Ooooooh am I excited to share this recipe with you guys today! It is DELISH. You will basically want to eat it all day long, not just breakfast. I’m just giving you fair warning. ;)
Except for the first year of our marriage, when he was in grad school, my husband has worked very labor-intensive jobs. It’s always been a challenge to find nourishing, inexpensive, but also stamina-giving (is that a real phrase or did I make that up?) snacks for him.
Before we started trying to eat clean, this was much easier. I stocked up on tons of snacks on sale at the grocery store and popped a few in his lunch everyday. Unfortunately, now I know that those snacks are mostly disgusting for your body and I can’t in good conscience give many of them to my man anymore! One of the main snacks I used to give him was Nutri-Grain cereal bars (I always called them breakfast bars – same difference).
Ever wondered what was in these puppies? Here is the list of ingredients in those bars (taken STRAIGHT FROM THEIR WEBSITE):
CRUST: WHOLE GRAIN OATS, ENRICHED FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMIN MONONITRATE [VITAMIN B1], RIBOFLAVIN [VITAMIN B2], FOLIC ACID), WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR, SOYBEAN OIL (WITH TBHQ AND CITRIC ACID FOR FRESHNESS), HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, SOLUBLE CORN FIBER, SUGAR, CALCIUM CARBONATE, WHEY, WHEAT BRAN, SALT, CELLULOSE, POTASSIUM BICARBONATE, *PROPYLENE GLYCOL*, MONO- AND DIGLYCERIDES, SOY LECITHIN, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, WHEAT GLUTEN, CORNSTARCH, NIACINAMIDE, VITAMIN A PALMITATE, CARRAGEENAN, ZINC OXIDE, REDUCED IRON, GUAR GUM, PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B6), THIAMIN HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B1), RIBOFLAVIN (VITAMIN B2), FOLIC ACID. FILLING: HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, CORN SYRUP, STRAWBERRY PUREE CONCENTRATE, GLYCERIN, SUGAR, WATER, SODIUM ALGINATE, MODIFIED CORN STARCH, CITRIC ACID, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, SODIUM CITRATE, DICALCIUM PHOSPHATE, METHYLCELLULOSE, CARAMEL COLOR, MALIC ACID, RED #40.
I bold-faced everything that I know for a fact to be bad for you, and I was being kind. Some of these bad ingredients masquerade as being pretty innocent. Enriched flour? Soybean oil? Enriched flour is bad when you realize that it needs enrichment only because it was first bleached and stripped of all the good nutrients normally found in whole wheat flour, just to have them mechanically added back in. Soybean oil is bad because nearly all of the soybeans and oil in this country are genetically modified, and we still don’t know the full effects of that on the human body. It it’s not GMO (genetically modified organism), you’ll most likely know, because it will be proudly telling you on the label!
Then you have the stuff that most people would agree now isn’t so great for you: high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, food colorings, and artificial flavors.
And then last but not least, you have propylene glycol listed under “crust” ingredients. Ummmm, you guys? Propylene glycol is defined on the web as “used as an antifreeze and in brake fluid.” Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?!
If that doesn’t make you wanna eat clean, I just don’t know what will! lol
Needless to say, I was SO happy to find this recipe. I have literally not bought breakfast bars in over a year now, and I don’t ever plan to again. Unless they’re organic and non-GMO. Even then you still need to consider that each one is usually individually wrapped in plastic, which is so terrible for the environment. I’m trying to be more conscious of that, as well.
I originally found this recipe on the blog Oh She Glows, and she herself adapted it from Food.com. I have adapted even further here and put my own twist on it. I encourage you to check out Oh She Glows because she has some killer recipes on her site if you’re trying to eat clean!
Healthy Strawberry Oat Squares
- 1 1/2 C regular oats
- 1 C whole-wheat flour
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 cup brown sugar*
- 1 flax egg (1 T ground flax seed; 3 T water; mix together)**
- 1/2 cup (I stick) butter, melted
- 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
- 2 T milk
- 1 C (approx) strawberry jam or jelly (I used Polaner’s all-fruit)
- 1 T sesame seeds or unsweetened coconut (for topping only)
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a square pan (I used a 8x8 because it’s what I had) with parchment paper and oil (or spray) the sides of the pan and base.
Melt butter now if not already done so that it can cool slightly and won’t curdle the milk.
In a large bowl, mix the oats, flour, baking soda, salt, and brown sugar.
In a small bowl, combine the flax egg, melted butter, maple syrup, and milk. Stir well.
Combine wet and dry mixtures, reserving 1/2 C of mixture for the topping later. Mix well, using hands if necessary.
Pour the oat mixture (less 1/2 C) onto the square pan and press down with fingers. Use a pastry roller to smooth out if desired.
Pour on strawberry jam and smooth out. Now sprinkle on the reserved 1/2 C oat mixture and sprinkle on (you’re basically dotting the surface with chunks of the mixture).
Bake at 350F for approximately 30 minutes. Allow to fully cool for at least 30-40 minutes before gently removing from pan. Slice and then store in a container in the fridge to keep firm.
Enjoy! I have made this twice now, and love it more each time. :)
For more about clean eating and clean recipe ideas, click here.
* I never see a reason to pack brown sugar anymore, especially when I’m adding other sugary ingredients to the mix. Loose is fine!
** Using one regular egg is totally fine – I just like to bake with flax eggs when I can, because it’s an easy way to add fiber and omega-3s, plus I don’t have to worry about icky salmonella.