Healthy Muesli Bars

 

A muesli  bar may be a quick and easy grab as you run out the door in the morning, but is your bar as healthy as it could be? Many muesli bars, although calorie controlled, may contain an enormous amount of sugar, a significant number of calories, and maybe even trans fats. Although it may be a quick option, you don’t want to start your day with a sugar rush, right?

Here are some quick tips for choosing a muesli bar and an awesome low-sugar recipe you can make at home:

 

1.      Sugar.

Look for bars with 10g of sugar or less. Some bars can contain over 20g of sugar, that’s 4 teaspoons of added sugar! Generally, if there is a ton of sugar, the bar is highly processed and may contain other additives or very little fiber.

2.      Fiber

Aim for a bar with at least 3-5g of fiber. Breakfast is a great place to get in some extra fiber in your day. Your total fiber intake should equal 25-30g per day. Plus, fiber helps slow digestion, so the high fiber bar should hold you over until lunch.

3.      Protein

Protein increases satiety or the feeling of fullness. It also helps prevent carbohydrates (sugar) from rushing into the blood stream too quickly. A bar that contains at least 5-10g of protein will help you stay full until lunch. If the bar doesn’t have enough protein, try adding a handful of nuts, a boiled egg, or some low fat cheese for that added protein.

4.      Other ingredients

Make sure you read the ingredients list on the muesli bars. Don’t be fooled by the words “whole grains” or “organic” or other seemingly healthy words on the package.  Look for bars with a short list of ingredients, all of which you should be able to pronounce. Stay clear of bars with the words “partially hydrogenated” on the label, this means the bar contains trans fats.

The best way to know what ingredients are going into your granola or muesli bar is to make it yourself. Here is an excellent low-carb, gluten-free recipe for homemade muesli bars.

This recipe is GLUTEN-FREE, DAIRY FREE, GRAIN FREE, VEGAN, VEGETARIAN, LOW CARB, PALEO, SOY FREE, LOW ADDED SUGAR, HIGH FIBRE

 

HEALTHY MUESLI BAR

Adapted from Healthy Indulgences Blog

Makes 6 bars

Ingredients:

Wet Mix:

1 tbspn rice malt syrup or pure maple syrup

2 tbspn coconut oil

1 Tablespoon stevia

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Dry Mix:

1/4 cup almonds

1/4 cup pecans or walnuts

3 Tablespoons sunflower seeds

1 Tablespoon pepitas

1 Tablespoon finely shredded unsweetened coconut

1 Tablespoon cacao nibs (for that chocolate flavor- can do more nuts instead)

1 teaspoon flax seed meal

2 Tablespoons coconut milk powder (in Asian section of supermarket)

1/16 teaspoon xanthan gum

1/16 teaspoon sea salt

1/16 teaspoon pure stevia extract

4-6 tablespoons vanilla protein powder – I like Sunwarrior Rice protein (if dairy free) or Optimum Nutrition Gold 100% Standard Whey (not dairy free)

In a small food processor, add almonds and pecans to processor bowl, and pulse 8-10 times. Add sunflower seeds, pepitas, coconut, cacao nibs, flax seed meal, coconut milk powder, xanthan gum, sea salt, protein powder and stevia extract. Replace lid, and pulse 3-5x, until all the nuts are chopped up.

Preheat oven to 180*C. Line the bottom of a 20 by 10cm slice pan with parchment paper. Heat maple syrup or rice malt syrup and stevia in a small saucepan over medium heat until you see tiny bubbles forming in the mixture and the stevia is dissolved. Wait one minute after stevia has dissolved, then take the mixture off heat and stir in vanilla. Quickly, scrape hot liquid from pan into dry mixture, and stir around with a spatula until mixture is evenly coated. Press evenly into the bottom of loaf pan with spatula.

Bake for 10 minutes (7 minutes, 30 seconds in convection ovens). Remove bars from oven, let cool a couple minutes, and invert on to cutting board. Cut into bars with a sharp knife. Remold the corners as necessary. Slide bars, bottom side up, on to metal pan. Bake for 9 more minutes (7 minutes for convection oven). Remove from oven, and place muesli bars on cooling rack. Store each bar separately in a zip lock bag in the refrigerator, ready to grab and go!

Gluten-free, low-sugar, banana bread

Here is a great recipe for those of you craving a healthier, sweet dessert. Since this doesn’t contain any flour it is great for those of you following a gluten-free diet. The sweetness in this recipe comes from the bananas and dates, which also provide a great deal of fibre. There is no refined or processed sugar in bananathis recipe at all. Bananas provide not only 3g of fibre, but also a good dose of potassium, Vitamin A, and folate. Dates are also super high in potassium, iron, and magnesium. A dessert packed with all these amazing nutrients? Yes, please!

I made these as muffins or you can use a traditional banana bread dish. Be aware if you cook it in a bread dish, you will have to cook it for slightly longer.

This recipe is GLUTEN-FREE, DAIRY FREE, GRAIN FREE, PALEO, NUT FREE, SOY FREE, LOW ADDED SUGAR, HIGH FIBRE

Ingredients

For the banana muffin

  • 6 bananas (brown ones are sweeter)
  • 4 dried dates, pitted
  • 4 eggs
  • ? cup coconut cream concentrate or homemade coconut butter  (see recipe)
  • 3 heaping tablespoons of coconut flour
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1-2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of salt

Coconut Butter Recipe

  • 200g unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (you can also use almond extract)
  • Pinch of Kosher salt.

Place all ingredients in a high powered blender or food processor and blend together until smooth. This may take up to 10 minutes to get smooth depending on the power of your blender or food processor.  Store at room temperature in a sealed container.

Toppings
Frozen blueberries or raspberries
Sliced banana
Dark chocolate chips or cacao nibs
Flaked almonds

                                                Instructions
glutenfreeveganbananamuffins_158x2001. Preheat oven to 180 degrees
2. Add dried dates to the food processor and puree until you get a lumpy paste.
3. Then place bananas in the food processor and pulse until completely pureed.
4. Next add eggs and coconut butter and puree.
5. Then add coconut flour, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla extract, cinnamon and salt.
6. Pour batter into well-greased muffin tins (baking paper works best).
7. Add blueberries, cacao nibs (or chocolate chips), flaked almonds or whatever other topping you like onto the muffins. Mix with a knife to incorporate if you like.
8. Place into the oven for 30 minutes or until you poke each one with a skewer and they come out clean.
9. Let rest for about 5 minutes.

 

Coconut and Almond Rice Pudding

I’ve always loved rice pudding or ‘rizogolo’ in Greek as my wonderful mother-in-law calls it (and I should note her more traditional cinnamon and vanilla version is to diet for…and she has made this for me MANY times in the last decade).  This rice pudding just has a little dairy free and coco-nutty twist!  This is a great little dessert but I ate it for breakfast too! It is so creamy and tasty you wouldn’t guess it is dairy free, gluten free and low in added sugar too.  Perfect for the adults and the kids.

Now that I’ve made it, I think this would also be divine made with quinoa instead of the rice which would make it higher in protein, fibre and lower glycaemic index too.

This creamy deliciousness is GLUTEN FREE, DAIRY FREE, LOW ADDED SUGAR, MODERATE GI LOW FODMAP20130407-140452.jpg

What you need…

  • 1 cup (250g) arborio rice
  • 1 x 400ml Can Coconut Milk
  • 3 cups Almond Breeze, unsweetened
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeded and scraped (or 1 tsp Vanilla bean paste)
  • ¼ cup Stevia, Xylitol (these are the sugar free options)…OR… Coconut sugar or Rapadura (these are sugar alternatives but still contain sugar but in a less processed form)
  • 1 cinnamon pod
  • 1 tsp Almond Extract (optional)
  • ½ cup unsweetened coconut flakes, toasted slightly
  • ¼ cup sliced almonds

 

How the magic happens…

…on the Stovetop:

1. Start by rinsing the rice with water. Add rice to a medium saucepan. Add sugar substitute, vanilla bean and pod (or paste) and coconut milk.

2. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the milk is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Gradually add 2 more cups of almond milk, about 1/2 cup at a time. Let the milk absorb before adding more.

3. After 25 minutes, the rice pudding will be thick and creamy.

4. Let cool slightly and stir in the last cup of milk. Remove vanilla bean and cinnamon pod.

5. Serve. Garnish with fresh coconut flakes, almonds, berries and ground cinnamon.

 

…in the Slow cooker or Rice cooker:

1. Turn the slow/rice cooker on.

2. Add rice, coconut milk, almond milk, vanilla paste, sugar substitute, almond extract (if using) and cinnamon to the slow cooker. Set to high for 2-2 ½ hours or low for 4 hours.

3. Remove vanilla bean and cinnamon pod if used. Allow to cool slightly.

4. Serve. Garnish with fresh coconut flakes, almonds, berries and ground cinnamon.

 

…in the Thermomix (adapted from the fabulous Quirky Cooking)

1. In your Thermomix, grind up the sugar and vanilla bean for 1 minute on speed 9.

2. Scrape down lid and sides and add remaining ingredients. Cook for 25 minutes at 90 degrees, reverse, speed 1 1/2.

3. Allow to cool for approximately 5 minutes before serving (it will thicken slightly).

4. Serve. Garnish with fresh coconut flakes, almonds, berries and ground cinnamon.

Bean & Beetroot Brownies

  These densely succulent morsels of beaniness (yep, that’s a new word!) come after many requests for ideas for healthy, chocolately sweet treats. You all said it couldn’t be done – but here it is – a healthy brownie! And trust me, even my doubter of a husband who loves proper brownies with all their fatty goodness, said they were delish.  You get all that yumminess, plus it is high in fibre and allergy friendly too! This also comes at a great time as the school year is almost ready to start again (wow, where did the school holidays go…bet the parents out there don’t quite agree with me there). Great for a low sugar treat for everybody but see the hint down the bottom if you want a little more sweetness to start with. ENJOY!

These brownie are DAIRY FREE, EGG FREE, VEGAN, LOW GI, SUGAR FREE & HIGH FIBRE.  Could be GLUTEN FREE if the flour is substituted for a good quality gluten free flour like White Wing’s plain flour.  Could be NUT FREE if nuts are left out.

brownies

What you need…

  • 2 cup/250 g dates
  • 1 small beetroot, peeled and quartered
  • 1 cup/180 g unsweetened applesauce (IXL brand has no added sugar) … OR make your own in your Thermomix by blitzing cored apples with a few tablespoons of water for 10 seconds at speed 8, then cooking at 90º for 8 minutes at speed 4 with the measuring cup off, then blitzing on speed 8 for another 10 seconds)
  • 2 tablespoons/15 g ground flaxseed/linseed (grind prior in Thermomix or food processor)
  • 400 g cooked or canned beans (equiv to 2 x 400g cans, drained) – any variety is fine but I used 1 can of butter beans and 1 can of red kidney beans)
  • 2 tsp natural vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup/30 g cacao powder
  • 3/4 cup/100 g flour (could use gluten free flour)
  • 1 tsp bicarb soda
  • 1 cup/110 g walnuts or macadamias (optional)

 

How the magic happens…

Doing it the traditional way:

  1. Preheat oven to 180*C
  2. In a food processor, roughly chop nuts, then set aside.beetroot and date
  3. Chop the dates into small pieces (either by hand or in food processor).
  4. Combine black beans, beetroot, dates and applesauce in a food processor and blend until smooth.
  5. Add cacao, ground flaxseed and vanilla. Blend again.
  6. Fold through the flour and bicarb soda. If mixture is too dry, add another few tablespoons of apple sauce.
  7. Gently stir through nuts (leave some aside to put on top)
  8. Spoon the mixture into a 30 cm x 25 cm slice tin.  Top with extra nuts if desired.
  9. Bake at 180º for 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Slice while still warm. Best when chilled before eating.

 

Thermomix magic…

  1. Roughly chop the nuts for 3 seconds at speed 4, then set aside.puree
  2. Blend dates with peeled, halved beetroot for 30 seconds at speed 10.
  3. Scrape down the bowl and lid, then add applesauce, flaxseed, beans, vanilla and cacao. Blend for 30 seconds at speed 8, using the spatula to scrape the bowl while processing. Remove the lid and scrape it and the bowl again, then blend for another 20 seconds at speed 8. Mixture should be thoroughly homogenised.
  4. Add the flour and baking soda, and mix on Reverse at speed 3 for 20 seconds, using the spatula to push the mixture down into the blades. Remove the lid and scrape it and the bowl again, then mix for another 10 seconds at speed 3. Repeat as necessary until all the flour is mixed in.
  5. Add the chopped nuts and mix for 10 seconds on Reverse at speed 3.
  6. Spoon the mixture into a 30 cm x 25 cm slice tin and bake at 180º for 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Slice while still warm. Best when chilled before eating.

Hint:   If you’re weaning your children (or yourself) off sweet foodS, you may want to substitute 1 cup of a relatively unprocessed sweetener such as coconut sugar or rapadura for 1 cup of the dates.