How To Make Sure Your Energy Bar Is ACTUALLY Healthy

energy-bar

If you’re looking for an energy bar that truly provides energy instead of zapping it, you better plan on spending some time looking at the food labels on these products. Although granola and energy bars are often relied upon as a snack of choice, some bars are surrounded by health halos even when they’re actually full of unhealthy ingredients.

Not all bars are alike. The key is trying to choose a bar that adds value to your diet and contributes a balance of protein, fiber, whole grains, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. The right snacks keep blood-sugar levels and moods stable, and may help you stay alert and focused. In fact, some snacks can even help you lose or maintain weight if they satisfy your mind and mouth and they keep you from otherwise eating high-calorie foods that are devoid of value.

Here’s how to navigate the bar aisle to make a choice that best suits your needs:

1. Look for a bar that contains about 5 grams of protein.

There’s no need to go for bars that contain an overwhelming amount of protein. Excess protein doesn’t go directly to your muscles! Unless you’ve suffered an illness, where you had significant protein (muscle) loss or if you have increased needs for protein, much of the excess protein that is eaten is stored as body fat. Protein taken in greater quantities than needed, over extended periods of time, might result in bone thinning or perhaps impair kidney function.

Be sure to check to see that you’re getting protein from real, whole-food sources, like nuts, as opposed to highly processed ingredients mostly from isolates. A bar that contains around 5 grams of protein should do the trick, especially in the company of other nutrients below.

2. Make sure the main source of sugar comes from fruit.

Avoid sugar sources like added sugars, sweeteners, or sugar alcohols. Check to see how sugar is spelled — sometimes it’s not S-U-G-A-R! Sugar can appear as dextrose, maltose, organic can juice, rice syrup, and so on. Look for sugar in the form of real fruit, not pseudo-fruit-like substances.

3. Choose a bar that has healthy carbohydrates.

Look for whole grains on your ingredient list like oats, millet, buckwheat, amaranth, and quinoa. Fiber provided by these grains will help move you — look for around 5 grams of fiber.

4. Don’t be fat phobic.

Helpful fats derived from nuts can be deliciously satisfying, and certain fats (like almonds and walnuts) have even been shown to help lower cholesterol and stabilize blood-sugar levels. Your best bet is when the source of fat is derived from nuts.

5. Be mindful of calories.

You want to keep your snack bar between 150 and 200 calories, especially if you’re trying to watch your weight.

6. Aim for transparency.

Pick a product that actually looks like the ingredients contained within. Instead of looking like a piece of pressed wood, your bar should proudly display the nuts, grains, and fruit that appear on its ingredient list.

Raise the bar by choosing one that your body will be happy to reach for when you need it.

Here are some healthy bar recipes  if you’re up for cooking your own:

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No Bake Granola Bars:

Healthy, no bake granola bars with just 5 ingredients and a sweet, crunchy texture. Peanut butter and honey complement each other perfectly in this ideal portable breakfast or snack.

1 cup packed dates, pitted (deglet nour or medjool)*
1/4 cup maple syrup (or agave for vegan option)
1/4 cup creamy salted natural peanut butter or almond butter (even better make your own!)
1 cup roasted unsalted almonds, loosely chopped
1 1/2 cups rolled oats (gluten free for GF eaters)
optional: chocolate chips, dried fruit, nuts, banana chips, vanilla, etc.(I add walnuts &/or pecans and dried cranberries)

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Process dates in a food processor until small bits remain (about 1 minute). It should form a “dough” like consistency.
**Optional:Toast your oats in a 350 degree oven for 15-ish minutes or until slightly golden brown. Otherwise, leave them raw (I just prefer mine toasted)
Place oats, almonds and dates in a bowl – set aside.
Warm honey and peanut butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir and pour over oat mixture and then mix, breaking up the dates to disperse throughout.
Once thoroughly mixed, transfer to an 8×8 dish or other small pan lined with plastic wrap or parchment paper so they lift out easily.
Press down until uniformly flattened. Cover with parchment or plastic wrap, and let set in fridge or freezer for 15-20 minutes to harden.
Remove bars from pan and chop into 10 even bars. Store in an airtight container for up to a few days or refrigerate.

PEANUT BUTTER & HONEY CHEWY GRANOLA BARS

Ingredients:

2 cups gluten-free rolled oats
1/2 cup creamy natural peanut butter* (unsalted)
1/2 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (optional)

*Peanuts are one of the crops most heavily sprayed with pesticides, so make sure to buy organic whenever possible.

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Line a standard loaf pan with parchment paper and set aside. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the honey to a boil. Set a timer, and allow the honey to continue boiling for 1 minute. In the meantime, place the oats in a large bowl and set aside. Remove from the pan of honey from the heat and stir in the peanut butter and salt. Immediately pour the warm mixture over the oats, and use a spatula to stir well, coating the oats evenly. As the mixture cools, it will become sticky and difficult to mix, so be sure to move quickly!

Transfer the mixture to the lined loaf pan, and press HARD to pack it into the pan. Pressing firmly will ensure that the bars stick together well later. Place the pan in the fridge or freezer to cool, then use a large knife to cut the bars. I like to store these bars in the freezer for best shelf life (up to 6 months) then pull them out as needed– they thaw in about an hour, which makes them perfect for a mid-morning snack. If you’d prefer to store these bars at room temperature, they should last for up to a week.

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2 Clean Eating Tacos – Low Carb & Vegan

As much as I love Mexican food I know that a lot of it is not particularly healthy which is why I was so excited with both these healthy versions of tacos!

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Mexican food is a favorite around our house. But if you are trying to eat a few less carbs, you will have to make some adjustments.

Most people know that a simple way to cut carbs with tacos is to sub the tortilla for a large leaf of lettuce which is what we’ve done here. It’s tasty, and you don’t feel like you are totally missing out. But what about the rest of the ingredients?

Here’s some general info we’ve found:

TOMATOES

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Cherry tomatoes are just slightly lower in carbs by 1 gram per cup than regular chopped tomatoes.

AVOCADOS

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Avocados are a healthy source of fat and fiber, but they do have carbs. Whether you make guacamole or just slice up the avocado, keep it to no more than about 1/4 cup. That amount of plain, mashed avocado is about 5 grams of carbs, give or take.

RED ONIONS

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These are a little friendlier in carbs just because you typically won’t use as much when they are raw. At just under 3 carbs per 1/4 cup, it’s not a bad way to add flavor without upping the carb intake significantly.

Top these tacos with the low carb toppings of your choice and enjoy!

Low Carb Tacos

Ingredients:
3 raw, boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. onion powder
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tbsp. chili powder
Salt to taste after cooking
Large lettuce leaves for shells

Clean guacamole, sliced tomatoes and dices onions for toppings
Lay the chicken breasts at the bottom of your crock.
Sprinkle the spices over the top.
Cook on low for 4-6 hours or until the chicken easily shreds when stirred.
Add salt to taste.
Build your taco.

Calories: 107
Total Fat: 1 gm
Saturated Fats: 0 gm
Trans Fats: 0 gm
Cholesterol: 18 mg
Sodium: 63 mg
Carbohydrates: 4 gm (from the spices)
Dietary fiber: 1 gm
Sugars: 0 gm
Protein: 19 gm

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Raw Romaine Wrapped Tacos (Vegan)

Raw romaine wrapped tacos made vegan friendly and heart healthy.

Meet the quickest and healthiest way to cure your Mexican food cravings! These raw romaine wrapped tacos are an adaptation of Kimberly Snyder’s Raw Gorilla Tacos from her book, The Beauty Detox Foods, and I can say with great certainty that they are awesome in every sense of the word. With zero cook time and minimal prep time, these delicious bites of greatness are perfect for those on the go with little time to spare.

Believe it or not, these tacos are completely vegan friendly, thanks to the substitution of raw walnuts used in place of ground beef.

It is so crazy to me how a few seasonings can transform nuts to taste like meat, but I’m certainly not complaining as they do a pretty convincing job! I honestly think even meat eaters would be pleasantly surprised.

Another bonus to this dish is that it’s portable. Just store your filling mixture in a separate container from your prepared romaine leaves, and just like that, you have an easy to assemble meal.

To make this recipe, you’ll need a food processor or a high speed blender to process your walnuts to a meat-like texture.

Ingredients
2 cups raw walnuts
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
½ Tbsp. coriander
2 Tbsp. liquid aminos
1 tsp. chili powder
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
Romaine lettuce leaves rinsed, dried and stems cut
Salsa and/or hot sauce

In a food processor or high speed blender, combine walnuts, seasonings and liquid aminos. Blend until you have a chunky, taco meat-like texture.
Spoon filling into your romaine leaves and top with additional fresh veggies, salsa and/or hot sauce.
Enjoy!

Wacky Cake (Vegan Friendly Chocolate Cake)

No eggs, no butter, no milk? No problem.

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This cake is make without milk or eggs or butter and is moist, dark and delicious. No one knows for sure how long this cake has been around but many think it is a brain child of the depression era when ingenious cooks developed a cake that could be made without expensive and scarce ingredients. One more plus .. no mixing bowl. This cake is made directly in the baking pan hence no mess!
Wow, now that’s what I call a great recipe!

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups (7 ounces) bleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (0.75 ounce) unsweetened, non-alkalized cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (7.5 ounces) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon white or cider vinegar
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup water

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375°F. Lightly grease an 8-inch square pan.
Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt directly into the baking pan, then add the sugar. With your finger, poke 2 small holes and 1 large one in the dry ingredients. Into one of the small holes pour the vanilla, into the other one the vinegar, and into the larger one the oil.
Pour the water over all the ingredients and stir the ingredients together with a table fork, reaching into the corners, until you can’t see any more flour and the batter looks fairly well homogenized.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top is springy and a tester inserted in the center comes out dry. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack, then cut and serve it from the pan.

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Calories 235
Carbohydrates 38 g (13%)
Fat 9 g (14%)
Protein 2 g (5%)
Saturated Fat 1 g (4%)
Sodium 181 mg (8%)
Polyunsaturated Fat 2 g
Fiber 1 g (5%)
Monounsaturated Fat 6 g
Cholesterol 0

Chocolate Fudge Zucchini Brownies

Chocolate Fudge Zucchini Brownies (vegan, gluten free & healthy!)

Healthy … brownies … who knew they could be so out-of-this-world-amazing??!!

brownie

Can you believe that 1 brownie has ONLY 86 calories and 6g of sugar? YES, it’s true. And you know what? These are totally gluten free – and vegan if you use maple syrup  instead of honey and use vegan chocolate chips.

Because of all the dark chocolate chips and moist zucchini these brownies have a really rich fudge texture. Even a small piece will do wonders towards satisfying your sweet tooth.

Enjoy!

Healthy Chocolate Fudge Zucchini Brownies (vegan, gluten free & healthy!)

Ingredients

1/2 cup all natural unsalted peanut butter
1/4 cup maple or honey or agave nectar
1/2 cup unsweetened natural applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup gluten free oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (vegan if desired)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 8×11 baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Place oats in blender or food processor and process until finely ground. Set aside.

In a large bowl cream together peanut butter, applesauce, maple and vanilla until smooth. Add in zucchini, cocoa powder, ground oats, baking soda, and salt; mix until well combined. Gently fold in 1/4 cup of chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared baking pan and sprinkle remaining chocolate chips over the top. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until tooth pick inserted into middle comes out almost clean.

Cool brownies completely on wire rack then cut into 20 squares. Enjoy!

Nutrition Information

Serving size: 1 brownie
Calories: 86
Fat: 4.5g
Carbohydrates: 11.1g
Sugar: 6g
Fiber: 1.8g
Protein: 2.5g