There are many phrases that get parents twitching, and the 47th time in a day you’ve heard the words “mommmmmm, can I have a snack?” are right up there for most of us, amiright?! What’s that saying again? Fast metabolism is wasted on the young? Err, something along those lines. 😉
Healthy homemade granola bars are here to soothe your tired parental soul, and whisper sweet nothings in your ear about happily nourished children who won’t bicker.
(Okay, that last bit may be overstating it slightly. Darn. Although… maybe if you pair them with a warm mug of my almost-magical Bulletproof Milk recipe that I use to help ward off hangry meltdowns in my kids… it’s absolutely worth a try, I say. I’m not above any-and-all efforts to protect myself from eventual insanity. Parenting is hard enough, y’all.)
Benefits of healthy homemade granola bars
- quick & easy
- good for weeks in the fridge
- contain healthy fats
- contain protein
- contain fiber & carbohydrates
- customizable to your preferences: nuts, fruit, chocolate chips, seeds, coconut flakes, etc.
- and of course: nourishing ingredients instead of highly processed junk food make it a guilt-free regular snack instead of an occasional compromise!
Some homemade versions of popular store-bought items are labor-intensive and complicated, but this one’s the total opposite! This deliciously chewy, healthy granola bar recipe is incredibly quick and simple.
Ingredients like oats, coconut oil, nut butter, and add-ins like chocolate chips and dried berries come together to make a chewy, sweet treat. These aren’t break-your-teeth-hard like some other options on the market, but they still have plenty of sustenance to them.
Homemade Granola Bars: Expert Tips & Tricks
Can I Make Substitutions?
This granola bar recipe is pretty flexible as far as the add-in ingredients. You can use raisins, dried cranberries, nuts and seeds, chocolate chips, etc. in whatever amounts you want as long as they add up to two cups.
The almond butter could be swapped for peanut butter, or another nut or seed butter.
If you try any substitutions beyond that, let me know in the comments!
To make getting them out of the pan easier, here’s a handy tip. Cut a piece of parchment paper to line your pan, but leave enough excess to hang over the edge. This way, when you’re ready to remove them from the pan, simply use the extra parchment as a handle to pull them out.
Where Should I Store Them? (Fridge, Freezer, Shelf?)
Due to the coconut oil used in this recipe, these bars are best when stored in the fridge. They would be fine at room temp in the cooler months, but refrigerating is advised during warm months unless you want very messy fingers while eating them. 😉
You can also keep them in the freezer (especially if you won’t be using them up quickly). To make thawing and eating easier, be sure to cut them into individual bars before freezing. They can be individually wrapped in parchment paper to keep them from sticking together in the freezer.
Do They Travel Well for Outings?
Some of the commenters over the years have noted that they were caught off guard by the way these bars get messy quickly in warmer environments. When I first created this recipe years ago I generally only ever used it as a snack at home, and kept the pan in the fridge to grab from, but this is definitely a consideration for anyone who may want these on the go.
Due to the low melting point of coconut oil, and the fact that these bars are unbaked, they can definitely make for a sticky surprise if you stick one in your pocket and head out. 😉
The simple solution: pack them alongside your other perishables with an ice pack.
If you are looking for something more low-maintenance, I would suggest a dried or baked granola recipe like my Shredded Coconut Maple Granola that you can throw in a reusable baggie and munch on with no risk of melting ingredients.
Are Nature Valley Granola Bars Healthy? (or any other commercially-made granola bars)
In a word, No. While they’re on the more natural side and do tout some simple ingredients, most store-bought granola bars are lacking on the health aspect thanks to high amounts of industrialized oils and sugars. Let’s take a look at some of the main ingredients you’ll find in popular brands like Quaker Oats and Nature Valley.
Common Commercial Granola Ingredients:
- Whole grain oats – Unsoaked, but potentially fine.
- Sugar – How many different kinds of sugar can we find in granola bars?? Sugar, honey, brown sugar syrup, corn syrup, invert sugar, corn syrup solids, glycerin, molasses, sorbitol… the list goes on. When processed sugar is the second ingredient (and fifth and sixth), you know there’s a lot of it.
- Canola and soybean oil – Rancid GMO vegetable oils. Yuck.
- Rice flour – Yes it’s gluten free, but it may also high in arsenic. (I still use rice flour in my baking but it’s always good to be aware.)
- Soy lecithin – While the amount is tiny, the source is concerning.
“Soy lecithin, is actually a waste product from the manufacturing process that produces soy oil. It is extracted from the sludge that is left after the soy oil undergoes a degumming process.” – Source
Mmm… degummed soy sludge. Even better, non-organic soy lecithin is gmo and likely contaminated with toxic solvents like hexane.
It is possible to get healthier store-bought granola bars, but they’re harder to find and generally aren’t cheap.
Are Homemade Granola Bars Healthy?
Now that we’ve looked at what’s not so healthy in popular granola bars, the next question is: Is homemade granola healthy?
It definitely can be with recipes like this (and dadgum delicious), however there are some caveats. These healthy granola bars are naturally sweetened with honey, but they still contain natural sugar.
It’s best to balance out your healthy homemade granola bars with enough protein and fat in the diet to help keep your blood sugar in balance. Bottom line: this recipe lets you consume in moderation, guilt-free. Just be sure to save one for the kids.
(Optional) Can I Soak the Oats to Reduce Phytic Aid?
Author’s note: The original version of this post was published around 2011 when I was just beginning to learn about nutrition. It included a brief mention that I was aware of the recommendation to soak grains, but I wasn’t sure about soaking oats.
Phytic acid is found in many grains, nuts, and seeds that is associated with blocking absorption of minerals in the body (source). Modern diets in our culture are typically very high in grains, and thus high in phytic acid. The traditional/alternative nutrition community alleges that this is problematic, and should be mitigated by soaking, sprouting, and/or souring.
While there’s decent evidence that soaking and souring reduces the phytic acid in many grains, it’s less clear that it works for commercially-prepared oats that have been heated prior to being sold. (Which is just about all of them.) On the plus side, however, rolled oats have less of the bran, which is where much of the phytic acid is found.
Ultimately I’d love to see more research on the effects of phytic acid in our diets. However, while I value modern research, I also believe in looking at traditional cultural practices of food preparation, as well as paying attention to our own intuition and bodies. Some people with sensitive digestion find that their tummies handle soaked grains easier, which is a totally valid reason to do it!
Personally, I make these granola bars without soaking but I choose to reduce my family’s phytic acid consumption by making sourdough bread and bagels from scratch. (Here’s the amazing online sourdough course that I took in early 2020.)
The Superstar Ingredients in This Healthy Granola Bars Recipe
I might be a teensy bit biased, but I think these granola bars are pretty awesome. They feature nutrient-dense ingredients that are filling and delicious.
- Nut butter. Full of protein and healthy fats to stave off hunger. If there are nut allergies involved, then sunflower seed butter is another option.
- Coconut oil. High in lauric acid, this essential fatty acid naturally has anti-microbial properties to fight off illness. It can also improve blood lipid levels compared to unhealthy fat choices. If you don’t have any coconut oil on hand, grass-fed butter will also do the trick.
- Honey. According to the Mayo Clinic, raw honey contains amino acids, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It’s also anti-inflammatory and has antibacterial properties. Pretty sweet stuff.
- Oats. These are a filling source of fiber, which is important to stay regular and avoid both diarrhea and constipation. There isn’t really a substitute for these, but some people use a blend of nuts and seeds here for a grain-free version. You could probably also try shredded coconut flakes. I haven’t tested it with this particular recipe, but let me know if you try it!
Which Granola Bar is the Healthiest?
Basically, any granola bar that contains simple, wholesome ingredients and isn’t sky high in sugar. These healthy homemade granola bars fit the bill perfectly. It’s still best to enjoy in moderation though.
Is Granola Good for Weight Loss?
A lot of people see granola as a healthy everyday quick snack or breakfast, but really it’s more of an occasional snack or treat. If your goal is to lose weight (and even if it isn’t), eating tons of granola will probably be counterproductive. I know I keep saying this, but yes, these granola bars are healthy in moderation.
Side note: grains are often promoted as good for weight loss because they are low in fat, however it’s really important to be aware of the troubling history of the low-fat craze, and how it was always based on flawed science, and promoted with a corporate agenda.
How do you like your Healthy Granola Bars?
So are you a peanut butter and chocolate chip fan? A raisins and almond butter nut? Let us know what your favorite mix-in ingredients for homemade granola bars are!
These granola bars would also be great in an ice cube tray size for little bite-sized snacks – perfect for toddlers! Or add them to your next muffin tin lunch! (They’re also one of my hacks in my Quick Healthy Meals Ultimate Guide!)
In the meantime, here are some more snack ideas for you to try your hand at.
- 15 easy clean eating snacks (paleo and real food)
- Fried plantains
- 100 healthy snack ideas
- Lemon poppyseed scones (gluten-free)
- Individual 7-layer dip
- Homemade stove top kettle corn
Healthy Homemade Granola Bars
- 2/3 cup almond butter
- 2/3 cup virgin coconut oil
- 2/3 cup honey
- 2 cup oats gluten-free if desired
- 2 cups total of any add-ins you’d like such as chopped nuts, dried fruit, dark chocolate bits, coconut flakes, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc. I use my large 4-cup measuring cup and just dump in ingredients until it's at 2 cups.
- Mix almond butter, coconut oil and honey together in a small pot and warm until everything is melted. Stir together.
- Add oats. Add the rest and stir until well combined. (If using chocolate chips be sure to cool the honey mixture completely before adding the extras or else the chocolate chips will all melt).
- Press into an 9×13 pan and refrigerate until firm. Cut into bars, wrap individually, and store in the fridge.