How to make healthy home-made portable protein snacks….
I love making home-made protein balls and energy bars. They are handy, portable, quick and easy to make; they store well in the fridge and are easy to carry to work and training.
They are so simple to make that your children and teens can make them to bring to school and college for snacking on. And they are an indispensable part of the busy, training and travelling athletes food artillery. There is no better and more economical everyday training snack than these little babies for on the road sports like cycling and adventure racing.
Athletes are made in the kitchen
(and on the bike, in the pool, on the track, pounding the roads, in the gym….)
I have been making these bad boy protein snacks for years; however there now is a veritable treasure trove of online sites specialising in recipes…. simply get your Google on and use your judgement for what constitutes a healthy and a less than healthy recipe; don’t be afraid to tweak it and make substitutions these recipes are VERY forgiving.. I will have more recipes posted in the coming months and available as e-books.
If I can convey one message from this blog about home-made protein snacks, then it is that you really cannot go too wrong making your own protein bars and energy bombs.
Use my recipes as a guide; if you don’t have all the ingredients then make substitutions. Invent your own recipes. You will get some right and you will get some terribly wrong and then wonder what is best to eat them and not waste or to bin them!…. the fun is in the creative time throwing these together. And the benefits to health are phenomenal as truly there are very few energy bars and protein bars out there that I would consider healthy. I did a review here:
The first step is to stock the cupboards up with your ingredients. And then get flinging things together! That is what I do and once you have the texture right you are set to go. It is easy to taste your way along as most bars are finished raw; others can be baked but there is still no harm in tasting what you have created before you bake them.
Don’t be afraid to get inventive; eggs can be used as a protein source also (best baked before eating).
Here are some pictures of what I currently have in the pantry. I order from several online web pages as I mention later in the blog here. This is to save me money more than anything as some items are pricey in the stores here or only available in small quantities.
At the very least consider stocking up on the following:
- Protein powders – whey and vegan protein blends.
- Nuts and seeds, sprouted nuts and seeds.
- Dried fruits.
- Gluten free grains; gluten-free flours such as coconut flour, oat flour, chestnut flour, rice flour; and seed flours such as ground flax, ground almonds also known as almond flour, ground chia seeds, etc.
- Remember that you can grind your own oat flakes, whole flax seeds, almonds and chia seeds into a flour in a NutriBullet or powerful blender. Cooked rice can substitute in baking and home-made energy bars for flour also.
- Milks such as coconut milk, almond milk, rice milk, etc.
- Sea salt, Atlantic salt or Himalayan salt.
- Psyllium husks can be helpful to add fibre and calorie free bulking (they also lighten the bars somewhat. Psyllium is used in gluten-free breads often for this purpose.)
- Cocoa, chocolate nibs, coffee flavouring, cinnamon, and other spices.
For all my cooking creations and blogging I am a lazy cook also on occasion and sometimes I just mash several ingredients up in a cup to make a quick snack when I am too lazy to create proper bars and well…. it all goes down the same way!
I always start with thick coconut milk (a great dairy yogurt substitute and far tastier than some of the dairy free yogurt options) or Greek yogurt (I ‘do’ dairy now and again!) and protein powder and then I go to town on what else goes in! This may be coconut, nuts, seeds, nut butters, dried fruits, powdered Acai berry or blackcurrant powder, and some berries. It all depends on what I fancy and it hits the spot for a sweet craving and contains nothing worse than what you would put in a protein smoothie; I just prefer it thick in consistency.
….The texture is rather like baby food but oh boy its yummy. People laugh at me; and then they try it. I have seen many a friend converted! Body builder type friends often choose cottage cheese and casein protein as their base; this tastes yummy also. The reflex brand of casein is very good quality. If you are dairy intolerant casein can be a more difficult one to digest.
Heck sometimes I actually slather this mixture on a rice cake if I make it thick enough (I love Lundberg organic rice cakes) and if I am really naughty I dollop some nut butter on also. I am not sure what to make of the recent rice-arsenic scares. There comes a point when I just wonder do I eat, do I not eat or do I just do my best to eat all the foods that protect me and limit processed food and then hope for the best 🙂 ??
And so on to nut (and seed) butters…. Where would we be without them? You can mix them into yogurt, add to shakes and smoothies, dollop on rice or oat cakes, slather on apple or pear slices. They can even be added to baking, cooking, dips and dressings.
Nut and seed butter help contribute minerals (especially magnesium, calcium, and zinc and sometimes selenium), vitamins such as E, antioxidants and phytochemicals and healthy fats from omega 3, 6 and 9 to the diet but do take the hefty fat content into your daily allowance. I would say up to 2 tablespoons a day is fine provided you are not over doing whole nuts, seeds and other fats in the diet on that same day. Active persons with higher energy demands or who are on lower in carbohydrate diets can afford to up their fats above this based on intuitive (and analytical) feedback regarding their daily requirements.
Here are some of my latest and greatest in the cabinet:
- Jarrow formulas Pumpkinseed butter
- Nuttzo, Crunchy Seven & Nut Seed Butter, Power Fuel peanut free
- Nuttzo Crunchy Seven Nut Seed Butter Original nut butter
- Earth Balance range; I like the Coconut & Peanut Spread
- Sprouted almond or pumpkinseed butters
- Almond nut butter (organic is always better but if I am tight on cash then bulk powders does a cost-effective bulk buy here as well as some others (Bulk Powders UK)
- And when I can afford them I will stock up on any brands of pecan nut butter, pistachio nut butter, brazil but butter, macademia nut butter, walnut nut butter, etc. that I can get my hands on.
If buying nut butters in the USA be cautious that many brands contain ingredients like palm oil, sugar, dextrose, sucrose or high fructose corn syrup, and other undesirables. Nut butter should be nuts, salt on occasion flavourings like cinnamon, maple syrup, cocoa, etc.”
just trialled my whey protein coconut chia fuel bombs with a slather of coconut peanut butter and oh wow! Probably overkill on the calories but what a way to die 🙂
Hemp Protein and Cocoa Energy Bomb Balls
And back to protein energy bomb balls…
Here is a quick higher in protein and lower in carbohydrate protein ball recipe that I whizzed up this morning. It was the first attempt and so open to variation. The recipe here is not very sweet and so you may prefer to tweak it slightly if you find this too ‘green’. If hemp protein is not your thing then any other vegan protein blend or brown rice protein will work wonderfully.
You may add in more cocoa powder if you wish to make these more chocolaty. I would imagine that 4 to 6 heaped tablespoons of cocoa will work nicely but you may need to adjust the sweetening (more honey or prunes which then raises the carbohydrate content further) and possibly more fluid from milk or coconut / almond milk to create a ball that is not too tart and also that is the correct texture.
Ingredients for Hemp Protein and Cocoa Energy Bomb Balls:
- 1 ½ cups Hemp protein – I used ROS brand as this is unflavoured, unsweetened and good quality
- 2 heaped tablespoons Cocoa powder (I used Navitas brand)
- 1 cup desiccated coconut flakes/ unsweetened shredded coconut
- Light coconut milk – approximately 1 cup and more as required to get the texture correct for rolling
- ½ cup raw sprouted pumpkin seeds – you may use plain but I love the saltiness from the Go Raw brand. Also sprouted pumpkin seeds have more nutrition than unsprouted pumpkinseeds.
- ½ cup cashew nuts – I picked up some from Lidl as they were cost-effective. You may prefer to use organic cashew nuts. I do have to shop to a budget at times also!
- 4-6 Prunes d’Agen with the stones removed– these are a larger juicy prune and I get them at the market in Killaloe. Any soft stoned prune will suffice. You may wish to add anywhere from 4 to 10 depending on how sweet and high in carbohydrates you would like these protein balls to be.
- For rolling:
- Sesame seeds
- Cocoa powder
- Desiccated coconut
- Honey for additional sweetening
- Fresh squeezed half to whole orange juiced for a twist of flavour
- Dried bitter cherries for antioxidant clout
- Cocoa nibs or chunks of dark chocolate
- Salt for taste contrast and electrolytes
- Psyllium husks for fibre (and to lower the calories marginally)
- Cinnamon or mixed spice for flavour twist
- Mix the pumpkin seeds, cashew nuts, prunes and coconut milk in the NutriBullet or a food processor until they form a paste.
- Place all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl – hemp protein, cocoa powder, coconut.
- If you would like to add some additional fibre, then add 1 to 2 tablespoons of psyllium husks. This will thicken the mixture over a few minutes so be sure to let the mixture sit a while before rolling as you may need to add further coconut milk to allow for this.
- Add your wet ingredients and mix well with a large fork. You may need to add more coconut milk to get the texture correct. It all needs to stick together well but not be too dry either.
- Take small chunks of the mixture and roll them in your clean hands with either sesame seeds, coconut or cocoa to make small ball shapes.
- Store in the fridge OR freeze in containers or sandwich bags for later enjoyment.
Finished Hemp Protein and Cocoa Energy Bomb Balls
Oat Cherry Protein Bars:
This was my first go at protein bars in a few months. I have a collection of home-made recipes from my stay in Reno (https://achealthsolutions.wordpress.com/2014/03/11/seek-and-you-shall-find/) but whenever I cook I do so for relaxation and so I was creating new ones on Sunday and didn’t pay a whole lot of heed to the quantities. I wish I had! These babies are really good. So… the following are the ingredients that I used however the quantities are a guesstimate several days later.
You cannot really go wrong once the texture is close to a bread texture before you pop them into the oven for approximately 40 minutes at 180 or until a knife comes out barely dry. You don’t want to overcook these, in fact they are better underdone as they stay lovely and moist then.
I store mine in the fridge in a Tupperware; they can also be individually wrapped in foil and stored in a sandwich baggie in the fridge. These bars will freeze well.
Ingredients for Oat Cherry Protein Bars:
- Dates – approximately 6 (stone free or stones removed)
- 1 banana
- ¾ to 1 can coconut milk – or to desired consistency
- Peanut butter – approximately 2 tablespoons
- ROS blue label whey protein vanilla – 1 scoop approximately
- ROS unflavoured and unsweetened rice protein – 2 scoops approximately
“A note on protein powders – whey tends to make the mixture wetter and rice and vegan proteins tend to dry the mixture. So when using whey you will need more dry ingredients and when using vegan proteins you will need less dry ingredients and/ or more liquids. “
- Ground flax seeds – approximately ½ cup (also called flax meal – I made mine in the Nutribullet from whole flax seeds)
- Almond flour (also called almond meal) – approximately ½ cup
- Oat flour – approximately ½ cup
- Whole oats – approximately ¼ cup
- Chia seeds – approximately ¼ cup
- Psyllium husks – approximately 2 tablespoons
I cannot be sure of the exact quantities of the above dry ingredients – please use your own judgement.
- Raw sprouted pumpkin seeds – approximately ¼ to ½ cup
- Desiccated coconut flakes – approximately ¼ to ½ cup
- Hemp seeds – approximately 2 tablespoons
- Bitter cherries (Montmorency cherries; Bob Mills and Cherry Active also do bitter cherries ) – approximately ½ to 1 cup
- Dash of Himalayan salt or Atlantic sea salt.
Instructions for Oat Cherry Protein Bars:
- Preheat the oven to 180 C/ 350F.
- Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and oil this with coconut oil or butter.
- Add the dates, banana and ¾ can coconut milk to the NutriBullet and blitz to a paste. (Or you may do this in a food processor or liquidizer).
- Add in the peanut butter and blitz once more only as much as needed to prevent grinding up the chunky peanut pieces.
- Place the dry ingredients in a bowl; the whey and rice protein powders, the ground flax seeds, ground almonds, oat flour, oatflakes, chia seeds, psyllium husks, pumpkin seeds, desiccated coconut, hemp seeds, and salt.
- To this add the mixture from the NutriBullet / food processor along with the bitter cherries and mix well together with a fork.
- This may take some arm power! Mix until the mixture is a dough texture and neither too dry nor too wet. Allow this to sit for a few minutes and adjust as necessary.
- Transfer to the lined greased baking tray and spread out to a thickness of approximately ½ inch.
- Bake at approx. 300-350F/ 150-175C for thirty to forty minutes or until baked to desired consistency. I prefer these slightly underdone personally as they last better
- When cool slice into squares, wrap and keep in the fridge and store where these will last a good 10 days if you haven’t eaten the by then! Alternatively store sliced into bars in a sealable Tupperware container or sandwich bags. These will freeze well.
“PS a quick tip for bananas: if you have extra and its looking like they will go over-ripe before you get to eat them, then peel and freeze them. They can then be used later from frozen in bars and smoothies. OR try roasting them on a low temperature to make sticky delicious dried bananas. This may take 1 to 2 hours on a very low temperature. If you have a dehydrator then you are spoilt as bananas work superbly in the dehydrator. “
Whey Protein Coconut Chia Fuel Bombs:
These are a very fast and simple protein snack that area great starting place for younger athletes and those new in the kitchen or strapped for time. If you do not like coconut then peanut butter may add in well here instead; for example try 2 to 3 tablespoons depending on how much you like peanut butter!
So long as you get the texture right for rolling these babies then you are good to go. I tried to roll these in oat flour but it did not work as well as using the oats; just so you know!! They were still too moist when I used oat flour and so a bit squishy even after being refrigerated for a few hours. They did however still taste just as good!
Ingredients for whey protein coconut chia bomb balls:
- ROS blue label whey in Vanilla
- ¼ cup desiccated coconut (NB peanut butter may work well if you do not like coconut)
- ¼ cup chia seeds
- 1 cup coconut flour or as much as is necessary to bind
- Coconut milk, almond milk or Greek yogurt sufficient to allow the mixture to blend with the hand blender or food processor
- Optional 2 to 3 tablespoons coconut oil to add healthy fats and also to help bind the bars as they will be denser when cool)
- Oat flakes or oat flour to roll.
I tried to make this one in the NutriBullet but (after it all stuck like glue) resorted to the hand-held blender. A food processor will also work.
- Blitz the whey protein, desiccated coconut, chia seeds and coconut milk/ almond milk briefly with the hand-held blender or in the food processor until mixed through.
- Add the coconut flour and also the coconut oil, if using.
- Keep adding coconut flour or more ‘milk’ until you have a dense texture. The texture should be sufficiently dense to roll into balls in your hands.
- Take small amounts from the mixture and roll into balls in your (clean) hands; using oat flakes or oat flour to bind the little bombs.
- Store in the fridge for a few hours before eating.
These babies rock slathered in peanut butter or peanut coconut butter which I have here in the pantry. MMM mmmm.
All these snacks have been road tested by my boy and get the thumbs up… phew 🙂
PS I have used ROS brands here as I have them currently in my kitchen. I like the ROS brand and also Kinetica. Both are exceptional quality Irish brands with good prices for the quality that you are getting.
For athletes I highly recommend paying heed to the brands chosen. I actually visited the Kinetica plant several years ago to see for myself just how they produce their products; wow! And before I started using ROS I met with their representatives to see them for myself and check that this new and emerging brand at the time was up to scratch. I am happy to recommend both brands as an independent therapist and have seen both companies treat my athlete clients very well.
You don’t have to use what I recommend however I will add that cheap protein is cheap protein; it doesn’t always pay to scrimp on price and therefore quality. Especially if you are a drugs tested athlete.
If you are an athlete there are never any guarantees and so you must make the best informed decisions that you can when it comes to supplements. These websites may be helpful: Pharmacy medicine checker Ireland, Informed Sport, US Anti-Doping Website, World Anti-Doping Agency, and NSF in the USA.