I once was obsessed with eating low-fat, low-calorie foods. I meticulously checked labels and if something had more than a couple of grams of fat and a few hundred calories per serving, I avoided it. (Or, I ate it anyway and then felt hideously guilty.)
Of course, the problem with many low-fat processed foods is you don’t feel very full. I’d eat breakfast first thing in the morning and not long after I hit my desk at work I was hungry again.
When my naturopath put me on a yeast-free, sugar-free, wheat-free and dairy-free diet four years ago, I had to completely overhaul the way I ate. Empty carbs were replaced with high-fibre, nutrient-rich whole grains and vegetables. Now, I check for things like sodium content, protein, fibre and sugar on nutrient labels.
Though my staple diet includes foods like avocado, cashew butter and hemp seeds, my weight hasn’t increased. I may be eating fare that is higher in fat, but my appetite is satisfied.
That’s why I love these granola bars. They’re packed with healthy fats and natural sweeteners, making them perfect for a mid-afternoon craving or a pre-workout boost. And they taste amazing, too – they’ve got a crispy outer edge and chewy insides, with the right balance of tart and sweet. My husband said they were the best granola bars he’s ever had.
You can play around with the nuts and fruits, too – these would be great with the addition of sesame seeds, raisins or chocolate chips. And maybe some spices as well – cinnamon anyone?
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Nutty Fruit Bars
From Anja’s Food for Thought
¼ cup orange juice (I used Happy Planet’s Abundant C )
¼ cup dried dates, pitted and roughly chopped
¼ cup hazelnuts
¼ cup pecans
¼ cup cashews
¼ cup dried apricots, roughly chopped
¼ cup dried figs, roughly chopped
¼ cup dried cranberries
½ cup pumpkin seeds
¼ cup dried coconut
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or silpat.
Pour fruit juice over dates and let soak for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, place nuts, apricots and figs in a food processor and pulse a few times until coarsely chopped. Add dates with orange juice and pulse until mixture starts to stick together. Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Add cranberries, coconut and seeds, kneading the batter until all is well incorporated.
Use the prepared baking sheet as surface and fill large cookie cutters with the batter. Gently remove the cutter to keep the bars in shape. Repeat until all batter is used up.
Bake 10-12 minutes. Using a heatproof spatula, gently turn bars over and bake another 10-12 minutes, or until nuts are toasted (but before fruit begins to burn). Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container.