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Healthy alternatives to honey for use in granola bars.

I´ve started making my own granola bars.
I want them to be as healthy as possible.
I bake them in the oven, for storage in room temperature.

My binding mixture consists of egg, peanut butter and maple syrup.
Is it possible to make it more healthy than this? And possibly drop the peanut butter?

Peanut butter is fine, but is there some sort of tasteless alternative? No matter what I put in them now, you can´t avoid the taste of peanuts.

And is there something else you can use instead of eggs?

Remember, healthy is the keyword here. So that means no corn syrup, glycose or sugars.

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  1. Honey's unhealthy?

    2 Replies
    1. re: ferret

      Yes, it´s glycemic index is actually bigger than sugar.

      1. re: Ramius

        Refined honey, perhaps, but raw honey has a pretty low GI, if that's the standard you're using for "healthy."

    2. Obviously with the eggs you could just use whites which are pretty flavor free. If you don't like peanut butter you could try almond butter for a little more variety in taste. As for other alternatives I haven't had a chance to try it yet, but I've come across recipes for imitation Lara Bars that either use prunes or Sunsweet Lighter Bake (which is made from prunes).

      1. I can't really answer on the sweetener, but instead of the eggs (and possibly also to replace the peanut butter), you could use ground flaxseed simmered with water for a couple of minutes until thick.

        Here's a recipe I've used - http://www.food.com/recipe/flax-vegan...

        1. Agave Nectar

          13 Replies
          1. re: lmmsdca

            @lmmsdca, agave nectar has a very high proportion of fructose, and many of the retail products are cut with cheap corn syrup to lower costs. it's not a healthful alternative to honey.

            @Ramius, try coconut palm sugar - it has a lower GI than any of the other standard granular or liquid sugars, and a lovely flavor similar to brown sugar but with more pronounced notes of butterscotch & caramel.

            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

              or of you want liquid you can use coconut palm nectar( so long a sit is pure.)

              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                What's a reliable source for the GI of palm sugar? A Philippine agency promoting the product claims 35, but most GI databases and tables do not have this sugar. Usually the tables list prepared foods as opposed to raw ingredients.

                I also found a Cambodian study that looked palm sugar juice, and found it contained 70-80% sucrose, the remainder being split between fructose and glucose. I am suspicious of GI claims significantly different from that of sucrose.
                http://ces.iisc.ernet.in/hpg/envis/su...

                1. re: paulj

                  The local store has got Coconut Oil, but is that something different?

                  Also, I wan´t to completely stay away from transfat and saturated fat. I know alot of palmoil products has this.

                  1. re: Ramius

                    @ ramius coconut oil is not the same as coconut palm sugar.
                    @paulj: All I know about this is that it does not raise my personal blood sugar

                    1. re: Ramius

                      Also, I wan´t to completely stay away from transfat and saturated fat. I know alot of palmoil products has this.
                      ~~~~~~~~~
                      the type of saturated fat found in coconut oil isn't metabolized the same way as other sat fats so it's not so much of a concern...in fact, the triglycerides in coconut oil have been shown to have health benefits.

                      but as magiesmom said, the oil and the sugar are two entirely different things. the oil is just that - oil/fat. and the sugar is, well...sugar.

                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                        my cardiologist recommends consumption of coconut oil, btw.

                        1. re: magiesmom

                          There probably have been greater changes in how doctors view various fats than in any other dietary component. And most of that comes from basic research into how fats are processed and transformed in the body. The initial message was, cholesterol is found in clogged arteries, so cut back on dietary cholesterol. Then it was recognized that the body produces much of its own cholesterol and that it is needed, at least in moderation. So now there is more concern with precursors to cholesterol (including hdls and ldls).

                          We also got messages about good and bad fats from producers of various fats, most notably the producers of soy and cottonseed oils (who gave the more saturated tropical fats a bad rep). I'm not sure if the positive advertising from the tropical oil (especially the organics) people is anymore trustworthy.

                          1. re: paulj

                            I was talking about what my MD says, not the advertisers. I have no idea who is right in any of this , actually as it all changes every twenty minutes.

                    2. re: paulj

                      @paul i wish someone else would research it formally because right now the only numbers floating around are the ones from the Philippine study...so i've been using it based on my own experience/anecdotal evidence - it doesn't impact my sugar or that of my diabetic friends & clients as much as other product do.

                      honestly i'd love to know *how* the GI is lower without a higher proportion of fructose - and as someone with fructose malabsorption issues i can tell you that Cambodian info must be correct - there's not a lot of fructose in there or i wouldn't be able to eat it without experiencing major discomfort.

                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                        The way I understand sugars is that fructose and glucose are the two simple sugars that pass from the little intestine to the blood stream. Glucose is utilized with the help of insulin. Fructose is mostly processed in the liver (see the closed debate about fructose being toxic). More complex sugars (such as sucrose) and starches are either broken down into these simple sugars (starting the the saliva enzymes), or they pass on to the big intestine where bacteria might feast on them (and produce gas in the case of some bean sugars).

                        So the big factors affecting GI, or more importantly glycimic loading, are the relative concentrations of fructose (low GI) and glucose (reference GI of 100), and the rate they are absorbed. Free glucose and fructose are absorbed quickly. Sucrose breaks down nearly as quickly, so table sugar has nearly the same GI as liquid sugars like honey and HFCS (with similar fructose glucose ratios). Whole grains have more complex sugars and starches, so take longer to break down. Plus they have fiber. Soluble fiber (as in oats and oat bran) absorbs water and slows down digestion. Insoluble fiber adds bulk in the colon.

                        1. re: paulj

                          thanks i actually know all of that...and i kept an eye on the "fructose is toxic" thread, i just had no desire to jump into the fray and go around in circles ;)

                          my point about the GI of coconut sugar was that i'm puzzled by the results of the Philippine & Cambodian studies and by my own physiological response to it...the low GI *should* indicate a higher proportion of fructose, but judging by the numbers from the Cambodian folks and by the fact that i can consume it without having a fructose reaction, that doesn't appear to be the case.

                          ah, sweet mystery...

                    3. re: goodhealthgourmet

                      ghg: Is coconut palm sugar the same as the palm sugar commonly used in Thai cooking, or is it something different?

                  2. I would try tahini in place of the pb for a different taste.

                    1. I have this simple recipe that uses apple juice as a sweetener.
                      Easy Cranberry Apple Bars
                      Makes 16 squares
                      1 1/2 cups rolled oats
                      1/2 cup crushed walnuts
                      1/2 cup dried cranberries
                      1/2 cup creamy or crunchy natural peanut butter
                      1/2 cup apple juice
                      1 tablespoon sugar for topping (optional)
                      1.Preheat oven to 325° F and mist an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray.
                      2.Combine oats, walnuts and cranberries in a large bowl.
                      3.Add peanut butter and apple juice and blend until fully combined.
                      4.Transfer to prepared pan and distribute evenly, using moistened fingers to flatten and press into edges and corners.
                      5.Sprinkle with sugar, if desired.
                      6.Bake for 20 minutes, until set and golden.
                      7.Remove pan to wire rack to cool.
                      8.After 15 minutes, cut into squares. Bars may be a little crumbly.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: cookinforcash

                        The dried cranberries have also been sweetened.

                        1. re: paulj

                          Yes, dried cranberries are sneaky that way...very sugary.

                      2. Try carob molasses. It will add flavor and sweetness with less sugar than honey/agave and help things stick together. Carob molasses + tahini is a surprisingly heavenly combination! Like a richer, less sweet version of nutella.

                        1. I just tried to coconut oil tip, which was complete bullshit. Even though it hardens at room temperature, it is not sticky, so it did not keep the bars together at all, and I had to throw it all away.

                          So far, the best binding agent I´ve come up with is heating up honey in the caserole, adding a few teaspoons of peanutbutter. Then I add all the ingredients, and then a few tablespoons of milk. I then get quite a sticky mass, which I press down in a form, and bake for 5-10 minutes on 250 celcius.

                          So peanut butter is good here, milk is good. The only thing not good is honey. I need to replace this, with something else that´s very sticky, but healthy. Molasses was not a good alternative at all, acording to the healthfood store.

                          Maybe I should try out agave syrup.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: Ramius

                            Did you try coconut oil, or coconut palm nectar? I think the recommendation was coconut oil for any fat component, and coconut palm nectar for the sticky/binding agent.

                            1. re: jeanmarieok

                              exactly. coconut palm nectar is what might work as a sub for honey,

                            2. re: Ramius

                              you misunderstood - you must have missed the replies from magiesmom and me to your query above as to whether coconut oil and nectar are the same thing...
                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7904...

                              try brown rice syrup. it's sweet, plenty sticky, and won't have the negative impact on your liver and cholesterol that agave can.

                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                Are you saying brown rice syrup is good for you because it is low in fructose? What about the maltose, glucose, and maltotriose? Just like corn syrups, this syrup is produced by cooking a starch with enzymes.

                                1. re: paulj

                                  do i think it's comparatively better than agave? yes. but i never said it was "good" for you. OP asked for alternatives to honey, i'm anti-agave, and maple syrup is also out...so i offered brown rice syrup as a compromise.

                            3. Are you looking for something crunchy? If you're willing to accept a soft, more custardy texture, you can make some lovely baked oatmeal bars with no sweetener at all. I really like them.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: loraxc

                                You could even make unsweetened Scottish style oatcakes. Sure they are on the dry side, but wash them down with a cold sweet drink you'll get the same nutritional balance. :)

                                1. re: paulj

                                  Thats all well and good, but what binding agent do you use for that?

                                  Oatmeal won´t stick together by itself. I´m looking for something to hold them together. No need to be sweet. But it must hold things like dried fruit, nuts and oats together.

                                  1. re: Ramius

                                    If I want those ingredients I use a nut butter ( I like almond or cashew) to hold them together and out them in the freezer rather than cooking them . I know, not what you are asking.

                                    1. re: Ramius

                                      Scottish oat cakes are made with oat meal, not rolled oats, though I can make a passable substitute by wizzing rolled oats in the spice/coffee grinder. You can think of them as oat crackers.

                                      http://bread-water-salt-oil.blogspot....

                                      The British equivalent to our granola bar is a flapjack
                                      http://bread-water-salt-oil.blogspot....
                                      essentially porridge oats (oatmeal as opposed to rolled oats) bound with golden syrup and baked into bars. Mind you, golden syrup isn't any healthier than honey (still a blend of sucrose, fructose and glucose).

                                2. Nothing gets debated more than what is "healthy" and what is not.

                                  My opinion is that granola bars are inherently unhealthy and there is no way you can make it healthy other than to throw it away.

                                  1. http://joyof.kosher.com/recipe/lunchb... - if u want to go to the extreme substitute 1/3 cup raw sugar with one tsp pure molasses or even better agave syrup
                                    or: http://organic.lovetoknow.com/Organic...

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: astam

                                      I still like my "Honey and Egg lady's" bee hives for a sweetner, raw unfiltered and local. Some say using local honey helps with allergies, I guess it does as I am not bothered by seasonal pollen, blooms, etc.

                                      1. re: astam

                                        They look good and all that. But my experience is that when you put oil in this shit, it falls apart. Peanut butter is a certain winner. No discussion needed about that. But it´s not enough alone to give the hold I want.

                                        When you bake them in the oven, for just a little while, to get a slightly golden surface. What happens is, the oils and liquids from the peanut butter and honey, are heated so they spread more eavenly throughout the ingredients. When you use dry oat, they will absorb the liquids better when heated. So when the moisture is spread and absorbed into the dry ingredients, it will better hold together.

                                        Keep in mind that I want to eat these at room temperature. The first thing I tried was simply freezing them, but when I took them out, they were quite sticky the day after. And you avoid this with baking a short while.

                                        1. re: Ramius

                                          I have heard that ground flaxseed is a great egg replacer. I also find chickpea flour with a bit of water gets very sticky and binds well for pan frying things, it might work for baking, but it is usally better in savory food as the taste is a little weird for sweet.

                                      2. I have been using dark agave nectar (good quality only!) as a sub in my granola. It does NOT raise my blood sugar. I have checked :) It works really well & tastes similar to honey. Just makes sure if you are baking the granola/bars to lower the oven temp as it will burn easier.

                                        1. I haven't tried it, but someone recommended a sweetener of 1 cup of dates soaked in 1/2 cup of water overnight and then blended to a paste.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Rmis32

                                            This works. I just pour boiling water over the dates and by the time the water is room temp you can drain and blend with a splash of water.

                                            I have successfully swapped in dried apricots, raisins or a mix thereof as well.