If you had showed me this recipe for homemade Clif Bars last year at this time, it would have probably saved me hundreds of store-bought energy bars. If I had found it a year and three months ago, maybe even close to one thousand. Unfortunately, that’s not much of an exaggeration.
Like many endurance athletes, I found that bars were a great and easy way of getting in quick, portable, and tasty nutrition before, during, or after a workout. And like many lightweight rowers, I found that they also could serve as a meal replacement, as they packed in calories without weighing too much. For those of you unfamiliar to the sport of lightweight rowing, the rowers are required to weigh in before each race. As a lightweight woman, my boatmate and I were required to average 125.6 pounds (57 kg) two hours before the start of our race. Eating a bar the night before or the morning of weigh in became a way of getting nutrition without adding the physical weight of a meal. It was also a way of eating something “healthy” that tasted pretty good while trying to cut weight.
Pretty soon, I didn’t even mind eating bars and looked forward to the new flavors to try. Clif (regular, Zbar, Builders, or Mojo), Luna, Balance, Lara, Kashi, PowerBar, Kind… name a bar and flavor, and I probably have tried it. By the time I started training in September, I often ate 2-3 bars a day—once in the morning before practice and then one or two in the afternoon at work, depending on how hungry I got. One tough week of training, I managed to go through an entire 12 pack of peanut butter Clif Bars, in addition to a few other random bars. My teammate and I looked forward to the trips to the grocery store to see what flavors of bars were on sale in the “bargain cart” that week.
Unfortunately, most of these bars are filled with sugar, which is why they taste so good. Compared to a Snickers bar, there really is not a huge difference… It pretty much was just like eating dessert with a little extra protein. Since this spring, I have tried to cut down on my bar consumption and now am down to 2-3 per week. When I do eat a bar (I still love them), I try and eat a Quest, Kind, or ThinkThin bar because those tend to have 1-2 grams of sugar, as opposed to the 15-20g in most other types. They also have very few and “real” ingredients for the most part; try reading the extensive ingredient list on a Clif bar and you will see what I mean.
There are many homemade energy bar recipes out there, but a friend showed me this one. It is really easy and can be made into a many different flavors if you want to recreate your favorite Clif bar. If you don’t like the heavy, dense consistency of most energy bars, this is much lighter and less paste-like. For my first bar, I tried chocolate almond. My two favorite flavors are white chocolate macadamia and peanut toffee buzz, so next I will have to try making one of those. But unlike the store-bought version, it has no added sugar or strange ingredients. Besides money and wrappers, I wonder how much less sugar I would have consumed if I had been making these all year…
Homemade No-Bake Clif Bars from Brown-Eyed Baker
1 cup pitted dates
1 ¼ cups crisp rice cereal
1 cup oats
¼ chopped nuts (I used almonds)
2 tbs flaxseed (or chia, or a combination)
½ tsp cinnamon
½ cup nut butter (I used almond)
1/3 cup brown rice syrup (or honey or maple syrup—I used honey)
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ cup mini chocolate chips (I used cacao nibs)
Spray an 8x8in pan with cooking spray or grease with coconut oil. Place the dates in a food processor and blend until they form a paste. Mix them in a large bowl with the cereal, oats, nuts, seeds, nuts, cinnamon and salt.
Combine the nut butter and syrup/sweetener in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until they are melted and completely mixed, then add the vanilla extract. Pour this mixture over the cereal mixture and mix well. Stir in the chocolate chips then transfer to the pan. Pack it in evenly and let set for about an hour until cool and hardened.
After this step, I melted some chocolate and drizzled it on top.
Cut into bars and fuel up! I ate this one before a two-hour bike ride this morning.