Homemade Energy Bars: Worth the Energy?

Lately, people keep sharing their energy bar recipes with me. Either I look like I’m desperately in need of fiber, or my friends have caught on to how very much I spend on peanut butter and dried cranberries anyway. “These are amazing,” they tell me. “They totally replenish the amount of energy it’ll take you to make them.”

I love to cook. Or at least, I love it about once every 12 weeks when, inspired by a recipe or overcome by some creative culinary force, I buy a lot of expensive ingredients, slave for hours over a hot stove, and spill stuff on the floor that I’ll have to clean up later. Over the years since I moved into my own apartment, I’ve grown increasingly lazy in the kitchen to the point where it’s now pretty much just a storage unit for the rice china my grandmother gave me.

So to be honest, these energy bar recipes baffle me. Even though the ingredients—rolled oats, honey, peanut butter, dried fruit, etc–are things I already have lying around in my cupboards, the work it takes to assemble them just seems like way more than it’s worth. And if any of you have ever cooked a peanut butter-banana-oat mixture in a skillet that didn’t turn into a blackened reproduction of Michaelangelo’s “Battle of the Centaurs,” I want to meet you and shake your hand.

This is not to say that I don’t appreciate energy snacks. In fact, like I said, I already keep most of the ingredients for energy bars in ample supply and use them often. But my own recipes take a fraction of the time that energy bars would require, and as far as I’m concerned they’re just as delicious. Here are a few:

1. Peeled Banana
a. Take a banana
b. Peel it
c. Dip it in peanut butter (optional)
d. Yum!

2. Muesli
a. Measure a half cup of dried oats, put them in a bowl
b. Add enough water, yogurt, milk, or juice to cover the oats, and stir
c. Let the mixture sit in the fridge overnight, or at least a half hour
d. Top with berries and/or honey and enjoy

3. Peanut Butter
a. Find a spoon
b. Dip it in a jar of peanut butter
c. Then dip it in a bag of dried fruit or M&Ms (optional)
d. WOW

See where I’m going with this? Most of the ingredients for energy bars are delicious and nutrient-packed on their own, and they don’t require much—if any—fuss to prepare. Of course, this is not to say that if someone were to hand me a ready-made energy snack laden with the proper portions of potassium, protein, boron, and whatever other healthy things one expects to see in such a thing, I wouldn’t accept it gratefully. No! I would eat it with gusto and then wait hopefully for this person to continue to feed me. But until then I’ll just keep on subsisting on plain old unprocessed whole foods, which turn out to be just as healthy and delicious (in my opinion) as anything you could put together in half a day over a hot skillet.

Mari Zagarins

When Mari isn't running, biking, hiking, or jumping-jacking in and around her home in Montpelier, she is practicing her facial expressions in the mirror and contemplating whether she should learn to swim.