When I was down in the land of BYU, I was still trying to figure out how to feed myself, whilst working and going to school. Fortunately, I was studying what was then called Exercise Science and knew a bit about nutrition, so I knew I needed to be eating whole foods and wasn’t about to buy a frozen pizza or packaged dinner (my roommates’ favorites). However, given the rigorous course work of Brigham Young University and not having enough time for practically anything, cooking a dish other than chicken and brown rice seemed to take way too long.
Tiring of chicken as my main source of protein, I ventured to find something else. Fish was too expensive to buy regularly, consistent servings of Beef gave me a complex migraine so that was out of the question, and anything else was either not appetizing (veal) or had me scraping my pockets (shrimp, wild caught salmon, lamb, bison, etc.. basically all the yummy stuff). I am also blessed with an oh-so-sensitive pallet and a wonderful mother who cooked a variety of foods, so having chicken for lunch and dinner was just not pushin’ my button. Super picky for a starving college student, right? I know.
I decided to try a holistic protein bar bought in bulk… relatively the same price as what I would have spent on chicken, the same amount of protein, but doesn’t require any cooking or prep time for lunch. After a while I became tired of these protein bars. I’m sure it’s all in my head, but I swear I can taste the chemicals and additives in packaged foods. It takes a few times of me eating the food and getting over the initial “newness” of the food, but I swear I can taste them. It’s almost an acidic or metallic taste… just not right, and definitely not tasty. So, I tried another brand. Same thing happened.
That’s when I decided I wanted an additive and chemical free protein bar. Not being able to find this in the store was really frustrating. The closest thing I could find were Lara Bars, which are pretty wholesome, but hardly have any protein content. So, I decided to get my Provo-Girl pants on and search Pinterest.
To my delightful surprise, I actually found a recipe that met all my criteria of good protein content, wholesome ingredients, and no chemicals or additives (except for the flavoring in vanilla whey protein). AND it included almond butter! My all-time favorite nut butter. I literally could eat a full jar in one sitting if you let me.
It’s important to get an almond butter that doesn’t have any additives in it. The only ingredients should be almonds, and possibly salt. Costco has a great option for almond butter made of only roasted almonds. If you don’t have a Costco membership, Thrive has a great option for almond butter as well. If you don’t do Thrive, then you can purchase almond butter at your local grocery store, but it will be more expensive and you’ll have to watch out for extra ingredients, especially hydrogenated oils. MaraNatha and Justin’s almond butter would be my next choice of almond butter. Can you tell that I like almond butter?
Same thing goes for peanut butter. Watch out for those hydrogenated oils. Adam’s Peanut Butter is my favorite. This is available at a great price at Costco and online, but is also available in grocery stores.
Hydrogenation and Trans Fats
Hydrogenated oils are vegetable oils whose chemical structure has been altered to prevent rancidity in foods, which increases shelf life and saves money for food manufacturers. The process of hydrogenation involves the addition of hydrogen atoms to the oil’s available double bonds. As the level of hydrogenation increases, the level of saturated fat increases and the level of unsaturated fat decreases. The hydrogenation process converts what are known as “cis” double bonds to “trans” double bonds. This is where the term “trans fat” originates. Hydrogenation also has the technical advantage of making foods solid or partially solid at room temperature.
How Trans Fats Harm the Body
Trans fats work against the body in many ways. They increase bad cholesterol –low-density lipoprotein, or LDL — and decrease good cholesterol — high-density lipoprotein, or HDL. Furthermore, they block the production of chemicals that combat inflammation and benefit the hormonal and nervous systems, while at the same time allowing chemicals that increase inflammation. This means that trans fats promote inflammation and negatively impact cholesterol levels.
Now, on that happy note of how modern food is going to kill us in our sleep, back to protein bars.
Discovering these were the easiest bars I’ve ever made was a dream come true! It took me less than 10 minutes to whip ’em up, and then about 30 minutes to refrigerate. They were delicious!!! The first time I made them I ate the whole pan in 10 minutes… I definitely don’t recommend this to anyone as it’s going to give you a wicked stomach ache, but oh my goodness these things are SO tasty.
After mixing up the dry ingredients the almond butter and honey are melted together over the stove. Be careful not to cook the mixture, as you just want it to mix together well and be somewhat of a liquid form to mix into the dry ingredients. If you cook, or even burn, the almond butter-honey mix the protein bars won’t stick together very well.
It’s also of note to mention that the mixture will be fairly crumbly when you first mix everything together. Make sure to really press the mixture down into the pan. It needs to form together and cool this way. Otherwise, your bars will fall apart. To remedy a mixture that just will not stay together, you can add a few drops of water to the finished mixture, or add more almond butter or honey (my preference) to the stove when first heating the almond butter and honey. You can also try adding a bit of olive oil if nothing else will remedy the problem. However, if the recipe is followed exactly, it usually doesn’t have a problem.
My favorite thing to do is eat the protein bars right after I’ve pressed them into the pan while they’re still warm. However, I usually end up eating the whole pan when I do this, so I try to avoid it. However, at this point is where the chocolate comes in. The chocolate takes the longest to cool, but it also helps hold the bars together. The chocolate is also optional, so you don’t have to include it if you’re not a chocolate fan. You can use as much or as little chocolate desired as well. I only recommend extra dark or dark chocolate chips with this recipe as anything else, even semi-sweet, ends up being a bit too sweet.
Once these babies are cool, cut ’em up and enjoy! They won’t last long!