Hearty, filling, and only 105 calories each!
Throughout my teenage years, Mom tossed packages of granola bars into her shopping cart every time she entered the grocery store. My brother and I basically inhaled them—the boxes practically disappeared overnight—and we sampled most of Safeway’s entire selection: Nature Valley, Fiber One, Clif Bars, Special K… We normally gravitated towards the softer varieties, which meant Mom maintained a constant stash of Nutri-Grain and Quaker Chewy Bars in the pantry.
In the mornings, my high school scheduled a 10-minute snack break at the start of 3rd period, so I’d slip a Chewy Bar out of my backpack (normally Oatmeal Raisin or Chocolate Chunk) and slowly savor it while comparing geeky calculus stories with my friends about how we solved the integrals from the previous night’s homework. By the time I swallowed the last bite, Mr. D had already warmed up the overhead projector to start presenting that day’s notes.
Then after school, I’d plop down onto the sofa, a Nutri-Grain Bar in hand, and flip open the family laptop. Instead of logging on to check email or chat online with friends, I clicked over to a jigsaw puzzle website and challenged myself to put one together in under 2 minutes. (They only offered the “Easy” 16-piece ones for free, and since they only cataloged about 30 images, I always clocked in at under 1:45 by the end of the semester!)
In between rounds of puzzles, I nibbled on my fruit-filled granola bar. Although a fairly standard size—not a monster like a Clif bar!—I still managed to take about 15-20 bites to finish it. Yes, a mouse would gnaw off bigger pieces than me!
Over the weekend, while reminiscing about the good ol’ days before full-time jobs, checkbooks, and social media, a brilliant idea popped into my head. What if I combined my two childhood granola bar favorites into an even healthier snack?
So that’s exactly what I did!
My simple Strawberry Banana Granola Bars contain the wholesome oats of Quaker Chewy Bars, the sweet fruit taste of Nutri-Grain Bars, but none of the preservatives or artificial ingredients. Bright banana flavor fills each soft snack, coupled with bursts of fresh strawberries—not sugary jam, like the commercial varieties. With only 6 healthy ingredients, these granola bars are a cinch to make. The hardest part is waiting for them to bake!
The base begins with old-fashioned oats. Although perfect for cookies, instant (quick-cook) oats absorb liquid a little too quickly for these granola bars. Old-fashioned oats soak up just enough moisture to soften while still maintaining their hearty texture. If following a gluten-free diet, you can easily substitute gluten-free oats instead.
The wet ingredients include milk, mashed banana, honey, and coconut oil. The milk and mashed banana provide the moisture and “glue” that hold the granola bars together. The mashed banana also contributes most of the natural sweetness, so pick out the spottiest one you can find! I only mixed in an additional 1 tablespoon of honey for all 10 granola bars, but you could omit it if your banana’s peel looks solid brown.
Note: For a vegan version, swap in your favorite non-dairy milk and agave. They won’t affect the flavor or texture.
Granola bars made purely from milk and fruit would turn out gummy, but the tiny bit of fat from the coconut oil prevents that unappetizing consistency. Just like in these oatmeal cookies, you cannot taste it at all—I promise! But if you don’t own any, canola or vegetable oil would work too.
I opted for frozen unsweetened strawberries for these skinny granola bars, which means you can make them all year round! Let the berries thaw for a few minutes: just enough so can easily slice through them with a knife, but not so long that they turn slimy as the ice crystals melt. You want to dice the strawberries fairly small; larger chunks would rip apart the oats as you cut through them to form the bars.
These low fat granola bars only bake for 15-19 minutes, so keep a close eye on them! I recommend the lower end of the time frame to ensure they stay soft and chewy. After cooling the bars to room temperature, place the pan in the fridge to help them firm up. Chilling also really makes the fruit flavors pop!
Hearty and wholesome, these chewy Strawberry Banana Granola Bars are bursting with fresh fruity flavor. Sweet banana saturates every oaty bite, punctuated by juicy red strawberries. With only 105 calories and under 5 grams of sugar, these snacks are a filling clean-eating treat that you can feel good about enjoying!