So you’ve started eating a Paleo-style diet and now you can’t eat Clif Bars anymore. (Thank goodness…who truly likes them anyway?!)
Many endurance athletes—particularly in the cycling camp—rely on some form of energy bar at some point or another in their training / racing / recreational endeavors. Unfortunately, most bars are highly processed and contain grains, excess sugar, preservatives, etc. I challenge you to go into your local market and find a bar that is Paleo-friendly and most likely, you’ll only find Lara bars. Built around a base of ground dates and nuts with other ingredients to customize the flavors, these are definitely packed with sugar from the dates and dried fruit they contain but don’t have any other funky stuff. My beef with them is that they are pretty pricey…Trader Joe’s sells (a limited variety of) them for about $1 and they go upwards from there. (Aside: If you’ve been purchasing them over the years, is it me or have they seemed to have gotten smaller?! What the heck?)
Luckily, these are really to make on your own, come out tasting just as good and are less expensive when you do it yourself. The caveat is that this job can’t be done without a food processor because you need to be able to chop the dates and nuts down well. After a quick press into a dish, the mixture can be cut into bars as big or small as you like, and wrapped in plastic wrap for individual storage.
If you do a quick Google search, there are scores of variations for homemade Lara bars. The two varieties I made are from Everyday Paleo and of the types I’ve tried to make myself, hers are the most authentic as far as my taste buds are concerned. Once you get the hang of it, try substituting in your own favorites dried fruits, spices or nuts to customize. My best unique creation was a Coconut Key Lime Pie flavored bar that I made with real lime zest and juice…yum![Bonus considerations for more experienced Paleo eaters: Just a word of caution…as with any dried fruits, the sugar content can be quite high so I personally save them for a intra-/post-workout snack. Just because you’re eating Paleo doesn’t mean you get a free ticket to crack out on sugar every single day even thought it’s from fruit! Also, fruit (with its high fructose content) is not as preferable as a post-workout carb replacement as say, starchy tubers such as yam / sweet potato. You may try varying the nuts used in this recipe to include varieties that tend more to the monounsaturated fats—such as macadamia or hazelnuts—and away from nuts with more polyunsaturated fats—such as almonds and walnuts. Also keep in mind that nuts tend to be heavy on the pro-inflammatory Omega-6 end of the spectrum.]
Recipe for Homemade Fruit & Nut Bars (Mixed Berry)
- 1 cup almonds
- 1/2 cup pecans
- 12 Medjool dates
- 1 cup dried berries and / or cherries
- 1/2 cup shredded coconut
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 Tablespoon melted coconut oil
Directions for Homemade Fruit & Nut Bars:
- Line an 8″ x 8″ baking dish with plastic wrap or wax paper. Set aside.
- Add the nuts to the food processor and pulse down until they become small, crumbly bits. Don’t let it go too long or it will become nut butter—er, not that there’s anything wrong with that but it won’t help this recipe. Some pieces may be a bit bigger and some might be tiny. That’s okay. Pour the nuts in a large bowl.
- Now, pit the dates and put them in the food processor with the dried fruit, shredded coconut oil and sea salt. Pulse until it comes together in a ball.
- Now, with clean hands: add the dried fruit to the nuts and combine both together. You’ll have to knead pretty well but keep at it.
- Once all the nuts are blended in, you’ll take the lump of deliciousness and put it in the baking dish. Press the mixture into the dish until it’s packed down and smooth.
- Freeze for 20 minutes until firm.
- Turn out the mixture onto a cutting board and chop into pieces as big or small as you’d like. I usually make 12 bars from one dish.
- I individually wrap them. They can be frozen for a couple months if packed to withstand freezer burn. If not, store in the fridge for short term use.