As I mentioned in my previous post (Vintage Vacations: Paris), traveling with a chronic illness can be quite a challenge. This is especially true when one is following a strict diet: just about the last thing you want is to be sick in bed on vacation, or worse — in the hospital in an unfamiliar town — simply because you veered from your regular eating routine. While I always plan ahead and research restaurants in the area where we still be staying, having food to eat at the airport and during flights is altogether another dilemma. The fresh foods that often are part of the Paleo diet are not exactly easy to transport while traveling. Additionally, most of the snacks one might find in airport shops are not Paleo-approved either.
Since we have some travel plans coming up, my priority became to create a snack that could travel well and meet my restricted diet needs. Hence, this granola bar was born. While most store-bought granola bars are made of grains, sugar and additives, these no-bake, raw Paleo granola bars are a grain and gluten free protein-packed snack. They are also quite delicious, filled with nutrition, fiber and healthy fats, and they are designed to be easy to digest.
Oh yeah, and since all the ingredients are raw and require no baking, this recipe is so easy to make!
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While a lot of Paleo recipes are very high in almond content, I chose to use a combination of different nut and seed ingredients for these Paleo granola bars. Why? Almonds tend to be more difficult to digest (at least for me). Cashews, on the other hand, are a little easier (again, for me), so when it came to choosing a main nut butter, I chose cashew butter. However, please be aware that most nuts are high in omega-6 and phytic acid, two things that are not healthy for us in large amounts, so it’s important to limit our nut intake and remember that they should be a snack and eaten in moderation. To compliment the nuts, I also included sunflower seed butter (I used SunButter), adding another flavor profile, this time nut-free. By varying my nut and seed butters, I was able to save my almonds and other nuts for the crunch factor, using them in a chopped form. I actually used a combination of almonds and pecans for this version, but you can use whatever nuts you desire. The result: all protein and healthy fats with NO grains or gluten!
If that weren’t enough, these no-bake, raw Paleo granola bars are naturally sweetened mostly with dates, along with a touch of raw honey. If you don’t eat honey, maple syrup should also work just fine, and doing so makes this recipe vegan as well as Paleo.
I also like to add some dark chocolate because, let’s face it, chocolate makes everything taste better! And if you’re using the right kind, you’ll actually get to enjoy some health benefits. I strongly suggest using bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips by Equal Exchange: not only are they organic and fair-trade, but they are free of dairy and soy, a combination not easily found in pre-made chocolate chips. I buy my Equal Exchange chocolate chips at Whole Foods. Unable to get your hands on Equal Exchange products? Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips are also dairy and soy free; however, they are not organic or fair-trade. (For info on why organic, fair-trade chocolate is important, this link is a start.) Please note that adding any chocolate chips will add to the overall sugar content, but you shouldn’t need too many as these bars are already naturally sweetened. Not a fan of including chocolate? I haven’t tried it, but raisins would probably be a great substitute.
My hubby (who does not follow a restricted or Paleo diet) is addicted to these Paleo granola bars and I myself have to admit, they are pretty darn tasty. And knowing that I’m enjoying a snack food that is healthier than store-bought granola bars and therefore, won’t ruin or cut into any of my precious vacation time, is the best part of all.
(Note: I prefer these Paleo granola bars chilled, as they are less likely to crumble when cold. I like to keep some in the freezer and pull them out at the last minute so they stay colder longer while I’m on-the-go. That being said, they are just as delicious at room temperature.)
(gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, vegan option*)
- ½ cup organic cashew butter
- ¼ cup organic sunflower seed butter, unsweetened (I use SunButter)
- ⅓ cup organic/unrefined coconut oil
- 6 organic Medjool dates pitted
- 2 Tbsp raw honey (*substitute maple syrup for vegan option)
- 2 cups shredded coconut, unsweetened
- ¾ cup raw almonds, chopped
- ¼ cup raw pecans, chopped
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- ½ tsp sea salt
- ¾ cup allergen-free chocolate chips
Soak pitted dates in hot water for 10-15 minutes.
In a food processor, puree dates, cashew butter, SunButter, coconut oil, honey, vanilla and sea salt.
In a large bowl, stir by hand chopped almonds, chopped pecans and shredded coconut.
Add in mixture from food processor and stir everything together by hand until blended well.
Stir in chocolate chips.
Line a 9x9 baking pan with parchment paper. Add mixture to the pan and pat down until mixture is evenly distributed and tightly packed.
Chill in refrigerator for 1-2 hours. Remove and cut into squares.
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.