According to the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), more than half of consumers are trying to get more protein in their diets. This important macronutrient is needed to maintain, build and repair tissues, including muscle, bone, skin and even immune cells. Research also shows that protein helps you feel full, which supports healthy weight management. But you don’t have to focus on large cuts of meat to meet your daily protein requirement. Snacking is another big consumer trend. Nearly half of adults snack at least three times a day, IFT reports. Two-thirds want snacks that give an energy boost and almost 60 percent are looking for vitamins and minerals.
One snack category that ticks all of these boxes are protein bars, balls, or bites; and you don’t have to buy them prepackaged. This collection of nutrient-dense dietitian-created protein snack recipes features DIY options to suit a variety of needs. They include choices to help you satisfy sweet cravings in a healthy way, provide constant energy between meals, recover after a workout and provide functional health benefits. If you’re pressed for time, get one of these nutritionist-recommended vegan protein bars.
The collection includes no-bake options and recipes that are gluten-free and vegan. (Read more about the health benefits of a vegan diet.) Pick the ones that best suit your goals and prepare a serving to have on hand. You’ll save money per serving compared to store-bought options, and you can adjust ingredients if needed. For example, swap peanut butter for sunflower butter, opt for raisins over dried cherries, replace honey with maple syrup, or replace whole wheat flour with brown rice flour. Whether you follow the tea recipes or modify them to your liking, you’ll meet some of your daily protein needs and increase your intake of other essential nutrients.
Citrus Pistachio Protein Granola Bars
(makes 8 bars)
From plant-based sports dietitian Kelly Jones, MS, RD, CSSD
The protein in this vegan recipe comes mainly from pistachios. Getting protein from plants is another trend that has exploded among consumers, and pistachios are a great option. A 2019 study published in the journal Research on natural products, states that compared to other nuts, pistachios have a lower calorie content and contain the highest levels of unsaturated fatty acids, potassium, and certain health-protective compounds known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Consumption of pistachios has been shown to improve blood sugar control and artery function. This no-bake bar is a filling, nutritious snack option for staying energized for extended periods between meals.
- 1 cup packed pitted Medjool dates
- 1 3/4 cup shelled, lightly salted, pistachios
- 1/3 cup rolled oats
- Peel of 1/2 – 1 tangerine, depending on taste preferences
- 1 tablespoon tangerine juice (about 3 wedges)
- Grind the dates in a food processor for about 10-15 seconds, until finely chopped.
- Scrape the sides of the food processor before adding the rest of the ingredients.
- Pulse for 10 seconds before scraping the sides and pulse for another 5-10 seconds, until the mixture feels sticky, but bits of pistachio and oats are still visible.
- Cut wax paper to the length of a loaf pan, keeping the width of the paper long enough to reach the top of each side. Transfer the mixture to the loaf pan before pressing down with your hands or a flat spatula until firm and smooth.
- Refrigerate for 20-30 minutes to allow the mixture to solidify before slicing.
- Take the wax paper on either side of the loaf pan, lift the mixture and onto a cutting board. Cut into 8 bars and serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to a week.