Struggling at the gym? Don’t grab chocolate or sugary snacks. These nutty banana energy bars will do the trick.
I always get lost in Leeds.
I’m fine in any other city: London is busy but navigable, Glasgow a grand grid system and Bristol’s hills and waterways give you a decent sense of where you are. But that Leeds loop just baffles and infuriates me.
Which is why last week, I found myself endlessly circling West Yorkshire’s metropolis, with rising panic. The more lost I got, the more my fuel gauge beeped and flashed at me, telling me to fill up.
Have you ever got really, really low on petrol? It goes crazy for a while, alerting you to the impending halt and then – and this is how you know you’re really in trouble – it gives up.
It’s that awful quiet that haunts you. You drive on as smoothly as possible, powering the car by sheer willpower until the glorious but garish sight of a petrol station sign looms into view and you glide onto the forecourt on fumes and relief.
It reminded me that our bodies need fuel too. When we’re dieting, it’s tempting to cut calories and hit the gym. Both can be literally a shock to the system – but we stupidly wonder why we ‘hit the wall’ and suddenly feel dreadful.
If you’re going to exercise, you need energy. And not from poor food sources either.
Nuts and good carbohydrates are brilliant energy boosters. Too many bars available in the shops are packed full of bad things like artificial sweeteners and processed fats, so make these nutty banana bars. The ingredients are all natural it’s basically a question of smooshing everything together, baking and cutting into bars. Give them a try and watch yourself power through your gym session. I’ll probably still be circling the Leeds loop.
Nutty Banana Energy Bars
242 calories each
Makes 8 bars • Ready in 1 hour
light oil spray (3 cals)
50g (¼ cup) quinoa, well rinsed (154 cals)
170g (2 cups) porridge (rolled) oats (605 cals)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder (7 cals)
2 tbsp desiccated (dry unsweetened) coconut (98 cals)
pinch of salt
50g (¹/³ cup) dried cranberries (162 cals)
30g (¼ cup) pecans, chopped (207 cals)
3 medium very ripe bananas, mashed (356 cals)
1 large egg, beaten (91 cals)
50g (4 tbsp) maple syrup (131 cals)
1 tbsp sunflower oil (99 cals)
2 tsp vanilla extract (24 cals)
• Line a 25 × 25cm (10 × 10in) baking tray (cookie sheet) with two pieces of baking parchment, forming a cross shape so that all the sides are covered and spray with light oil spray.
• Place the quinoa and 125ml (½ cup) water in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 12–15 minutes or until the liquid is just absorbed. Remove from the heat and rest, covered, for 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and fluff with a fork. Leave to cool completely.
• Preheat the oven to 160C/140C fan/325F.
• Place the oats, cinnamon, baking powder, desiccated coconut and salt in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Then mix in the dried cranberries and chopped pecans.
• Add the mashed bananas, beaten egg, maple syrup, oil and vanilla to the quinoa and stir until just combined. Add the banana mixture to the oat mixture and loosely mix.
• Press the batter into the prepared baking tray and bake in the oven for 35–40 minutes. Leave to cool completely in the tray.
• When cool, lift out using the baking parchment and transfer to a chopping board. Cut into 8 bars. Wrap individually in clingfilm (plastic wrap) and store in the refrigerator for up to a week. Alternatively, store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to three months.
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