Cereal bars – wholesome or a whole lotta marketing deception?
Cereal bars are a big hit with adults and kids alike. They are sweet, very portable and mostly mess free which makes them an excellent snack on the go. They are also one of those foods that have a healthful image – it says so right on the front of the box. Whole grain! Real fruit!
Real fruit? You may wonder why one would have to advertise that in the first place. My guess is to distract from the plethora of unreal ingredients that are being sneaked into this highly popular snack food: additives like methyl cellulose (a synthetic chemical compound also used as construction material and in personal lubricants) and dicalcium phosphate (also used as poultry feed and as a tartar control agent in toothpaste), artificial flavor and modified corn starch. If that does not scare you, try the added sugar, high level of sodium, caramel color and vegetable oils!
Even scarier: The above describes one of the brand name cereal bars that are a standard in many American homes. I’m not gonna say the name but it rhymes with “Schmutrigrain.” There is absolutely nothing healthful about them which makes for one heck of a real marketing genius behind this product. So, if you are like me and refuse to feed your kids crap if you can avoid it, I suggest you start making your own healthy snacks.
Before you call me a crunchy, moon dancing earth mama with too much time on her hands, let me tell you that some of the cereal and fruit bar recipes I have been experimenting with are so quick and easy they will have you laughing, like this one for delicious Chewy Apple Pie Bars (by Cara Lyons, Clean Eating Magazine, Jan/Feb 2015).
- 1 cup pitted dates
- 1 cup unsweetened dried apples
- 1 cup unsalted walnuts
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- In a large food processor, combine dates, apples, and walnuts. Process until fine crumbs form, about 1 minute. Add cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Continue processing until mixture is very soft and holds together when pinched, about 3-4 minutes.
- Press dough into a 4×8-inch parchment lined loaf pan. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, until firm. Cut into 12 bars (2 x 1 1/3 inches each). Wrap individually and keep refrigerated for up to 5 days or freeze up to 1 month.
- I do not have a large food processor, only an old-ish Magic Bullet which does not hold all of the above ingredients at once. So, I roughly chopped the dates, apples and walnuts and mixed everything in a medium bowl with the spices before throwing three separate loads of the mixture into the bullet. This one extra step only added a couple of minutes. No biggie.
- I do not have a loaf pan either (go, figure!) so I used a medium size pyrex glass baking dish. Just make sure the dish is not too big so the dough does not get spread too thin.
- The ginger adds an unexpected element to these otherwise sweet bars. However, if you are not used to cooking with ginger I recommend you go a little easy on the spice so it does not taste too overwhelming. Maybe try a 1/2 tsp and see how you like it first.
- This recipe does not require any heat from baking or cooking so it’s suitable for little chefs’ helping hands.