I had a major nostalgic moment this week with my eldest, you know one of those where you think, “How did my baby grow up so fast?”
He was making these three ingredient bars by himself. They are the same ones I would make for him when he was a toddler, and I can still picture him having them as a snack at the park in Bologna when he was 2. Now at age 9 he still likes them, and he sometimes takes them to school or has them when I pick him up.
He was home from school the other day as he had a fever the night before, and he made these bars and I filmed him. We had a lot of laughs, like when he was transferring the mix to the baking dish and it all landed in one big plop. I wish I hadn’t stopped recording because we laughed so hard.
He also told me a joke at the end: “What’s the best thing to put in Sugarproof Banana Bars?….Your teeth!”
If you are looking for a really easy recipe to make as an alternative to cookies or soft granola bars marketed to toddlers, these are a great choice. The packaged options often contain fruit juice concentrates and/or other added sugars. For example, these Organix Banana Soft Oaty Bars that are popular here in the UK and marketed to toddlers age 12+ months contain apple juice concentrate.
As we explain in Sugarproof, fruit juice concentrates are high in fructose which is hard for young bodies to process. Too much of them can lead to digestive issues from fructose malabsorption or even contribute to the early development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease because fructose is processed in the liver. We suggest that you avoid these type of added sugars when possible and use whole fruits to sweeten recipes. This way you include the natural fiber from the fruit and slow the absorption of fructose.
Our recipe is a very simple homemade alternative to these type of bars with just three ingredients: bananas, oats, and nut/seed butter. It’s also flexible and allergy friendly; the recipe is dairy-free and you can make it gluten-free by using gluten free oats. You can also make it nut-free by using seed butter instead of nut butter, or simply omit the nut/seed butter for a 2 ingredient bar. You can also add other mix-ins like a dash of vanilla extract or a sprinkling of unsweetened dried coconut or flax seeds for more flavor and fiber.
For older kids, you can even add a handful of mini chocolate chips and these would still be a lot healthier than the packaged chewy chocolate chip granola bars.
The Quaker brand that’s so popular has 7 grams (nearly 2 teaspoons) of added sugar per bar and the following long list of ingredients. What’s more, a form of sugar or sweetener is listed 10 times! See here in bold:
Ingredients: Granola (whole grain oats, brown sugar, brown rice crisp [whole grain brown rice flour, sugar, salt], whole grain wheat, soybean oil, coconut, whole wheat flour, baking soda, soy lecithin, nonfat dry milk), semisweet chocolate chips (sugar, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla extract), corn syrup, brown rice crisp (whole grain brown rice flour, sugar, salt), invert sugar, sugar, corn syrup solids, glycerin, soybean oil, Contains 2% or less of: calcium carbonate, sorbitol, salt, soy lecithin, molasses, tocopherols (to preserve freshness), natural flavor.
In contrast, these Sugarproof bars are made with simple ingredients that most of us already have on hand. They are also a great way to use up ripe bananas that you might have sitting on your counter! (As a side note, if you are looking for a banana bread recipe, check out our Sweet Potato Pecan Banana Bread. It happens to be gluten-free, paleo, and grain-free for anyone with those needs.)
To make our 3 Ingredient Banana Bars, all you do is mash the bananas, mix in the other ingredients, spread the mix out in a square baking dish, bake, cool, and cut into squares/bars.
3 Ingredient Sugarproof Banana Bars
Makes 20 small bars
–2 large ripe bananas (or 3 small)
–1 1/2 cups (125g) rolled oats
–1/4 cup (55g) nut or seed butter of choice
–Pinch of sea salt (optional)
–1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
–Other possible mix-ins/toppings of choice such as a sprinkle of flax seeds or unsweetened dried coconut, a dash of vanilla extract, and/or even a handful of mini chocolate chips (for older kids/adults).
–Preheat the oven to 350F/180C.
–In a medium mixing bowl, mash the bananas.
–Mash/mix in the rest of the ingredients.
–Line a square 8” baking dish with parchment/baking paper
–Add the mixture to the baking dish and top with another layer of parchment.
–Using something flat like the bottom of a mixing cup, press on top of the upper layer of parchment and smooth the mixture to the edges, creating an even layer.
–Remove the top layer of parchment and discard it.
–Trim the lower layer so none is coming out of the baking dish (you don’t want it to burn).
–Add any additional toppings of choice (optional), gently pressing them in if necessary.
–Bake the bars for 16-18 minutes or until golden brown around the edges.
–Allow to cool, lift the bars out of the pan using the edges of the paper, transfer to a cutting board and cut into small bars.
NUTRITION FACTS PER SERVING (1 BAR):
CALORIES 79 TOTAL FAT 3g PROTEIN 3g TOTAL CARBOHYDRATE 12g DIETARY FIBER 2g TOTAL SUGARS 2g ADDED SUGARS 0g