Most of the times when I go to the grocery store and check out the granola cereal or pre-made granola bars sugar or some form of it (agave, honey, brown rice syrup, coconut sugar, maple syrup, stevia, pure cane sugar, etc.) is in the top five ingredients. Time out! “Jo, Stevia is a natural calorie-free sweetener! It’s not unhealthy!” Well, true, lil’ buddy, however studies show that even if a sweetener is calorie-free, your body still reacts to that sweetness (“Are Sugar Substitutes Like Stevia Safe?”). I opt for sweetening foods with sweet fruits, so you get the added fiber which slows down sugar absorption.
As I try to not eat any added sugars, I never buy these products, but since I’ve turned 30 (5 years ago), my body has been craving sweets. I used to be a salty gal. I scoured the interwebs for a sugar-free granola bar recipe. There were tons of homemade granola bars that use sugar, but I did manage to stumble across a few that only relied on naturally-occurring sugars in fruit for the added sweetness. Below is the amalgamation of the few different recipes I have found for healthy granola bars. You can switch up the dried fruits, nuts, and seeds you add. I’ve tried many different combos and this one is my fave.
The Grrrrrrrreat Granola Bar!
2 cups rolled oats (NOT QUICK OATS, as this will turn the bars gooey)
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
4-5 very ripe bananas, depending on size
1 cup natural peanut butter (no added anything-just peanuts)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped dried apricots
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking tray with parchment paper.
- Combine dry ingredients on lined baking tray and toss to coat in cinnamon.
- Toast dry ingredients for 10 minutes. Be sure to stir every couple of minute to ensure that the mixture does not burn. It should be lightly toasted. Remove from over and bring temperature down to 350 degrees.
- In a big pot, mash bananas until they form a smooth paste. Heat over low-med and add peanut butter and vanilla extract until mixture is melted and smooth.
- Remove pot from heat and add dried apricots and toasted oats mixture to the pot. Stir to combine.
- Pour mixture back onto parchment-lined baking tray. Spread mixture out evenly on tray to about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thickness and press firmly.
- Bake at 350 degrees in oven for 25 minutes.
- Cool completely. Slice into individual bars. Seal in airtight container.