According to the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), more than half of consumers are trying to get more protein into their diet. 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 big cuts of meat to meet your daily protein needs. Snacking is another big consumer trend. Almost half of adults eat at least three meals a day, IFT reports. Two-thirds want snacks that provide an energy boost, and nearly 60 percent are looking for vitamins and minerals.
One snack category that ticks all of those boxes is protein bars, balls, or bites; and you don’t have to buy them pre-packaged. Curated by nutritionists, this collection of nutrient-dense protein snack recipes includes DIY options to meet a variety of needs. These include options to help you satisfy sweet cravings in a healthy way, provide constant energy between meals, provide post-workout recovery, and provide functional health benefits. If you’re pressed for time, you can buy one of these nutritionist-recommended vegan protein bars.
The summary includes no-bake options and recipes that are gluten-free and vegan. (Read more about the health benefits of going vegan.) Choose the ones that best suit your goals and make a batch that you have ready. You’ll save money per serving compared to store-bought options, and you can change ingredients if needed. For example, swap peanut butter for sunflower seed butter, opt for raisins instead of dried cherries, substitute maple syrup for honey, or substitute brown rice flour for whole wheat flour. Whether you follow the tea recipes or customize them to your liking, you’ll cover part of your daily protein needs and increase your intake of other vital nutrients.
Citrus Pistachio Protein Granola Bar
(makes 8 bars)
By Sports Nutritionist Kelly Jones, MS, RD, CSSD
The protein in this vegan recipe comes primarily from pistachios. Getting protein from plants is another trend that’s starting to be a real movement among consumers, and pistachios are a great option. A 2019 study published in the journal natural product research, states that pistachios are lower in calories compared to other nuts and contain the highest levels of monounsaturated fat, potassium and certain health-protecting compounds known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Eating pistachios has been shown to improve blood sugar control and arterial function. This no-bake bar is a filling, nutritious snack option to keep you energized for an extended period of time between meals.
- 1 cup wrapped, pitted Medjool dates
- 1 3/4 cup shelled, lightly salted pistachios
- 1/3 cup oatmeal
- Zest of 1/2 – 1 tangerine, depending on taste preference
- 1 tablespoon tangerine juice (about 3 segments)
- Blend dates in a food processor until finely chopped, about 10-15 seconds.
- Scrape the sides of the food processor before adding the remaining ingredients.
- Pulse for 10 seconds before scraping down the sides, and pulse for another 5-10 seconds until mixture feels sticky but bits of pistachio and oats are still visible.
- Cut wax paper to the length of a loaf pan, leaving 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 set and smooth.
- Chill in the fridge for 20-30 minutes to allow the mixture to set before slicing.
- Grasping the wax paper on either side of the loaf pan, lift the mixture up and onto a cutting board. Cut into 8 bars and serve immediately or refrigerate for up to a week.