The scene: Me, in a San Francisco Walgreens, desperately seeking something portable I could eat before the Nike Women’s Half Marathon. I didn’t find what I was looking for at Walgreens. I eventually was able to find a gluten free energy bar at a high end grocery store. I bought it because I needed something to eat before the race the next morning. Not because it looked particularly appetizing.
The next morning, knowing I had to eat something before taking on 13.1 miles, I trepidatiously unwrapped the bar and took a bite.
It tasted awful.
One of the difficulties of being a runner with celiac disease is that it isn’t always easy to find quick, grab-and-go options for pre-run fuel. Things have gotten better — a lot better, thanks to products like Picky Bars and Kind bars — but it was hard times nine years ago when I was learning how to be a runner on a gluten free diet.
Then I learned how to make my own energy bars. And I won’t say it was life changing, but it did help. If I remember to stock my pantry with the correct ingredients and take 15 minutes out of my day to make these the night before before a race, I have a pre-race snack to eat along with a banana. And I can throw an extra in my bag for later, just in case the post-race spread turns out to be heavy on bagels or doughnuts.
Making your own energy bars takes a little more effort than stopping at CVS for a Clif bar. But the benefits are many:
- You know exactly what’s in them because you’ve made them yourself
- You choose your own combinations of nuts, fruit, and nut butter, based on your dietary needs or restrictions
- You control the portion size
This recipe for no-bake, gluten free energy bars is adapted from a recipe from PCC Natural Markets. When the original recipe was initially posted, many years ago, it called for brown rice syrup instead of honey. Then it was updated to barley malt syrup (which is definitely not gluten free). The recipe as it currently stands calls for honey, which is what I used because it was what I had on hand. If you’re vegan and would like to try making these, consider using the brown rice or barley malt syrup.
Other changes I’ve made from the original recipe include replacing some of the nuts and fruit with raw cacao nibs. And of course, I always use certified gluten free oats. If you’re not avoiding gluten, traditional rolled oats are fine.
For this particular iteration of the recipe, I used a fruit, nut, and seed mix from Costco; Craisins; and freshly ground honey roasted peanut butter. Don’t be afraid to experiment with nut and seed butters. In the past I’ve used almond and sunflower seed butter. Heck, go wild and try it with Nutella. Let me know how it turns out.
One more tip: Chill thoroughly before slicing into individual energy bars. The mixture is soft and holds up better if it’s a little cold before you cut into it.
No-bake, gluten free energy bars
These homemade energy bars, made with nuts, dried fruit, and nut butter, are gluten free and don't require baking.
- 2 cups gluten free rolled oats
- 1 cup nuts or prepared trail mix
- 3/4 cup dried fruit (your choice)
- 1/4 cup raw cacao nibs
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 cup nut or seed butter
In a large mixing bowl, combine oats, nuts/trail mix, dried fruit, cacao nibs, and sea salt. Set aside
In a small sauce pan over low heat, combine maple syrup and honey. Allow mixture to come to a boil and continue to heat for two minutes, stirring constantly.
Add the coconut oil and nut or seed butter to the sauce pan. Heat through and stir until all ingredients are thoroughly combined. (Note: For best results, use fresh nut or seed butter. If it's too dry, it won't mix in properly and will result in a dry, crumbly energy bar.)
Add the hot ingredient to the mixing bowl of dry ingredients and mix until all ingredients are combined.
Spread mixture in a rectangular baking dish. Refrigerate. Once cooled, remove from baking dish by flipping over onto a cutting board or other flat surface. Cut into individual bars.
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