I’m not a person who functions well when hungry. Not that any of us function ideally when hungry, but my brain is pretty quick to flip from “fine” to “hangry” when my tank is running low. This was especially true when I was nursing my son. I’m not really a granola bar person, but it’s hard to eat carrots and hummus when you’ve barely got one free hand. I spent a good chunk of time making and modifying different granola bar recipes to land on one that had good flavor, good texture, and great nutrition.
The base recipe I found for granola bars was already doing great on the grains. Oatmeal and whole wheat flour are a solid base for any granola bar. Between you and me, they’re a great combination for tons of cookies too. I make my regular chocolate chip cookies with whole wheat flour, for example. It’s better for you, and it tastes better.
The original recipe was a little high in sugar for me. It included half a cup of brown sugar and the same of honey. Honey is still straight-up sugar. So are maple syrup and agave nectar and coconut sugar and juice concentrate. They’re not particularly meaningful nutritional improvements over brown sugar.
Fruit purees, however, bring a lot of fiber and nutrition to the game. Unsweetened applesauce, mashed banana, and date puree can all work. I swapped the honey out for applesauce. (It’s cheap and has a ubiquitous presence in my house because we have gnarly trees whose apples aren’t good for much else.) The swap worked, but if you have either of the others on hand, try them out.
The original fat in this recipe was coconut oil. I see this often in recipes, and let’s be clear: coconut is unsalted and plant-based, so compared to butter, it has some benefits. Coconut oil, however, is saturated fat. It earns zero Guiding Stars. I don’t think it does much for the flavor or texture in recipes like this, and it’s pricey. Vegetable oil earns three Guiding Stars, meaning it has the best nutritional value as judged by the fats and oils algorithm. It’s also cheap. Make your own choice there, but for my money, I almost always bake with vegetable oil.
There are plenty of great ingredients in this recipe that bring nutrition to the table. I want to talk about one in specific, though: brewer’s yeast. If you’ve never lived with someone who’s breastfeeding, chances are decent you’ve never heard of it. It has a reputation as a galactagogue, meaning it supports milk production. I don’t know how science-backed that claim is. It adds protein, dietary fiber, and a number of valuable nutrients like folate to the bars. It’s also a weird extra ingredient to keep on hand, and in the quantity used in this recipe, you’re still going to have a decently nutritious snack if you decide to skip it.
Whether you’re cooking to feed yourself or a friend who’s a new parent, these soft and chewy granola bars are quick to make and packed with nutrition. They’re an ideal, energy-boosting snack to bridge between mealtimes for nursing moms.
Tip: Brewer’s yeast is different than nutritional yeast and can be found with the natural baking products in many grocery stores.
Active Time: 10 min.
Total Time: 40 min.
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ½ cup wheat germ
- ¼ cup flax seed
- 2 Tbsp. brewer’s yeast
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- ¾ tsp. salt
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
- ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350ºF.
- Spray a 9”x13” pan with cooking spray.
- In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Make a well in the center and add all of the wet ingredients. Mix together well.
- Press mix evenly into prepared pan and bake until firm and just starting to brown at the edges (30 minutes).
- Allow to cool until just set (5 minutes). Divide pan into 16 bars and place on a wire rack to cool.