I have a serious, long-standing addiction. I suppose it’s not a shameful addiction, but it is one that I am in the process of trying to break. My addiction is to Luna Bars. I love them, and there was a time when I ate one, sometimes two, almost every day. I would search out the best prices for them, and then stock up whenever I could, just so I didn’t have to survive a day without my favourite snack. What has me so enamored of these energy bars? The convenience factor is certainly part of it, as they are an easy snack to take just about anywhere. I like that they are relatively nutritious and I love the variety of flavours (have you tried the White Chocolate Macadamia Nut? Like eating a big cookie!). And perhaps I am a sucker for marketing, but I love that they are made specifically with women’s nutrition in mind.
But I have to break up with my beloved Luna Bars, or at least become more like acquaintances who hang out only occasionally. Because at 25g carbs a pop, I just can’t tolerate them that easily anymore. I sometimes have half of one before working out, or perhaps a whole one if I am going for a long run, because I know I will burn up the glucose. Other than that, I just can’t justify putting those carbs into my body.
So what’s a Luna-loving prediabetic to do? There are a number of snack bars out there that claim to be low carb. Some of them are, some of them aren’t, but none of them comes close in overall taste and ability to satisfy like a good old Luna Bar. Although I do keep some of these on hand for hunger emergencies, they don’t really do it for me. Methinks it’s time to hit the kitchen and create my own version of a beloved favourite!
A recent blog post by The Chocolate Fig reminded me that this had been on my to-do list for a long time. Her post caught my eye because she referred to it as “eating squirrel food” which I found hilarious. Sadly, her version with all the grains and dried fruits would be too much for my sugar levels, but it brought to mind another recipe I’d bookmarked long ago by a fellow low-carber. Lauren over at Healthy Indulgences created this delicious looking snack bar and I wanted to give it, or something similar, a whirl.
Of course, I just had to tinker! I wanted to up the protein count so I added some vanilla whey protein powder to the base. This also allowed me to forego the vanilla extract and much of the additional sweeteners in her recipe. To help bind the final product, I added a bit of xanthan gum and a teaspoon of agave nectar. For the ganache, I used a modified version of the the chocolate topping from my low carb Nanaimo Bars, with added butter and a bit of cream to make it softer.
The Results: I think I’m in love! The flavours of the nuts, seeds, coconut and vanilla all come together beautifully, and the chocolate ganache is the icing on the cake (or the bar, in this case). The bar itself is slightly crunchy and slightly chewy at the same time, and it makes for an incredibly satisfying snack. They are also nutrient-packed and big enough to keep me full for a good long time. And at 11g of carbs and 5g of fiber, they beat the pants off most other low carb energy bars in terms of their effect on my blood sugars. I plan on making these again very (VERY!) soon, and next time I would make a double batch, because they didn’t last long. They were so tasty, I could easily see making them as a dessert bar and serving them to guests.
They do need to be kept in the fridge, which doesn’t make them as portable as pre-packaged energy bars, but you just can’t beat the fresh, homemade taste.
Chocolate Nut Energy Bars adapted from Healthy Indulgences
1 cup mixed nuts and seeds, toasted* (I used 1/4 cup each walnuts, pecans, sunflower seeds and pepitas, but you can use whatever you like best)
1/4 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut, toasted*
1/4 cup flax seed meal
1/4 cup almond butter (I make my own, but store-bought would work just fine)
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup vanilla whey protein powder
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp agave nectar
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 tbsp butter, cut into three pieces
1 tbsp whipping cream
12-20 drops stevia extract
*You can toast the nuts and seeds in the oven at 350F for 8-10 minutes, watching carefully to make sure nothing burns. It may help to coarsely chop the larger nuts so that the smaller seeds don’t over-brown while the nuts are still raw. For the coconut, it is easier to toast in a dry skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly until it is a nice brown colour.
Grease an 4×8 inch loaf pan.
Grind nuts and seeds in a food processor until it resembles coarse meal. It’s okay to have some larger bits as they increase the crunch factor.
Melt together almond butter and coconut oil and stir well. You can do this in the microwave, in a saucepan on the stove over low heat, or in a warm oven. Coconut oil melts at very low temperatures and can start to sizzle quickly, so be careful. I melted with the oven off, in the heat that remained from toasted the nuts and seeds and it only took about 2 minutes.
In a medium bowl, combine all bar ingredients and mix very well to combine. Spread evenly in prepared pan and press well. Place in refrigerator and let chill until firm, 30-45 minutes.
For the ganache, melt 1/2 tablespoon butter with the cream over low heat. Add in chocolate and stir quickly to melt. Add in remaining tablespoon butter until ganache is smooth and thick. Off heat, stir in stevia.
Spread ganache over chilled bars and place in fridge until completely set, about 1 hour. Cut into 6 bars.
Serves 6. 11g total carbs per bar, 5g of fiber.