How to Make Your Own Protein Bars
My sister’s friend Andrew recently emailed me. He’s a model, and he wanted my advice on eating healthfully when on the go. (Photoshop doesn’t work on the runway, friends.) Apparently, my sister had told him that I prefer to eat at home or bring snacks to control the amount of sugar, calories, salt, etc. in my food. Although I generally prefer to prepare my own food (and hey, I am frugal!), I do eat out, too. Since it’s my duty to help the genetically gifted become even more attractive (call me, Angelina), I gave Andrew my best tips for eating on the run (a later post, perhaps) and some snack ideas and easy recipes, including my recipe for no-bake protein bars.
Truth be told, this recipe was born of frustration. I love the convenience of packaged protein bars, but the $2-$3 price tag offends my Scottish heart. Besides, most are glorified candy bars, spiked with soy protein isolate, sucralose and who-knows-what. No thanks. As a know-it-all, I figured I could make my own—and better! A few tries later, I had created a high-protein/fibre, lower-carb/sugar bar with nutrition stats that trump those of most on the market. They’re tasty, too, and scored high on my family’s flavour test, which is more telling than my “What, you don’t think cottage cheese whipped with frozen berries tastes like ice cream?” palate.
Got 15 minutes, a bowl, a spoon and zero baking skills? Try the recipe. Or maybe you don’t want extra cash and a body like Andrew’s. Just sayin’.
I find whey protein works best in this recipe. I love IsaLean Shake and IsaPro by Isagenix. Both are naturally sweetened and from New Zealand whey, which exceeds USDA organic standards. (Cows used to produce whey in Isagenix products are pasture fed on small farms and milked seasonally, with no hormones or antibiotics.) Although whey isolate contains fewer carbohydrates and slightly more protein than whey concentrate, the difference is marginal, and isolates are most often extracted from the milk by acids, high heat or salts, all of which destroy the natural enzymes and amino acid profile in whey–or worse. (IsaLean and IsaPro are undenatured, that is, they undergo a cold filtration process to preserve the whey quality and natural enzymes.)
Bonus: A recent study found that supplementing with whey protein daily significantly reduced participants’ body weight, body fat, waist size and levels of ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates appetite. No changes were seen in participants given other forms of protein. Further, whey is shown to be the best protein for building and maintaining muscle, which is the key to releasing fat, staying lean and combating the aging process long term.
Meg’s No-Bake Protein Bars
- 5 scoops (1¼ cups) vanilla whey concentrate (e.g., I used 3 scoops IsaLean Shake and 2 scoops IsaLean Pro)
- 2 cups quick oats
- ½ cup ground flaxseed (choose golden flax–not brown–for a lighter taste)
- 1 Tbs cinnamon
- ¼ cup unsalted sunflower seeds (or other nut/seed)
- 1/3 cup sunflower seed butter (or other nut/seed butter)
- ½ cup applesauce (no sugar added)
- 3-4 Tbs hot water
- ¼ cup chopped dark chocolate or chocolate chips
- ½ tsp butter or vegetable oil (e.g., coconut or canola oil)
Line an 8-inch baking dish with plastic wrap, leaving an overhang over two sides; set aside. In a large bowl, stir protein powder, oats, flax, cinnamon and sunflower seeds. In another bowl, whisk peanut butter, applesauce and 3 Tbs hot water. Pour peanut butter mixture over oat mixture; stir to combine. If it’s too dry, add a tablespoon of water. (It may be easier to use your hands to combine the ingredients, but be sure to wet them first as the mixture will be sticky.)
Transfer mixture to baking dish. Use wet hands to pack down mixture evenly. In a small bowl, microwave chocolate chips and vegetable oil or butter 20-30 seconds (do not overheat or chocolate will scorch). Stir until chocolate dissolves; use a spoon to drizzle melted chocolate over bars (or spread evenly over bars).
Place in fridge or freezer 20-30 minutes. Once chilled, lift bars from pan by holding onto plastic wrap. Slice into 10 bars. Store in an airtight container or wrap each in plastic wrap. Keep refrigerated.
- Per bar (w/chocolate): 240 cal, 12g fat (2g sat, 0g trans), 19g carb (4g fibre, 4g sugar), 24 mg sodium, 19g protein
- W/out chocolate: 215 cal, 10g fat (1g sat, 0g trans), 24 mg sodium, 17g carb (4g fibre, 3g sugar), 19 g protein
- Make protein “balls” (not bars) by rolling mixture into small balls (wet hands first).
- If desired, add chocolate chips to mixture instead of drizzling bars with chocolate.
- If you don’t roll with dairy, use rice protein powder (or other type). Depending on the powder, you may have to add more liquid (water and/or applesauce).