Really I like to call this the DIY Bonk Breaker, but I’m afraid to get sued. Don’t sue me, Bonk Breakers, I love you.
I decided to try these recently because I’ve been making an effort to cut back on processed sugars (and on spending money). I have always had a sweet tooth. I can sit down and eat an entire bag of candy, or pint of ice cream, or plate of cookies, in a single sitting. Not just once in awhile, but often. This started when I was a kid and started making some allowance money and friends and I would go to the 7-11 after school and buy candy (I’m from a small town, we were bored. At least we weren’t doing drugs). I became kind of a hoarder of sweets, and still am. This surprises some people because I am also an athlete who runs and/or bikes 5-6 times a week. When I’m being active, I need sugars to fuel me, so what I’m really trying to curb is my “off-time” indulgence, when I’m hanging around the apartment, etc.
I’m doing this by limiting my intake to my mostly own baked goods and confections, using natural sweeteners with a lower glycemic index. As with fats, America’s relationship to sugar is complicated, and it’s hard to parse the research. Start looking at labels on the store bought food you buy, and you’ll see that added sugar is in practically everything, so I’m trying to be more conscientious. At the end of the day, not all sugar is created equal (sucrose/glucose/maltose/whatever are broken down differently in your body), but sugar is still sugar and should be consumed in moderation. Anyway, on to business…
The first step in this recipe (for locals) is: go to Sahadi’s. Their bulk food section is a magical place, and one of the reasons I may never leave Brooklyn. This recipe was (lightly) adapted from the beautiful Minimalist Baker blog recipe, which uses only 5 ingredients.
1/2 cup packed dates (pitted) + 1/2 cup dried cherries or other dried fruit of choice (look for all-natural, no added sugar)
1/4 cup honey or maple syrup or agave, or combination
1/4 cup all-natural peanut butter (add ¼ tsp salt if unsalted)
1 cup raw unsalted almonds, loosely chopped
1 1/2 cups rolled oats (I use quick-cooking)
Optional add-ins: 1 scoop protein powder of choice (I use vanilla whey protein and it’s tolerable but somewhat overpowers the overall flavor), other kinds of nuts, vanilla extract, sunflower seeds, chia seeds (I usually add 2-3 tbsp), raw cacao nibs (I add another couple tbsp, for crunch), flaked coconut, toasted oats, etc. The recipe is very forgiving so you can adjust ingredients pretty freely if you stick to similar proportions of wet/dry.
These are no-bake bars, but you’ll need a food processor*.
1. If the dates don’t feel sticky and moist, soak them in warm water for 10 minutes and drain.
2. Meanwhile, process your oats and almonds together to grind them more finely, which should take less than a minute (this part is optional, but the finer grain helps keep the bars from being crumbly and really closely matches the softer dough-like consistency of a bonk breaker). Add to a mixing bowl.
3. Add your drained dates (and other dried fruits, if using) to the processor, and process until only small bits remain (a minute or so). Should be very sticky and dough-y. Add to the oat/almond mixture, along with the PB, honey (or other natural sweetener), and any other optional ingredients.
4. Mix either by hand (have fun with that), or with a stand mixture and paddle attachment.
5. Once thoroughly mixed, transfer to an 8×8 dish.
6. Press down very firmly until densely packed and level. Set in ‘fridge or freezer for 15-20 minutes to firm up.
7. Cut into 6 even bars or serving size of choice**. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week (room temp is probably fine if just for a few days).
*If you don’t have a food processor and are very determined, you can try chopping the dates/fruit as finely as possible. Your end result will be less doughy and potentially crumbly, so make sure to press into the pan firmly, or add a bit more PB/honey for hold.
**I’ve been increasing this recipe by 50% and it’s my breakfast for a week. At that serving size, it’s a lot of calories, but it’s a whole meal (most important meal of the day!), and keeps me full all morning.
Nutrition breakdown, for the recipe and generous serving size given above (approximated):
7 g fiber
13 g fat
9 g protein (even without protein powder)
48 g carbohydrate
28 g sugars
How it stacks up against a Bonk Breaker:
Very similar texture. Main difference is the protein source. This recipe gets most of it’s protein from nuts, which makes it higher in total fat (but still low in saturated fat). Bonk Breakers use rice protein isolate, brown rice flour, etc, which I haven’t gotten my hands on yet. This recipe is also high in fiber, so depending on what you’re used to, you may want to limit your intake during exercise. They also have a decent amount of sugar, although as natural sweeteners they come with a few nutrients and are lower on the glycemic index, compared to table sugar. It’s still less than what’s in a bottle of Gatorade, and not much more than a large apple.