Homemade real food, all natural, gluten-free protein bars!
So earlier this year I did an experiment and tracked my food and training sessions in MyFitnessPal and set macro goals for myself. I think I figure out that about 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% fat worked well for me. I tried to make each meal and snack pretty balanced with that ratio. At the time I had been doing a pretty low carb version of Paleo, so the increase in carbs was a little scary, but it worked out well and I lost a few pounds and felt great with my training.
Assembling balanced meals was pretty easy, but it's hard to find satisfying snacks that have a good mix of fat, carbs, and protein and that aren't processed with a million ingredients! We eat mostly veggies, meat, and whole foods carb sources, but it's not always feasible to have a snack of all of those components. We do a lot of banana/peanut butter protein shakes at home (I highly recommend my easy, real food recipe!) but they're not feasible to make at work or on-the-go.
I'd heard from one of the fitness/training/self image leaders I love (Molly Galbraith of GirlsGoneStrong.com) that she made a homemade protein bar with mostly protein powder, peanut butter, and oats, so it had a good balance of macros. At the time I first heard about it we were eating a more strict Paleo diet and wouldn't consider adding in a whole grain like oats. But when I started eating more carbs during my experiment, I found I needed a low-sugar dense carb source particularly to round out my snacks, so I figured I'd try adding in some gluten-free oats. I actually did well with them, and played around with my own oat/peanut butter/protein bar recipe and now make these pretty regularly!!
I've tried several variations--you can use collagen peptides protein powder or unflavored whey protein or high quality vanilla whey protein powder, almond or peanut butter or peanut butter powder, cocoa powder if you want... many variations! They can even be dairy-free if you use the collagen peptides.
Real food, all natural, gluten-free protein snack bars
- 4 scoops/servings protein powder (collagen peptides or grassfed unflavored whey [1 lb option or value 5 lb option, or budget not grassfed but rBST-free option], or grassfed vanilla whey protein powder but then skip sweetener and vanilla)
- 3 tbsp xylitol or other sweetener (if you use coconut palm sugar, raw sugar, or other sugary sweetener you will increase the grams of sugar and carbohydrate)
- 2 c. gluten-free oats
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 c. organic peanut butter powder or 1/4 c. all natural nut butter of choice
- No more than 1/4 c. plus 3 tbsp almond milk or coconut milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl; mix well. I use a fork!
- Add milk of choice a few tablespoons or splashes at a time, mixing to incorporate. The only way you can mess this recipe up is by adding too much liquid! It's hard to stir and very sticky, but try not to add any more liquid than absolutely necessary! Add vanilla extract at this stage, as well. (NOTE: If using nut butter rather than peanut butter powder, combine milk, vanilla, and nut butter in bottom of bowl first and stir until nut butter is mixed in to liquid. Then add dry ingredients.)
- Lay out a 12" or so long piece of plastic wrap on a flat surface. Distribute mixture into a loaf shape. Wrap plastic wrap around starting at one end and roll out until mixture is packed down and relatively uniform.
- Refrigerate or freeze for 15-20 minutes until solid but not rock hard.
- To cut into eight relatively even-sized pieces, cut in half, then cut halves in half, then cut those halves in half on each side. (Another note: You can skip the rolling step and flatten the bars like cookie dough, then cut into granola bar-shaped rectangles. We did this for the first handful of times we made the recipe, but it was hard to make them uniform in size and the bits of plastic wrap would fall off and get messy.)
Stop adding liquid when it looks like this!
Store in the fridge or freezer. If you put too much liquid, definitely do the freezer! They will be super sticky as they thaw and lose their shape, but still be tasty.
I put four into travel containers (plastic wrap intact) and give one container to husband and bring one to work for myself most weeks. We don't always end up needing them, so it works out perfectly for a week's worth of morning or afternoon snacks!
I've started keeping these ingredients in the kitchen as staples. You can shop my favorites here!