One of the hardest parts about flying is trying to eat “normally”. Our trip to San Francisco involved a tight layover in Chicago, too tight to find a place to grab food that fit our eating requirements. Then we were going to be on a 5 hour flight with nothing but snacks provided by Southwest that would include chips, cookies and peanuts. My solution was to pack a couple of nut butter and jam sandwiches, some carrot sticks and a baggie of almonds. This held us until we landed in California. Coming home was a different story since I could not make sandwiches. We went to a natural food store and picked up a box of protein bars. We looked at all our options and tried to pick the one that provided the best combination of protein, whole ingredients and light sugar. Not an easy task and the one we got did not score very well on Fooducate. (Have you downloaded that app on your phone yet? If not, do it now. I‘ll wait). We also picked up a couple salads in the San Francisco airport and ate fairly well.
I feel I should mention once again that I am NOT a nutritionist. I firmly believe that eating a diet rich in whole, minimally processed foods will provide you with better fuel for your body than any supplement or bar that you can purchase. That is my OPINION! I simply want to give you some tools to help with your decisions. Before you take anyone’s word, mine included, for nutrition choices, I encourage you to do your own research and due diligence before forming your own opinion. Fooducate is a great, easy-to-use resource. The internet will also provide more information than you can digest (pun intended), so find a website you trust, such as WebMD or Livestrong, to name two. Better yet, consult a nutritionist! Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to knowing what you are putting in your body! It can make the difference between feeling strong, healthy and ready to take on anything versus feeling lethargic and unwell.
OK, back to what I was saying. It frustrates me that it is so hard to find a grab and go bar that is not highly processed or contains ingredients that are impossible to pronounce. Not to mention the amount of sweeteners manufacturers put in! I totally understand the attraction of buying granola or protein bars. They are quick, easy and sound so good for you! One of the great things about Fooducate is it provides alternatives for the products you scan that might not score so great. When I put in the bar we ended up buying it actually had a recipe for homemade granola bites. I know, that does not sound as easy as buying a box, but the recipe truly is super simple, the hands-on time is about 15 minutes and it makes 12 pieces! If you do a cost comparison, homemade wins hands down! Even better, you don’t use any weird ingredients. Set aside a little time on the weekend or an evening and you can make enough to get you through the week.
I haven't even mentioned the best part: it is mix and match! You pick your favorite nut butter, dried fruits, nuts and spices! I have tried sunflower seed butter, cherries, blueberries and almonds. I have also tried cashew butter, figs, cherries and walnuts with a few chocolate chips thrown in. I have used vanilla and/or almond extracts. I have added chia seeds, flax meal, carob powder and cinnamon. (Not all in the same bar!). Bananas are a main ingredient and I know not everyone wants to eat them, so I switched to applesauce with great results. When you read the recipe and see 1 1/2 cups dried fruit, remember that gets divided up among 12 bites. That breaks down to 1/8 c per piece, or half the serving size listed on packages of dried fruit. Fooducate lists the nutrition information as 190 calories each, 8.4 g fat, 26.7 g carbohydrates, 5.4 g protein, 3.1 g fiber and 52 mg sodium. Not sure why no sugar is listed, but you do not add any sweeteners so that is much better than any store bought bar.
Mix ‘n Match Granola Bars
1/2 cup whole nuts (unsalted, raw or roasted)
1 1/2 cups total of dried fruits (cherries, raisins, figs, cranberries, apricots, etc.)
1/2 cup nut butter
2 bananas, mashed OR 1 cup unsweetened, organic applesauce
1 cup rolled oats
Optional ingredients (chose a couple):
1 tsp extract (vanilla, almond, orange, etc.)
pinch of cinnamon
1/4 cup pumpkin or sunflower seeds
2 Tbsp chia seeds
2 Tbsp carob or cocoa powder
2 Tbsp flax meal
1/2 cup chocolate chips (reduce dried fruit to 1 cup)
Quick tip: I buy applesauce in the 1/2 cup snack packs. I use the cup to measure all my ingredients and then just recycle it when done. One less thing to clean!