, then press into the prepared pan. Cook for about 25 minutes. Let the bars cool in the pan for a bit, but not completely as that might make them really hard to cut. When you do cut them, they'll be slightly warm and prone to falling apart. Just press them back together as you move the bars from pan to counter to finish cooling. Wrap individually with plastic to store.

Admittedly, these are less of a granola bar and more of a fruit and nut bar. And forget about the nonstick spray, I'm thinking parchment paper is the way to go. It should eliminate a few useless calories and make it easier to remove the bars from the pan. Speaking of calories, I put the recipe into MyFitnessPal and discovered that each bar has 282 calories, 37 carbs, 16 grams of fat and only 3 grams of protein. Not good, but better considering everything is somewhat natural. Still, I think I can change those numbers with a few tweaks. Tomorrow: Granola bars, dissected.

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