We are swimming in discarded packaging and wrappers that can’t be recycled or composted, and the onslaught is only adding up the numbers of those tall-kitchen garbage bags, we’re sending to the landfills every month. The obvious solution is to opt for foods without packaging, fruits such as orange and bananas for instance!
To include commercial packaging-free foods in your daily diet, the best idea would be to make them yourself. making a big batch of frugal and healthy cereal and granola bars is the perfect example for this. The latter along with protein, cereal and energy bars are not only convenient but also nutritionally endowed, which is why they’re marketed as quick, healthy breakfast and/or snack options.
However, Loveneet Batra, a Delhi-based clinical nutritionist and dietician has a different take on them: Despite these marketing claims, many are loaded with added sugar, calories, and artificial ingredients, making them no different from candies or ice creams. She advises to carefully read the ingredients listed in fine print, usually on the back of the packaging—chances are you’re going to come across many ingredients that you do not otherwise recognise as food items.
What the sugar?
“Store-bought granola bars are so heavy on the sugar that it's as good as eating desserts,” exclaims Raveena Taurani, Founder of Yogisattva, Mumbai-based Whole Foods Plant-Based Culinary Academy and café. Studies show that consuming excess sugar, commonly found in packaged foods, can put you at a higher risk of chronic conditions, such as diabetes, obesity and heart diseases.
In case you’re a no-sugar person, the bad news continues. In order to cut down on sugar content, granola bar manufacturers opt for sugar alcohols (terms such as sorbitol, isomalt and hydrogenated starch hydrolysates will seem familiar) or artificial sweeteners. Sugar alcohols take time to break down in the body, causing digestive issues. Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose and saccharin, even though approved for consumption by the Food and Drug Administration in the US, may interfere with blood sugar control and affect beneficial gut bacteria state many types of research.
Use of whole grains, nuts and proteins may make your granola bar mix healthy.
But look at a little deeper and you will find them to be highly processed and
include ingredients such as vegetable oils, preservatives and even artificial
flavours, warns Batra. Studies indicate that consumption of processed and
sugary foods can increase the risk of metabolic syndrome, known to develop into
conditions such as diabetes, stroke and even heart diseases. Some granola bars
even list corn syrup as the main ingredient, which is considered to be the most potent substance you can eat to cause your body to turn carbs into fats.
Homemade is The WayWhipping up granola bars at home is super easy, quick, and allows you to
control the amount of sugar and quality of ingredients while adding your
favourite flavours, says Taurani. And the best place to start would be by sourcing
good quality oats. Next, she suggests ditching sugar and honey for organic maple
syrup to give your granola bar a vegan spin. When it comes to the choice of
nuts, always opt for almonds and walnuts as opposed to pecans and macadamias,
she suggests. For added sweetness, she relies on the goodness of dried fruits
such as figs, dates or even cranberries.
Here’s Raveena Taurani’s gluten-free, vegan and organic granola bar recipe to get you started:
140gm almond flour
50gm walnuts, chopped
75gm gluten-free rolled oats
35gm pumpkin seeds
65gm sunflower seeds
2 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp sea salt
4 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp coconut oil
100gm of mixed dried fruits of your choice (to be added after baking)
1. Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl.
2. Pour in the maple syrup and coconut oil, and mix well.
3. Line a baking pan with parchment paper, leaving extra parchment to hang over the sides. Next, pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Use wet or lightly oiled hands to firmly press the mixture into the pan.
4. Bake at 140°C for 20 minutes, turn the tray around and bake again at 140°C for another 20 minutes.
5. Before they can cool, mix in the dried fruits and then press the mixture again with the back of a slightly greased spatula.
6. Once cooled, cut into bars with a sharp knife. Store between layers of wax paper in an airtight container.
More granola bar recipes for the win: