Like most moms, I am always on the lookout for new after-school snack ideas that are nutritionally better choices for my kids. Once they’re off the bus, all my son and daughter want to do is drop their book bags, wash their hands, get something to eat, and relax. They prefer the grab-and-go snacks that don’t require a lot of effort while taking a little time to unwind.
Sure, I’ve done the veggie sticks and cheese and cracker bowls. And I’ve served apple slices and peanut butter. After a while, however, don’t we all get a little sick of eating strict snacks and just want to indulge in a good, old-fashioned brownie? I know I do. But (there’s always a but, isn’t there?), we can’t eat like that every day.
Granola bars kind of straddle the fence of healthy snack and dessert. Because so many commercially made bars are available with caramel, chocolate, nuts, pretzels, and the like, it seems like they have become more of a treat. If you take a quick peak at the nutrition facts on the packaging, you can find some of these bars are close to 300 calories.
And don’t get me started on those other ingredients, like high-fructose, genetically modified corn syrup, maltodextrin, and soy or canola oils. And I also realize that some of these bars are marketed as meal-replacement options, and are full of added vitamins and minerals and whatever else those hard-to-pronounce ingredients are. Honestly, have any of you ever dropped $2-plus on one of these bars, eaten it as a meal and felt totally full and like you made a healthy choice? I know I haven’t. And to me, they leave a weird, medicinal taste in my mouth, and I’d rather just eat a chocolate chip cookie and call it a day.
However, there are some redeeming qualities of granola bars, such as whole grain oats, which are gluten-free and packed with soluble fiber. Oats are high in manganese, phosphorus, copper, vitamin B1, iron, selenium, magnesium, and zinc. Dried fruit, such as cranberries, contains vitamin C, and nuts and nut butters provide a protein punch. So, I’m not saying we should join in a granola bar boycott by any means.
After a little trial and error, however, I was able to come up with a homemade granola bar recipe using just a few ingredients found in my pantry: honey, peanut butter, salt, cinnamon, quick oats, and, sometimes, dried cranberries. I doubt that these granola bars have any fewer calories, because they are sweet, rich, and delicious, but they are really hearty, so a smaller portion should leave you feeling fuller. And they don’t have all those other added ingredients, preservatives and whatnot that are found in commerically sold bars.
They’re quick and easy to make, and have become one of my go-to kid-friendly recipes. They are perfect for breakfast before hitting the bus stop for their hour-long ride, or slice into individual bars and pop in resealable bags for something sweet to add to my kids’ lunchboxes. They’re also nice with a cup of afternoon coffee for a sweet pick-me-up.
Honey Peanut Butter Granola Bars
- ½ cup honey
- ½ cup peanut butter
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 cups quick oats
- ½ cup chopped, dried cranberries, OR raisins, OR nuts, OR coconut (optional)
1. Line a loaf pan with wax paper.
2. In a large bowl, combine oats, cranberries or optional ingredients.
3. In a medium saucepan, heat honey over medium heat, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil, and continue stirring for one minute.
4. Remove honey from heat.
5. Add peanut butter, salt, and cinnamon and stir until peanut butter is melted.
6. Pour honey mixture onto oats and stir until everything is coated.
7. Pour granola mixture into lined loaf pan. With fingers, press to flatten the granola mixture.
8. Refrigerate the oat mixture for a few hours, or until cool and set.
9. Lift wax paper out of pan and remove granola “loaf.” On a cutting board, slice granola loaf into bars. Serve or place in resealable bags. Store in the fridge to maintain texture and freshness.
Corinne Gompf is a writer and hobby farmer in Morrow County, Ohio. She is a graduate from the University of Toledo, with a BA in English, creative writing concentration. Along with her husband, Matt, and two children, Fletcher and Emery, Corinne raises poultry, Boer goats, rabbits, and chemical-free produce. Connect with Corinne on her Heritage Harvest Farm Facebook page, and read all of her Mother Earth News posts here.
All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.