Walk down most any supermarket isle in the US, pick up a box of cereal or granola bars, and look at the nutrition label. You might be shocked to discover that most all of the common and seemingly "healthy sounding" brands like Nutri Grain, Special K, Nature Valley, Fiber One, and Quaker contain tons of unhealthy ingredients; High Fructose Corn Syrup, hydrogenated oils, dyes, artificial flavors, and preservatives just to name a few. There are way too many to list here. I can feel my blood pressure raise every time I’m in that isle, because I’m so disgusted at what the FDA is allowing into our food! There are a few widely available brands that are doing a great job on using wholesome ingredients, such as Kashi and Cascadian Farms, but most people don’t end up buying them, because it’s about $3-$4 for a box of 5 tiny little granola bars. The food industry needs to be doing more to provide reasonably priced quality food that’s more widely available, but that isn’t an excuse for us to just throw our hands in the air and give up on making healthy choices either. There are lots of creative things YOU can do to make healthy eating for your family a priority, while also making your buck stretch further. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again….cooking in bulk is your friend!
Granola Bars are a perfect example. They’re a staple in kids’ lunches, athletes’ gym bags, and for anyone wanting a quick snack on-the-go. Making your own homemade version is the best way to control the ingredients, all of which happen to be very inexpensive. If you have kids, this is a perfect opportunity to get them involved and teach them just how fun and easy it can be to make better quality food right at home!
-2 cups old fashioned oats
-1 cup whole wheat flour
-1/2 cup wheat germ
-1/4 cup sliced almonds (optional)
-1/2 cup brown sugar
-1 tsp. cinnamon
-3/4 tsp. salt
-1 cup dried fruit (I used ½ cup raisins ½ cup cherry Craisins)
-1/2 cup canola oil
-1/4 cup liquid egg whites
-2 tsp. vanilla extract
-1/2 cup agave nectar or raw honey
Step 1: Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large mixing bowl, add all dry ingredients, including dried fruit. Mix together with large spoon or baking spatula.
Step 2: Add oil, egg whites, vanilla, and agave. Mix well. (If you have kids helping, allow them to mix it with their hands to make it more fun!)
Step 3: Spray a 9 x 13 in. baking dish with non-stick cooking spray . Spread mixture firmly and evenly into dish. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool 5-10 minutes before cutting into bars. (This makes soft & chewy granola bars, but feel free to cook them longer for a crunchy version.)
Step 4: Carefully remove each bar with spatula onto cooling rack. Allow to cool completely before storing in airtight container or Ziploc bag. Makes 16 large bars, 24 medium bars, or 32 smaller squares...you choose how big you want them.
Tip: If you have kids, take them with you to shop for the ingredients. Allow them to choose the fruit and types of nuts they want in their granola bars, and make these together. Getting their “buy in” will get them excited and help them to feel proud of their creation! The warm smell of cinnamon and oats baking will seal the deal and make these a welcome new staple in your kitchen!
Nutrition Facts: (Based on 32 servings per batch)
4 g fat
19 g carbs
1.5 g protein
7 g sugar