After getting fed up with the lack of fructose friendly and healthy options for scroggin (trail mix for you non-Aussies) and muesli bars, I decided to look into making my own. I didn’t know that “candy” even went into trail mix until I moved to Seattle and all of a sudden M&Ms etc. were in the bags as well! Delicious but really only necessary for LONG hikes.
I find muesli bars to be preferable to a pack of trail mix for a couple of reasons:
- They are easier to eat and you’re much less likely to split the bag of trail mix and lose it all over the forest floor.
- I find it easier to portion them, so I don’t end up scoffing too much too soon. They are also more filling for me, for some reason. I’m not sure why.
The problem is, most muesli bar recipes floating around the net use honey or agave syrup and lots and lots of dried fruits. Which is great if you don’t have FM… not so good if you do. I can’t think of anything worse than getting “fructosed” on a long hike and reacting – we don’t need more info, do we? – half way up a mountain with nothing but trees to hide behind. It would be, to say the least, “unpleasant.”
I decided that the following recipe would be grain free, because even though a little blood sugar spike while exercising isn’t the end of the world – compared to, say, if you were just sitting on your behind watching the telly – it is always better to have a nice, even supply of blood glucose, which is easier to provide with lower GI foods. There will be some syrup involved here for flavour – as I said, exercise will control the potential blood sugar spike – but it’s only 1/2 cup spread out over the entire recipe, rather than the syrup and over a cup of grains. Plus, I know a lot of you also eat gluten free and hey, I aim to please.
- I found it hard to find solid information on pumpkin and sunflower seeds – I never want to tell you guys anything that might make you sick – but I finally found dry roasted, unsalted pumpkin seeds on the USDA’s nutrition website and the Monash App states that both pumpkin and dry roasted, unsalted sunflower seeds are safe.
- Sunflower seeds are a great source of nutrition: linoleic acid (an essential fatty acid), dietary fibre, vitamins E/B group, phytosterols (to lower cholesterol) and protein. Protein is important, especially right after exercising, to help repair muscle damage caused by exertion. You can eat the hulls if you wish but they are “roughage,” so don’t eat too much. There is only a quarter cup in this entire recipe so it shouldn’t cause any issues if you leave the hulls on but you can buy a hulled version and use those instead if you wish.
- As far as almonds are concerned, the USDA’s website states that they have a glucose concentration of 0.17g/100g and a fructose concentration of 0.11g/100g – and sucrose present in a concentration of 3.95g/100g. However, they do appear to contain oligosaccharides – fructans or GOS’s aren’t specified – but a serving of > 20 almonds might become problematic. Each bar shouldn’t contain more than that but if you know you are sensitive to almonds then sub in a different flour or meal in its place. Rice flour or corn meal would work well but they are not Paleo, if that matters to you.
- Make sure you use pure maple syrup, which doesn’t have any other sugars or sweeteners added in, which will both cook differently and potentially cause a reaction. Again, reactions are not good when you’re over 10km from the nearest loo and there isn’t much in the way of safe space to the side of the trail.
- I know that real maple syrup can be very expensive in Australia – lucky me, living 3 hours from the border with Canada! Golden syrup – made from cane sugar, so f=g – would replicate the flavours and texture best but rice syrup might also work. If you can, add in a drop of maple syrup. Also, I’m assuming rice syrup would make it un-paleo.
- Nuts are bad for dogs, so please don’t share these with your four-legged hiking buddies.
Fruit Free Paleo “Muesli” Bars
Makes 15 bars, at approximately 215 calories each.
- 1 1/4 cup almond meal
- 1/2 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut – shredded
- 1/2 cup dry roasted pumpkin seeds
- 1/4 cup dry roasted sunflower seeds – hulled or unhulled is your choice, see above
- 1/4 cup flax seeds
- 1/4 cup roughly chopped walnuts – or almonds, pecans etc
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup almond/peanut/coconut butter – or some sort of lipid-based ingredient; the amount will depend on which you choose but start small
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 tsp. baking powder
Line a square, oven safe dish with baking paper. I use my 9″ x 9″ cake tin. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F.
Combine the almond meal, desiccated coconut shreds, baking powder, nut butter, maple syrup and vanilla extract in a large bowl and mix thoroughly.
Next, add in the chunkier ingredients – pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and chopped walnuts – and mix until well combined. The mixture should be moist enough to retain a hand print but not dripping with syrup. You will most likely need to get your hands dirty here to mix the seeds through thoroughly – it’s like making mud pies for adults… that are edible.
Pour the mixture into your lined baking dish and press it into the corners until its level is even across its surface. Wet your hands so the mixture doesn’t stick to you like glue. Flatten out the surface with the back of a spoon or spatula that you ran under water for a second – again to stop sticking.
Bake for 20 minutes at 180 C, then turn the oven off and leave them in for a further 5-10 minutes. Remove them, then let cool completely – for a few hours – before you slice it or it might crumble. I sliced it into 15 bars but you could do more or less if you wanted.
These would also be great as a breakfast bar for busy weekday mornings, or school lunches for both little and big kids; they are sweet enough to taste the flavour from the maple syrup but without giving you a sugar headache. Wack some plain yoghurt on the plate next to it and a fructose friendly fruit serving and voila – nutrition with a low GI.
They passed the hand-held test, so you can walk and eat if necessary without these tasty bars crumbling everywhere.
They look like they’re made for hiking. Well, they kind of were! Pity I don’t have a back yard to take some “hiking” photos in.
My next muesli bar attempt – who knows if it will be successful – will aim to use white rice flour in place of almonds, for those of you who can’t tolerate them. I will probably add some dried cranberries into this one, as well.