November 24, 2013

Healthy Blueberry Nut Bars for the Hungry Teacher

I swear, there aren't that many chocolate chips!

"No Bake" healthy high protein snacks.  Let's make them!

The Background:  I am a part of a staff fitness group (5 dedicated members) at school.  We generally alternate between high intensity training, weights and core strengthening every morning (M-F) from 7:30am til 8:00am before classes.  We all have different goals and mine in September was to gain 4lb-6lb of muscle by the end of the school year.  

I told my workout colleagues (I'm the only biology teacher) about the protein window and asked them if they wanted to take advantage of it by making some some healthy high protein snacks (the store bought ones are full sugar and unwanted additives).

I suggested to my colleagues that we start a protein snack exchange and that we could take turns (each teacher is responsible for one week) for making healthy protein snacks for the group so that everyone could take advantage of their protein window.  6 weeks and 6 yummy and healthy different high protein snacks later, it is my turn again.

I found a recipe for some blueberry nut bars.  I think the work out crew will be very happy!  They worked out perfectly - no cooking or need for a food processor.  

(A Little Science!  Protein Window Theory: Up to 1 hour after working out there is a critical window when protein (and carbs) is most efficiently used by the muscles for repair - this helps the muscle grow bigger.  This is pretty much a universally accepted theory in most exercise science camps - and yes, I am aware of the detractors to this idea...but hey...even if it isn't completely's an excuse to have a healthy snack!  Competing theories say that a protein window exists, but it is before the workout, and that the amino acids from the protein should be already in your system and ready for anabolic use by the time the workout is over.  Eating after is too late.)

The recipe below will fill one baking pan (can be cut into 16 bars) and I doubled the recipe to make enough for the crew and for my husband as well.  They turned out awesome!

Fitness of Working out and Increased Protein Consumption:  No one in the staff workout crew takes exercise supplements, but we have all noticed an observable increase in lean muscle as well as performance over the last 2.5 months of working out together - we think that the protein snacks may be helping out, but the workout is the key.  It's pretty exciting - my triceps are visible when I pick up a piece of chalk!  I have triceps!


These are vegan (if you don't use the honey), gluten free, and refined sugar free (if you don't use the dark chocolate chips.)  No baking!  Also, no additives and extra sugar like you'd find in store-bought power/energy bars.  All my ingredients are organic, but if you don't buy organic, the bars should still turn out the same.

1) Mix together these DRY ingredients:
1.5 cups of raw rolled oats *
1/2 cup of dried blueberries
3/4 cup of whole raw almonds
1/2 cup of raw pistachios (unsalted) **
1/3 cup ground flaxseed/flaxseed meal (I used meal) **
1/3 cup raw walnuts (I broke mine apart roughly with a rolling pin to get smaller pieces)
1/3 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds (I lightly toasted mine for a huge boost of flavour)
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips (These weren't in the original recipe but I couldn't help myself.)

2) Mix together these WET ingredients:
1/3 cup of maple syrup or honey - I'm Canadian so you know which one I used - ;)
1/4 cup of unsweetened apple sauce
1 cup of almond butter

3) Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix.

4) On a pan lined with parchment paper, spread out the mixture roughly to all parts of the pan.  Put another piece of parchment paper on top of your mixture and press down firmly to spread and pack down the ingredients evenly.  This works like a charm - quick and easy with no messy fingers.

5) Place the entire pan in the freezer for 1.5 hour then take it out and cut into the desired number of pieces.  I found that cutting 16 bars per pan is the best for a good healthy but filling snack size.  Note: Cut them and pack them up fast so they stay hard and don't break apart.

6) Cut and place parchment paper dividers between each bar and store in sealed container in the freezer. Can keep for weeks, but it will be a challenge to not eat them all in a few days!

* Pure oats contain no gluten.  However, oats are usually processed in the same facilities that process wheat causing gluten contamination.  This is not a problem for most people unless they have a severe gluten allergy or have celiac disease.  For people with either of these conditions, oats that are labelled "uncontaminated" will be necessary to ensure gluten free oats.

** It is best if you have a supplier that keeps these stored in a refrigerated area when you go to purchase them.  If they aren't, these ingredients in particular, lose a lot of their nutritional value quickly. (Same thing is true if you are ever purchasing wheat germ - it should never be bought in an unrefrigerated bulk area or unrefrigerated shelf.)

PHOTOS - This isn't food network quality, but it will do.

Press down firmly.

This is the batch you'll get from the recipe - 16 bars - sized just like the ones at the health food store.

Use parchment paper to prevent sticking.
Original recipe from...

The modifications I made to this recipe were: 1) I used sesame seeds instead of sunflower seeds 2) I added those delicious dark chocolate chips and  3)  I used parchment paper to pack down the mixture.  Otherwise, everything else was followed to a tee.

Try this out!

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