Energy Boost

It’s getting to be the time of year when we come out of our winter hibernation and start to spend more time outdoors.  With that, however, comes the need for portable, easy to deal with snacks.  For most people, that means it’s officially Granola Bar Season.  I don’t know about you, but I find granola bars completely useless when it comes to providing the long-lasting stable energy I need.  Most of the time, they leave me feeling just as hungry, if not more so, than before I ate them.  If they do somehow manage to satisfy me, that satisfaction is short-lived and a blood sugar crash quickly follows.

Why is this?  Granola bars are the stereotypical “healthy snack,” right?  Well, not really.  In fact, if you look at the ingredients and the nutrition label, granola bars are little more than glorified candy bars.  Let’s take a look at a couple examples.

First, here’s the nutritional information for a Snickers Bar:
Snickers Bar nutrition label Snickers Nutrition Information

Now, here’s the nutritional information for a 90-Calorie Fiber One Bar (for comparison’s sake, I used the peanut butter and chocolate flavor):

Fiber One Nutrition Information

I think we can do better than this, don’t you?  Instead of paying good money for a box of “healthy” granola bars that are nothing more than a bunch of carbs and sugar, let’s make out own healthy snacks that will actually give us energy for whatever life throws our way.  I have one of these two things in my bag at all times, and they can be real life-savers!

1.  Nuts and Dried Fruit: This is a great, no-fuss snack that’s easy to throw together and keeps for a long time.  Combine your favorite nuts with your favorite dried fruit, put your mix into a plastic zipper bag or a resealable container and keep it in your bag or your car for a portable burst of energy.  My favorite combination is walnuts, dried apricots, and dried cranberries, but you can really use anything you like.  The only nut I would avoid is almonds.  The moisture from the fruit tends to make the almonds soft.  Of course, if you like soft almonds, by all means, use them!  I like the walnuts because they stay nice and crunchy, even after a couple weeks.

2.  Power Balls: Sometimes, I’m just not feeling the trail mix idea.  For those times, I like to whip up a batch of my Power Balls.  They’re super easy, keep for a couple weeks in the fridge, and just plain fun.  They’re also completely customizable, so play around with them and find your favorite mix!

Finished Power Balls lined up on a cookie sheet

Power Balls

  • 3/4 Cup Creamy Nut Butter
  • 1/3 Cup Honey
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Cups Mix-ins (chopped, dried fruit, nuts, cocoa nibs, mini chocolate chips, oats, etc.)
  • Up to 1/3 Cup Coconut Flour
  1. Mix everything except the coconut flour together, then add enough coconut flour to make the mixture dry enough to work with.  You want a dough that will hold together, but that isn’t so sticky that more of it sticks to your hands than to itself.
  2. Use a Tablespoon measure or scoop to measure the dough, then roll each scoop into a ball and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
  3. If the balls seem a little too sticky, roll them in crushed nuts or shredded coconut to keep them from sticking together when you store them.  Avoid the temptation to roll them around in coconut flour — trust me, they are no fun to eat that way!
  4. Yield: Approximately 24

And there you have it!  These are great to pack in your kids lunch (or your lunch) for an afternoon snack, or to carry with you during the day to combat the mid-morning cereal crash, or the mid-afternoon gap between lunch and dinner.  The sugar from the honey, dried fruit, and chocolate provides a quick burst of energy, while the protein and fat from the nuts and nut butters keep you full and satisfied until your next meal.

One word of caution, though.  Because these Power Balls have a lot of nuts and nut butter, they are very dense in calories.  Each ball has somewhere around 140 calories, so keep that in mind.  I speak from experience here — they can be addicting!

And there we are, two delicious and portable snacks that are easy to make and much healthier than granola bars.  What are your favorite portable snacks?

Catherine Hall

About Catherine Hall

Catherine lives in Bangor, Maine with her family. She gained her appreciation for food and cooking from her grandmother and learned most of her technical knowledge from watching the Food Network. When not in the kitchen, Catherine can be found outdoors attempting to grow vegetables (not always successfully), practicing yoga, and taking Capoeira classes in downtown Bangor. Catherine can also be found walking around town with her Guiding Eyes guide dog, Caleb.