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In recent years, the energy bar section of the supermarket has exploded. Yet with all the available options, it’s still a Sisyphean effort to find a product with real, whole ingredients that isn’t loaded with sugar, preservatives and whatever sketchy plasticine material goes into making that no-melt chocolate coating. It’s time to think outside the wrapper.
These simple and delicious recipes are packed with all the nutrition you need any time of day, whether you need a healthy grab-and-go breakfast or the perfect post-workout replenishment. It’s time to get a handle on your bars once and for all!
PB&J Energy Bars
MAKES: 6 Bars
Reminiscent of childhood, these bars have a healthy balance of macronutrients to power your morning.
Powdered peanut butter is made from whole roasted nuts that have been pressed to remove most of their oil. The remaining particles are ground into a fine powder and make for a nutty, lower- calorie addition to bars, oatmeal and pancakes.
- 1 cup unsweetened peanut butter powder
- 3⁄4 cup oat flour
- 1 cup dried cherries
- 1⁄4 cup peanut butter
- 3 tbsp honey
- 1⁄2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1⁄2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup unsalted peanuts
Add all ingredients except peanuts to a food processor container and process until mixture sticks together when pressed between your fingers. Pulse in peanuts. Line a 9-inch-by-5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang. Add mixture and press firmly into an even layer. Freeze at least 2 hours. Lift mixture out of pan using parchment paper overhang and slice into 6 bars.
Nutrition Facts (per serving = 1 bar): calories 310, fat 12 g, carbs 36 g, fiber 4 g, sugar 20 g, protein 14 g, sodium 51 mg
Smoky Chickpea Bars
MAKES: 9 Bars
This mash-up of chickpeas, walnuts, whole-grain oats and miso is an umami delight.
Smoked paprika is made from peppers that are smoked and dried over a fire before being ground into a fine powder. Its flavor ranges from mild to hot.
- 3 tbsp ground flaxseed cup water
- 1/2 cups rolled oats
- 1 cup walnuts
- 1 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed, drained and patted dry
- 1/4 cup tahini paste
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp yellow or white miso paste
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme
- 1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup shelled unsalted sunflower seeds
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, allowing a 1-inch overhang. Whisk together flaxseed and water in a small bowl. Set aside to thicken, about 10 minutes. Pulse oats and walnuts in a food processor until partially ground. Add chickpeas, tahini, honey, miso, thyme, smoked paprika, salt and flaxseed mixture, and blend until mixture forms a dough-like texture. Add sunflower seeds and pulse until just incorporated. Spread mixture in prepared pan and press firmly into an even layer. Bake 25 minutes, or until top looks dry and golden and edges have darkened. Let cool in pan, lift out using parchment flaps and cut into 9 bars.
Nutrition Facts (per serving = 1 bar): 250 calories, fat 17 g, carbs 27 g, fiber 6 g, sugar 5 g, protein 8 g, sodium 157 mg
Fun With Fruitcake Energy Bars
MAKES: 12 Bars
This bar/trail mix hybrid keeps you moving at a hard clip on all your outdoor adventures.
The name might suggest it’s a blend, but allspice is a single spice made from dried berries that’s loaded with body-benefiting antioxidants, according to Current Drug Targets.
- 3⁄4 cup whole-wheat flour
- 1 tsp ground allspice
- 1⁄2 tsp baking powder
- 1⁄4 tsp baking soda
- 1⁄4 tsp salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1/3 cup butter or coconut oil, melted
- 1⁄4 cup honey
- 1 cup shredded carrots zest of 1 orange
- 2 cups mixed unsalted chopped nuts
- 2 cups mixed chopped dried fruit
Preheat oven to 325 F. Line an 8-inch-by-8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang. In a large bowl, combine flour, allspice, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In a separate bowl, lightly beat eggs. Stir in butter or coconut oil, honey, carrots and orange zest. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix gently. Fold in nuts and dried fruit. Spread mixture in pan and flatten into an even layer. Bake 30 minutes, or until golden on top and center gives slightly when pressed. Let cool several minutes and then slice into 12 bars.
Nutrition Facts (per serving = 1 bar): calories 289, fat 17 g, carbs 31 g, fiber 5 g, sugar 18 g, protein 17 g, sodium 69 mg
Minty-Chocolate Protein Bars
MAKES: 9 Bars
These fresh, no-bake bars contain quality carbs and protein to kick-start recovery after hard training.
Dried plums (aka prunes) contain bioactive antioxidants that may improve bone health, according to research published in Nutrients.
- 3⁄4 cup almonds
- 1⁄2 cup fresh mint
- 1 1⁄4 cups pitted dried plums
- 3⁄4 cup protein powder of choice
- 1⁄4 cup cacao powder
- 2 tbsp milk of choice
- 1/8 tsp salt
Place almonds and mint in a food processor container and process until the texture becomes as coarse as sand. Add remaining ingredients and blend until mixture clumps together. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, allowing a 1-inch overhang. Spread mixture in pan and press firmly into an even layer. Freeze at least 2 hours. Using parchment paper overhang, lift mixture out of pan and slice into 9 bars.
Nutrition Facts (per serving = 1 bar): 158 calories, fat 7 g, carbs 20 g, fiber 4 g, sugar 10 g, protein 9 g, sodium 49 mg
Key Lime Aloha Bars
MAKES: 8 Bars
These exotic-tasting bars deliver the energy you need to crush any workout goal.
Sweet/tart dried pineapple delivers plenty of potassium to regulate fluid balance.
- 1⁄2 cup pitted dates
- 1 cup unsalted cashews
- 1 cup dried pineapple chunks
- 1/3 cup dried shredded coconut
- 1 tsp ginger powder
- zest of 2 limes
- juice of 1⁄2 lime
- 1/8 tsp salt
Place dates in a bowl, cover with hot water and let soak 30 minutes. Drain and pat dry with a paper towel. Place cashews in a food processor container and pulse until the size of coarse sand. Add dates and remaining ingredients and process until mixture forms a sticky ball. Line a 9-inch-by-5- inch loaf pan with parchment paper, allowing a 1-inch overhang. Spread mixture in pan and press firmly into an even layer. Freeze at least 2 hours. Lift mixture out of pan using parchment paper and slice into 8 bars.
Nutrition Facts (per serving = 1 bar): calories 193, fat 9 g, carbs 25 g, fiber 3 g, sugar 12 g, protein 4 g, sodium 30 mg
Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread Bars
MAKES: 12 Bars
These bars will satisfy the strongest of dessert cravings while still delivering clutch nutrition.
Almond butter is a good source of magnesium, which an American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found may reduce the risk of liver cancer.
- 2 medium ripe bananas
- 1 egg
- 1⁄2 cup almond butter
- 1⁄4 cup maple syrup
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1⁄4 tsp salt
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 1⁄2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/3 cup dark chocolate chunks
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, mash bananas and then whisk in egg. Mix in almond butter, maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Fold in oats, cranberries and chocolate. Line an 8-inch-by-8-inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving about a 1-inch overhang. Spread mixture in pan in an even layer. Bake 25 minutes, or until golden on top and set in the center. Let cool and then slice into 12 bars.
Nutrition Facts (per serving = 1 bar): calories 211, fat 10 g, carbs 30 g, fiber 4 g, sugar 16 g, protein 4 g, sodium 59 mg
SET THE BAR HIGH
Use these tips for culinary victory.
Switch hits: Bar recipes can be tweaked, either to better suit your tastes or to use the ingredients you have on hand. For example, swap almond butter for peanut butter, quinoa flakes for rolled oats or dried pineapple for dried mango.
In a bind: Super-dry dried fruit makes for a poor binder. Soak it first in hot water to soften, then drain and pat dry before using in a recipe to ensure the mixture sticks together properly.
Powder play: Adding protein powder is an effortless way to bump up bar nutrition. However, different powders translate into different flavors and textures, so do some experimenting to see what works best. Also, use plain protein powder whenever possible so the flavors of the other bar ingredients shine through.
Process server: For best results, use a food processor rather than a blender. It does a better job of incorporating ingredients in the absence of liquid.
Silver lining: Trying to fit dry parchment paper into a pan
is an exercise in frustration. Instead, cut the paper, crunch it up, then run it under cold water until soaked through. Wring it out and, while still damp, mold it into the pan.
Mac(ro) the knife: Want bars with more or fewer calories? Simply slice them to your desired serving size.
Deep Freeze: For no-bake bars, freeze the mixture in the pan for at least two hours, then cut. A frozen bar “block” is way easier to cut than a mass of sticky dough.