Splendidly Seedy Granola Bars

As we embark upon a new year, it’s a natural time to evaluate our habits, health, and happiness. I’ve always believed in taking a more holistic approach to health, thinking about the big picture and creating balance around what we eat, how we exercise and how to make time for things that bring us joy. Resolutions tend not to stick, and plucking out a few habits we’d like to change generally leads to a few weeks of improvement followed by the return of old behaviors. Eliminating a single food or habit can also lead one to find an equivalent vice as a replacement. Over a discussion of resolutions last week, a colleague of mine unveiled her goal for 2015: to eat everything with happiness. This really resonated with me. I think this is how we should all eat, all the time. To think about where our food comes from and how it will make us feel both physically and emotionally is a practice more people should observe. Rather than denying yourself something you love, enjoy what you eat and take time to think about how to balance your diet and overall health. Who wants to join us as we eat our way to happiness? 

Here are just a few reasons to be delighted to eat these seedy energy bars…

Seeds are superfoods. Sunflower seeds have a high concentration of protein, iron, fatty acids and minerals, and have no cholesterol or sodium. Pumpkins seeds are high in iron, protein and fiber, and contain most of the essential B Vitamins.  They are also a good source of minerals including calcium, magnesium and potassium. Chia seeds the leading plant source of omega-3 fatty acids and are also a rich source of protein, fiber, calcium, phosphorus and manganese. Chia boasts an impressive ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s and omega-9s, making it an ideal source for the body to obtain all those healthy omega-3 fatty acids without overloading on omega 6s and 9s that are prevalent in many fat sources. Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats that cannot be manufactured by the body and are thus considered an essential fatty acid. Research has shown them to play a beneficial role in health issues ranging from heart health and cardiovascular disease to inflammation and improved cognitive health. Numerous studies have been conducted regarding the health benefits of flax, and the results are overwhelmingly positive. They are also high in omega-3 fatty acids. In addition to being among the top sources of omega-3s, flax is also very high in lignans, which have powerful antioxidant properties and have shown to protect against cancer.

Oats have the highest percentage of soluble fiber of any grain, according to the American Heart Association. As a whole grain, they are low on the glycemic index, which means their sugars are absorbed slowly by the bloodstream, helping to maintain stable blood sugar levels. I chose to add goji berries to this granola, in the past I would have added dried cranberries to something like this, but I’ve come to realize that it is nearly impossible to find any that aren’t loaded with added sugar. Goji berries are a rich source of both vitamin A and C and contain 18 amino acids, including all 9 essential amino acids that the body cannot build on its own. Almonds provide the body with vitamin E, copper, magnesium, and high quality protein. They are also a good source of biotin, a B-vitamin that is necessary for cell growth, the production of fatty acids, and the metabolism of fats and amino acids. Honey is rich in vitamins and minerals including calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, potassium, sodium and zinc. Dates provide loads of fiber and are an all natural, unprocessed sweetener and binder in this recipe.

Splendidly Seedy Granola Bars 

Yield: 12 bars 
1.5 cups rolled oats 
1/2 cup raw almonds
2 tablespoons chia seeds
2 tablespoons ground flax seed
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1.4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup goji berries
1 cup medjool dates, pitted and packed 
1/3 cup nut butter
1/3 cup honey
sea salt
Pre heat your oven to 350°F. Line a 9 by 13 pan with parchment paper. 
Place oats, almonds, goji berries, chia, flax, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, in a medium bowl and set aside. 
Puree dates in a food processor. If the dates are hard, soak in hot water for 15 minutes prior to pureeing. 
In a small sauce pot, melt together honey and nut butter. Remove from heat and mix in the dates. Pour mixture over the dry ingredients and mix well. You will need to use your hands for this to evenly distribute all of the ingredients. 
Transfer mixture into prepared baking dish and press down firmly until even. It helps to get your hands wet, and use your palms to evenly spread the mixture into the pan. Sprinkle with sea salt.
Bake for 25 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least an hour before removing from the pan. It takes this long for the bars to firm up enough to handle. To speed up this process, place in the fridge once the pan is cool enough to handle and remove bars once firm.  Remove from pan and cut into desired size. Store in an air tight container. These also freeze well.