These healthy cereal bars are just like KIND bars, but you customize them and you control the amount of honey!
Snacking happens. It just does. If you're my kid, you're not going to eat candy right before dinner, but you are going to eat in between meals. Let's do it right, then.
When my kids were super little, I was soooo focused on keeping them on a plan for two things: sleeping and eating. They napped in their own beds, and they went to sleep at a very reasonable hour.
And they ate 3 meals and 2 snacks a day. That's it. The snacks were things like fresh fruit, maybe some cheese and crackers.
We didn't really do energy bars, and breakfast was eggs and fruit. But that was then, and this is now.
Now my kids are older, and I'm less obsessed with their eating between meals. They play sports, and they're always hungry. At least I can try to get something good into them.
Cereal or no cereal?
Most cereals are full of extra sugar, and don't satisfy anyone for very long. Not to mention how incredibly expensive breakfast cereals are.
For so many years, I got up extra early and made them eggs for breakfast every single school morning. Whether they liked it or not. Eggs pack so much more bang for your breakfast buck than cereal.
But sometimes, the cupboards are bare… except for some cereal and milk. So cereal it is. We buy mostly Chex cereals, and I'm glad to have them when we need them.
My personal favorite gluten free cereal is puffed rice. You know, Rice Krispies-style cereal. There are a number of companies that make gluten free puffed rice.
I usually buy Erewhon crisp rice cereal, since it's super simple and good quality. If I can find it on sale, I'll also buy Nature's Path Organic Crispy Rice. Here are 5 brands of GF crisp rice cereal to try, to help you make an informed choice.
Store bought or homemade?
For on the go breakfasts, and for snacks between meals, these days we do buy a bunch of gluten free energy bars and cereal bars. My kids tend to be divided about which is the “best” gluten free bar.
Some of them taste downright awful to me, like Quest bars, and ain't nobody gonna convince me otherwise. KIND bars come in a million different flavors, and there's usually something for everyone. Many of them really are cereal bars, not just fruit and nut bars.
Luna bars are really more like candy bars, but my oldest can't seem to live without them. She will go for one of my homemade protein bars, though, if I have one on offer. But let's face it: sometimes it's just not possible!
Make them your own
If you're willing to make a batch or two of your own bars, a recipe like this one for gluten free cereal bars can really save the day. It's so easy to swap out one nut for another, or even some of the nuts for some dried fruit.
There are a few rules to follow if you want to make cereal bars that actually hold together, instead of crumbling into a weepy mess in your hands. But you can still customize them in plenty of ways, and even cut back on the honey quite a bit.
Here are the rules:
⇢Rule #1. Use raw, unsalted nuts. If you add a lot of really processed nuts, like salted this and roasted that, you'll pay more for the nuts and you'll be stuck with that flavor profile.
⇢Rule #2. The recipe calls for 1/2 to 3/4 cup (168 g to 252 g) honey and/or Lyle's Golden Syrup. You need a thick, sticky sugar to hold these bars together. You can use 1/2 cup, but don't use less. The bars just won't hold together. Trust me I've tried.
⇢Rule #3. Use softer nuts that are easy to break, like pecans, cashews and peanuts. If you want to use other nuts, like almonds, buy them slivered or sliced. I've used whole or chopped almonds, and they are just too large to hold together in the bar without using a metric ton of honey.
And remember, if you're going to ruin my kid's appetite for a meal, you'd better really ruin it. Like, don't send them back to me feeling a little hungry. A kid who is a little hungry is going to be really picky. And I don't do picky.
Easy Homemade Cereal Bars
3 cups (350 g) raw unsalted nuts (I recommend a combination of cashews, pecans, peanuts and slivered almonds)
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 cups (60 g) (unsweetened) gluten free crisp rice cereal
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons (42 g) virgin coconut oil, melted and cooled
1/2 cup to 3/4 cup (168 g to 252 g) honey and/or Lyle’s Golden Syrup
2 ounces dark chocolate, chopped and melted (optional)
Preheat your oven to 300°F. Line a quarter sheet pan (a shallow rimmed 9 x 13-inch baking sheet) with unbleached parchment paper and set it aside.
In a large bowl, place the raw nuts, chopped chocolate, rice cereal, and salt, and mix to combine. Break up any large pieces of nuts or chocolate. Add the oil, and the honey and Lyle’s Golden Syrup, and mix to combine well. The mixture will be very thick and sticky. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan, and spread it into an even layer. Cover with another sheet of unbleached parchment paper, and press firmly to compress the mixture into an even layer.
Remove the top sheet of parchment, and place the pan in the center of the preheated oven. Bake until the mixture is lightly browned and bubbling, about 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes. Without removing the bars from the baking sheet and using a bench scraper or butter knife, slice into bars by cutting down the length in the center, and then across into two rows of 7 bars each. Place the bars in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes, or in the freezer for about 5 minutes, until completely chilled.
Remove the bars from the refrigerator or freezer, and separate them along the scored lines. Drizzle with the optional melted dark chocolate and allow to set. Serve or store the bars in the refrigerator or freezer.