Sunday, May 2, 2010

Homemade Protein Bars

My Venture into Protein Bars

There are times when I am in a hurry and I don't have time to sit down for a proper breakfast or lunch. Meal-replacement bars are a great way to get a bite to eat without resorting to fast food. To me, however, most commercially sold protein bars, cereal bars, and energy bars are little more than glorified candy bars that are loaded with empty carbs, high-fructose corn syrup, and overly processed ingredients.

Over the years, I've gone through phases when I've purchased protein bars by the bag full. They are SO outrageously expensive. On top of that, some protein bars are so hard to chew that I practically pull out my teeth trying to take a bite out of one. Finally, I said enough is enough and I set out to formulate my own protein bar.

I wanted a bar that was high in protein, had a good amount of fiber, was not overly sweet nor carby, and had heart-healthy fats. I wanted to make a bar made with wholesome ingredients that I could pronounce that would not leave me feeling guilty about eating later on. I also wanted a bar that would keep me full and not leave me feeling deprived like many store-bought bars do. Most of all, I wanted the bar to TASTE GOOD and not taste like I've just taken a bite out of the business section of the telephone book. Is this too much to ask for a meal-replacement bar?

These bars are very high in protein and will keep you full for hours. The fiber will keep your blood sugar from spiking too fast. Every ingredient in these bars have health value – even the cinnamon and salt. Yes, salt. Salt, after all, is a nutrient and is only bad when it is over-consumed. I actually feel like I'm being HEALTHY when I eat one of these great-tasting bars. I never miss fast food when I make these babies. They also make great snacks when you're in the mood for something a little sweet.

These bars are not baked and can be thrown together in less than 10 minutes. You can prepare them the night before so the family can grab them as they're heading out the door in the morning. You could eat one on the way to work while listening to a CD of Cher's greatest hits or while riding the bus next to some guy with a mohawk, pierced lips, and tattooed eyeliner. They are so easy to make, ask your kids to help you make them. I store them in the fridge for those times I need a quick meal or a healthy snack. Do you have teenagers who never have time for breakfast or a husband who thinks a Pop Tart is part of a well-balanced meal? If so, these bars are perfect! You can even throw some in your kids' book bags if they get a little hungry at school. Give these bars a try and see how you like them. I hope you like them as much as I do. Trust me – healthy eating never tasted so good! Enjoy – and happy barring!

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Homemade Protein Bars
(Printable Version)

3/4 c old-fashioned oats
½ c oat flour
1/2 tsp table salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 scoops vanilla protein powder
1/2 c non-fat dry milk
2 TBSP flaxseeds, finely ground
2 TBSP sunflower seeds
1/3 c peanut butter (natural peanut butter works great!)
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 c water
1/4 c honey or to taste
1/2 c nuts (as pictured, I used almonds, pistachios, and cashews)
1/2 c dried fruit (as pictured, I used dried cherries, dried cranberries, and dried apricots)

Line an 8x8" dish with foil leaving a few inches of extra foil extending over edges of the dish. You will use this extra foil to grab onto when you remove the bars from the dish later on. Very lightly spray the foil with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, combine the oats, oat flour, salt, cinnamon, protein powder, dry milk powder, and seeds. In a small bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, vanilla, water, and honey. Microwave for about 45 seconds. Whisk then combine the liquid ingredients with the dry ingredients and stir to combine. The mixture will be quite thick. Add the nuts and dried fruit and stir to combine. Roughly spread the mixture into the foil-lined dish. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the "dough" and compress the mixture evenly in the dish. Leave the plastic wrap on and place in the fridge for an hour or until firm. After an hour, remove and discard the plastic wrap. Use the foil to lift the mixture out of the dish. Slide the mixture off of the foil and cut the block into 8 bars. Place the bars in a sealable container. Since this mixture contains no preservatives, I recommend keeping them refrigerated.

1) I have never used instant oats with this recipe so I do not know if they will work as well.
2) Whole flaxseeds are not readily digestible so it is best to grind them in a spice grinder or a mini food processor. If you do not have a way to grind them, just make sure you chew the bars well to better ensure the flaxseeds will be absorbed and release their healthy goodness.
3) These bars can be made gluten-free if you buy the right brand of oats and protein powder.
4) Do you have teenage sons participating in sports? Consider increasing the protein powder by another scoop.
5) On a low-salt diet? Reduce or eliminate the salt.
6) Watching your blood sugar or carbs? Reduce the amount of honey (or substitute sugar-free maple syrup for the honey) and reduce the amount of dried fruit.
7) Watching your fat intake? Reduce the amount of peanut butter and/or nuts.
7.5) Watching your salt, carbs, AND fat intake? Skip this recipe and eat the wrapper off of a ding dong.


  1. Hey blog buddies! Leave a message and let me know what you think!

  2. I am so trying these today! My teen sons are avid athletes, and are always asking for portable and healthy snacks to bring to school and work.

    Just a note, I am pretty sure you can make your own oat flour by grinding the oats in a blender or food processor. I am going to try it, if it doesnt work out so well, I'll update.

    saint68 @ TK

  3. These bars look fantastic and I will making them soon for sure! Thanks for sharing another great recipe!

  4. Joy -- That's exactly how I make oat flour. I never by it from the store. I just dump some oats into a food processor, put on the lid, and let is whiz for about 30 seconds or so. Simple!

  5. This looks fantabulous! Can't wait to try it, thanks for sharing!

  6. Your #7 cracked me up! I will definitely give these a try!

  7. A few people have asked me how much protein powder is in 1 scoop. I just measured and there are exactly 3 tablespoons of protein powder in one scoop. Two scoops would be 6 tablespoons.

  8. Very interesting recipe. I've never seen a recipe for one before. Too often I find myself at the vending machine. This would be a much better choice!

  9. Fabulous recipe, thanks! I'm going to make these tomorrow instead of ordering my usual $25 box of protein bars from Amazon. But do consider revising the recipe to say "ground" flaxseeds, as whole flaxseeds cannot be digested.


  10. Thanks for that reminder Lori! Everybody -- Whole flaxwseeds are not readily digestible so you have to chew the life out of them to get the health benefits. I add a couple of tablespoons of flaxseeds to a spice grinder and let it pulverize them. If you don't have a spice grinder, you should use a mini food processor. If you don't have a way to grind them, just make sure you chew the finished bars very well so that you get as much of the nutrient value from the flaxseeds as possible.

  11. These sound really healthy and tasty. Thanks for sharing your recipes.

  12. Do you know how to find the nutrition facts for this recipe? I am watching my calories/fat/fiber/protein and would like to know what i am eating... i would be willing to do the math work myself if you had an idea. Thanks!

  13. JRF - I considered posting nutrition information for this recipe but decided against it because there are too many variables (such as which dried fruit and nuts you opt to use). I, personally, like to use At the top of that web page, you can enter a food and get all kind of info about it (fat, calories, etc). Hope this helps!

  14. This is a fantastic recipe, and the tips at the end are really useful. I agree that this is the best type of good to "go to" if in a hurry but still trying to be healthy.

  15. Hey Vince,

    Came over from the recipe on Tasty Kitchen... good blog you've got here!

    I am going to make these tomorrow for the kids. Been looking for a good protein bar recipe for a LONG time and I think these are just about perfect. I have some strawberry protein powder I'm going to try.

    Also, for the flaxseeds - you can use flax meal. ;-) 2 TBS might be too much flax meal though, probably 1 and maybe a half.


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