• Dr. Hansra

Don't derail your health goals over the holidays! Try these smart and easy protein cookie bars

You don't have to gain weight over the holidays. Making smart choices should be an everyday habit in every situation. With Thanksgiving and Christmas around the corner we're always tempted to reach for unhealthy food options as a way of celebrating. With the added stress of the pandemic, politics, and the feeling that the world has gone crazy it is easy to reach out for something sweet as a mechanism to de-stress. Take control of your sweet tooth with these easy to make almond butter protein cookie bars. You can easily make a customized batch in about 20 minutes with few simple ingredients. Furthermore, these bars are nutrient dense and packed with health benefits making them a far better option than traditional cakes, cookies, and other desserts.






Ingredients (makes 18-20 servings)


  1. Almond butter (16 oz., 454 g, or 1 small jar)

  2. Honey (1/2 cup)

  3. Vanilla protein powder (plain, 5 scoops)

  4. Vanilla extract (1 tbsp. 15 ml)

  5. Salt (1 tsp)

  6. Pumpkin spice (2 tsp, 10ml)

  7. Egg ( 2 large )

  8. Optional toppings: walnut pieces, fruit preserves, chocolate chips, etc.



Instructions


  1. Put all the ingredients in a bowl.

  2. Hand mix or use mixer until smooth homogeneous texture is achieved and the dough no longer sticks to your fingers.

  3. Roll dough into golf ball sized then flatten out to make a disc or bar shaped cookie.

  4. Make an indent in the cookies with your finger and add optional toppings such as fruit jam, nuts, dark chocolate chips, etc.

  5. Place on baking sheet or parchment paper (no oil needed since the nut butter has oil to naturally prevent sticking.

  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  7. Place cookies in the oven for 10 minutes (up to 12 minutes depending no your oven).

  8. Cookies should start to finely brown when ready (careful not to overcook or cookies become tough).

  9. Allow cookies to stand and cool for 20-30 minutes then serve.





Nutrition facts


Serving size = 1 cookie is 214 calories, 10 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, 136 mg of sodium, 16 grams of sugar, 11 grams of fat, 28 mg cholesterol.



What's the bottom line?


Most protein bars taste awful with a slight vitamin-like aftertaste. Recently I've discovered some of the better tasting ones are peanut butter based. The bar I've come up with is based on a cookie my mother taught me how to make but instead of peanut butter I used almonds due to the healthier nutrition profile. Furthermore, these protein bars taste so good they are a hybrid between a cookie and a protein bar hence the name protein cookie bar.


Almond butter is a nutrient dense food and healthier than peanut butter in several ways (1). Almond butter has a high content of monounsaturated fats (good fats) and lower content of saturated fats (bad fats) compared to peanut butter (1). Almond butter has three times the vitamin E, twice the iron content, and seven times the calcium than peanut butter (1). Almond butter has double the fiber compared to peanut butter (1). Both peanuts and almonds are good for you and have been shown to reduce your risk of coronary heart disease (2), death from heart attacks (3), reduced cholesterol (2). Furthermore, incorporation of nuts in the diet of Americans has been shown to improve nutrient quality in both children and adults and could be adopted as a strategy to replace unhealthy snacks (4, 5, 6). In addition to healthy fats and protein, almonds have a significant amount of magnesium, potassium, antioxidants, and fiber (4,7). If you are thinking about calories you would notice that these bars have relatively high amount of calories (200/bar). Nuts are generally high in calories owing to their high fat content but these fats are healthy fats (1). Despite being high in calories regular nut consumption has actually been shown to reduce obesity in several well conducted studies (7). Focusing on calories is important but pay careful attention to the quality of calories as well.


Saving money is another major benefit of making your own protein cookie bars since many decent tasting bars can be expensive. Go ahead and try to make your own protein cookies and take charge of your cravings over the holidays.


"Focusing on calories is important but pay careful attention to the quality of calories as well" - Dr. Hansra MD

Remember: The little things add up to something big when trying to achieve your health goals including weight loss. Substituting fattening, empty calories for nutrient dense foods will be sure to keep you on track with your health goals in the long term. I'm not saying to never have your favorite desserts but rather cut down on unhealthy desserts and incorporate healthy items instead. This will pay off in the long run.





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References:


1. Healthline. Almond Butter vs. Peanut Butter: Which is Healthier? https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/almond-butter-peanut-butter#research. Accessed November 22, 2020.

2. Hu F.B., Stampfer M.J. Nut consumption and risk of coronary heart disease: A review of epidemiologic evidence. Curr. Atheroscler. Rep. 1999;1:204–209.

3. Albert C.M., Gaziano J., Willett W.C., Manson J.E. Nut consumption and decreased risk of sudden cardiac death in the Physicians’ Health Study. Arch. Intern. Med. 2002;162:1382–1387.

4. Kalita S, Khandelwal S, Madan J, Pandya H, Sesikeran B, Krishnaswamy K. Almonds and Cardiovascular Health: A Review. Nutrients. 2018;10(4):468. Published 2018 Apr 11.

5. O’neil C.E., Nicklas T.A., Fulgoni V.L., III Almond Consumption Is Associated with Better Nutrient Intake, Nutrient Adequacy, and Diet Quality in Adults: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2001–2010. Food Nutr. Sci. Natl. Heal Nutr. Exam. Surv. Food Nutr. Sci. 2016;7:504–515.

6. Rehm C.D., Drewnowski A. Replacing American snacks with tree nuts increases consumption of key nutrients among US children and adults: Results of an NHANES modeling study. Nutr. J. 2017;16:17–23.

7. Jackson CL, Hu FB. Long-term associations of nut consumption with body weight and obesity. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014;100 Suppl 1(1):408S-11S. doi:10.3945/ajcn.113.071332.



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