School Snacks: Healthy Apple Cinnamon Granola Bars

granola_bars1-impEver since I committed to litter less lunches and not buying giant boxes of packaged granola bars 4 years ago I have been looking for a granola bar recipe that I could make that would provide more than a sugary treat for my kids school snacks.

I tried many recipes and ended up with a lot of granola crumble as everything fell apart without some peanut butter or sugary base to hold it together.  I finally conceded and tried one recipe that contained lots of oats and also a lot of honey and brown sugar, but it worked.  The bars tasted great and stuck together beautifully.  My kids loved them.  Time to shift my focus!

Since I couldn’t take away the sugar that was the key to keeping these together, I added in tons of healthy stuff like flax, oat bran, chia and apple chips! This recipe makes over 40 granola bars and the 2tbsp of chia seeds adds an additional 10 grams of fibre and 6 grams of protein plus healthy omega 3 fats to the batch. The flax adds even more omega 3s and a whopping 16 grams of fibre and 12 grams of protein, not to mention the added iron from the oats, oat bran, chia and flax.

The apple chips were easy to chop up and were perfect fruit addition to these granola bars (I had to get a fruit or vegetable into these somehow!). You can make your own apple chips by thinly slicing an apple and baking spread out on a cookie sheet in a 225 degree oven for about an hour.

Sugar aside, these Apple Cinnamon Granola Bars get a healthy snack rating from me and my kids love them. Bonus is they also freeze really well which makes them easy to bake and store in the freezer for kids to pop into a container when THEY make their school lunches!

Healthy Apple Cinnamon Granola Bars

7 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup healthy oil (I used extra virgin olive oil)

3/4 cup honey
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp Vanilla

1/2 cup oat bran
2 tbsp chia seeds
1/4 cup ground flax
1/2 cup chopped apple chips
2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and cover a large (18×13) cookie sheet (with edges) with tin foil. Mix the rolled oats with the oil until well saturated. Spread the oats onto the cookie sheet and spread evenly. Bake the rolled oats for 20-25 minutes, string often, until golden brown.

While the oats are baking, mix honey, brown sugar and vanilla in a small pot and cook over low heat until all the sugar is dissolved.  In a separate large bowl combine the oat bran, chia seeds, flax, apple chips and cinnamon.

When oats are nice and brown, remove from oven and lower oven temperature to 300 degrees.  Transfer the cooked oats into the oat bran, chia mixture and combine well. Pour the melted sugars over the granola and mix well.

Return the granola mixture to the tin foil covered cookie sheet after spraying lightly with a cooking spray, and spread out evenly. Using the back of a large spatula or heavy flat dish (also sprayed with cooking spray), press the granola mixture firmly into the cookie sheet, making sure the oats on the entire cookie sheet have been pressed into place.

Bake for 35-40 minutes at 300 degrees. Remove from oven and let cool – but not longer than 10 minutes or they will be too hard to cut. Transfer to a cutting surface and cut into any size bars using a large sharp knife.

Store in the freezer and enjoy anytime.