PCA 2020

Raising the Bar

It’s been a busy week – I’ve been off taping my new TV show – It’s Just Food – co-hosted by Ned Bell and set to air this fall on CLT & Access. The nearly 12 hour days of shooting with hardly any downtime requires me to be constantly “on,” so I come armed with various forms of power bars, knowing I have to keep my energy up and can’t afford to crash. Of course I’m not the only one in need of healthy energy to keep me going through the day – power bars are a $1.4 billion industry – and have you tasted some of them? Someone gave me one a few months ago that resembled a brown log dipped in chalky white "yogurt" coating (what about it even resembles yogurt?) and tasted not a lot better. It contained 21 g of protein, but also over 300 calories, palm oil, and 44 grams of sugar!

Of course their appeal is convenience, and buying into the idea that something resembling a chocolate bar can actually be good for you. Energy bars deliver a concentrated form of energy, which sounds like it should be healthy, but in the world of science and nutrition, energy refers to calories, so any food that packs a lot of calories can be labeled a good source of energy. Mars bars are now labeled as energy bars because it suggests that they’re healthy, when really all it means is that they are an excellent source of calories!

In fact, a lot of energy bars aren’t much different than chocolate bars. With the exception of the vitamins and minerals they’re fortified with, in many cases nutritionally they’re not too far off:

A package of peanut M&Ms contains 250 calories, 5 g saturated fat, 5 g protein, 30 g carbohydrate and 2 g fiber, with no palm oil or hydrogenated fats. (Just add a vitamin pill, and you have pretty much the same thing.)

Power bars can cost up to 10 times more than comparable snacks such as:

A banana and a glass of milk. (208 calories, 1.8 g saturated fat, 9 ½ g protein, 38 g carb, 2 g fiber)

½ cup pumpkin seeds and ¼ cup dried apricots = 220 cal, 1.2 g saturated fat (2 g mom & 3 g poly), 7 ½ g protein, 37 g carb & 4 g fiber

Of course the added benefit of these other snacks is that the nutrients you receive come from 100% whole food sources.

If it's protein you're after, boost it in your own cookie/muffin recipes with: 3 tablespoons of flax protein (ground flax with the oil removed), which contains 13 grams of protein, 12 grams of fiber and 13 grams of carbohydrates with only 60 calories and no saturated fat; or soy flour - ½ cup contains 20 g protein.


Peanut Butter Power Bars

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup soy milk or regular milk
1/4 cup honey or molasses
2 Tbsp. canola oil
2 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup all-purpose or whole wheat flour, or half all-purpose or whole wheat and half soy flour
3/4 cup oats
1/2 tsp. baking soda
Pinch salt
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots, raisins and/or dried cranberries
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or sliced almonds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup shredded coconut (optional)
1/4 cup ground flaxseed

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, stir together the brown sugar, peanut butter, milk, honey, oil and vanilla. In a small bowl, stir together the flour, oats, baking soda and salt.

Add the oat mixture to the peanut butter mixture along with the raisins, chocolate chips, almonds, sunflower seeds, coconut and flaxseed; stir just until blended.

Spread the batter into a 9”x13” pan that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. The mixture will be sticky – I usually use my hands but dampen them first. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden. Cool in the pan on a wire rack.

Makes 18 bars.

Per bar: 203 calories, 9.9 g total fat (1.3g saturated, 3.9 g monounsaturated, 4.2 g polyunsaturated), 6.5 g protein, 25 g carbohydrate, 2.5 g fiber. 41% calories from fat, 12% calories from protein, 47% calories from carbohydrate.

 

Power Balls (a.k.a. Chocolate Satellites)

During the 2 years I lived in Vancouver, I was hooked on those Co-Co Orbs at Capers markets. When I arrived back in Calgary, all I had left was an empty label, which fortunately listed the ingredients. These are similar, but contain pumpkin seeds and soy milk for added protein, and flax because I love to add flax to anything I can.

1 cup oats
5 brown rice cakes, crumbled
1 cup chopped dried fruit (such as apricots, cranberries, raisins, figs, blueberries)
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, chopped or pulsed in the food processor
1/4 cup ground flaxseed and/or sunflower seeds
pinch salt
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup soy milk or regular milk

If you are using old-fashioned (large flake) oats, pulse them a few times in the food processor to grind them up a bit. If you’re using quick oats, don’t worry about it.

In a large bowl, toss together the oats, rice cakes, dried fruit, coconut, pumpkin seeds, flaxseed and salt. In a small saucepan, combine the cocoa, peanut butter and maple syrup and set over medium heat. Cook until melted and smooth, stirring often. Remove from the heat and stir in the soy milk until well blended and smooth.

Pour the chocolate mixture over the dry ingredients and stir until well combined. Put the bowl in the fridge until the mixture is cool. Shape into balls the size of those large bouncy balls – bigger than a golf ball, smaller than a baseball. Store them covered, in the fridge.

Makes 1 dozen balls.

Per Ball: 225 calories, 7.6 g fat (2.1 g saturated fat, 2.4 g monounsaturated fat, 2.6 g polyunsaturated fat), 37.6 g carbohydrates, 0 mg cholesterol, 6 g protein, 4.3 g fiber. 28% calories from fat

 

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