My No Frills No Bake Muesli Bars were born out the need to have healthy snacks on hand while we travel, and with lack of time, space and an oven. Inspired by Well Nourished, these bars are packed with protein, fibre and healthy fats for filling tummies and sustaining energy. Easy, delicious and nutritious – you won’t find better in a store!
First, allow me to get on my soapbox for a moment while I talk about conventional muesli bars, or feel free to just skip ahead to the recipe below this rant.
Did you know that most muesli bars you find in the supermarket, and yes, the health food shop too, contain as much sugar as a chocolate bar? We’re led to believe by all of their bogus “healthy” imagery and marketing claims that these bars are actually good for our kids, when nothing could be further from the truth – a health warning would be more appropriate. Choice actually said that many of these cereal bars would be better off called “fat and sugar bars” and that much of the “real fruit” is more “chemical” than fruit. Even if you find them in the health food aisle or health food shop, not all muesli bars are health foods! So please read the labels, and a few of my thoughts on them below, if you wish..
The sugar in most muesli bars – mainly fructose-based sweeteners like: glucose, maize (corn) starch, honey, dried fruits/fruit purees – are damaging our kids livers, wreaking havoc with their hormones and energy levels and are not filling their tummies. In fact, they actually increase their appetites and leave them feeling even hungrier than before – hence why this type of sugar is so addictive. Fructose has also been shown to have adverse affects on gut flora, which can lead of other health problems, both mentally and physically. It’s sugar that is proving to be a direct cause of obesity and degenerative metabolic diseases too. Oh and check the ingredients panel for artificial sweeteners too, like sorbitol, which can irritate your child’s gut.
Then there are the industrialised seed oils like: vegetable, corn, sunflower, palm, that are highly inflammatory and oxidize easily – oxidative stress produces free-radicals which damage cells, proteins and DNA. Remember, every cell in the body is surrounded by a layer of fat (as is every hormone) – so ensuring our kids are getting enough of the good fats and avoiding these bad fats is essential for their health and development.
And the gains these muesli bars contain are all highly processed and pretty devoid of nutrients.
Beware the muesli bars with dried fruit too – apart from adding more sugar, these also contain sulphites. Sulphites are a preservative and are known to cause allergy like reactions (hay fever, hives, wheezing) and trigger asthma attacks, so if your child suffers from asthma or other allergic conditions, these should be avoided. Sulphites have also been linked to other health issues such gastric irritation, nausea, diarrhoea and skin rashes.
So, if you still need another reason to make your own muesli bars I’ve made it really easy and delicious for you with my No Frills No Bake Muesli Bars – tastier and more nutritious than anything you’ll find in a store!
All that being said, I’m also a realist and I’ve begun to appreciate even more now, the need for convenience when it comes to running a busy family, and traveling with kids. So for those times when you want to give your kids the best, but all you’ve got to work with are the supermarket shelves, you can check out my pick of the muesli-bar-bunch here.
My No Frills No Bake Muesli Bars contain oats for a healthy dose of fibre and to support kids nervous systems, thanks to the calming effects of their B vitamins and magnesium – especially good for kids that might suffer from a little anxiety or stress at school. Oats also help the body to produce serotonin, our happy hormone – isn’t it nice to know we’re giving our kids food that will actually help them to feel happier! Almonds (you can omit these for a nut-free version), pumpkin and sunflower seeds, provide lots of antioxidants, vitamin E & A, zinc, manganese as well as plenty to healthy fats and protein for long-lasting energy. Chia and flax seeds contain protein, fibre as well as omega-3s that are essential for cellular health and function. Tahini and sesame seeds are rich in calcium to support the healthy development of bones and teeth, along with muscle and nerve function. Cinnamon is there for some natural sweetness and to stabilise blood sugar levels. Butter contains the kind of healthy fat that supports kids growth, provides energy, aids the absorption and metabolism of fat-soluble vitamins (A, E, D & K) and supports brain development – 70% of our brains are fat! Butter is also one of the relatively few dietary sources of vitamin K2 that’s important for strong bones and teeth. The small amount of added sweetness comes from pure maple syrup which contains antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, or you can use rice malt syrup (which I recommend if you’re trying to wean your kids off the sweet stuff) for a fructose-free version.
Whack a tray in the freezer now, and you’ll have snacks for the week sorted in no time!
No Frills No Bake Muesli Bars
Makes: 12 bars – Prep time: 15 mins – Cook time: 30 mins
- 1 cup organic rolled oats
- ½ cup sesame seeds
- ½ cup flaked almonds (omit for nut-free)
- ½ cup flaked sunflower seeds
- ½ cup flaked pumpkin seeds
- ½ cup shredded coconut
- 1 Tbsp chia seeds
- 1 Tbsp flaxseeds
- 2 Tbsp nut butter (omit for nut-free)
- 1 Tbsp hulled tahini
- 125g organic salted butter (or coconut oil for dairy free, but they will melt quicker)
- 2-3 Tbsp pure maple syrup (or rice malt syrup for fructose-free)
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- Pinch of sea salt
- Optional extras: ½ cup sulphite-free sultanas, goji berries or cacao nibs
- Warm butter, maple, tahini, nut butter, vanilla and cinnamon in a small pot over a low heat, stirring until combined.
- To a large frying pan, combine oats, coconut, flaked almonds, sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds and toast over a low heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring often – keep an eye on them, they burn quickly – once the coconut, sesame seeds and almonds start to colour and the pumpkin seeds start to pop, remove from the heat.
- Add melted ingredients, toasted mix, remaining seeds and salt (and optional extras if using) to a food processor – I like to process until half the mix has started to crumb but there are still a few whole seeds remaining. If making these for very little people, grind everything so there are no whole seeds, to make it for them to digest.
- Press mixture in to a small slice tin lined with baking paper (wet hands or a wet spatula will help to flatten the top) and place in the freezer for 30 minutes or until set.
- Remove from the tin and slice in to bars. Use leftover baking paper to wrap bars (you may need a little extra) and secure with a rubber band or string. From here you can get creative and write on the wrapping or add some fun sticks.
- Best stored in the freezer and kept next to an ice pack if adding to a lunchbox – remember they will start to melt at room temperature.