The concept of these bars actually started as a snack high in plant based iron, because people are always asking me about getting more iron into their diet. It s little known fact that certain dried fruits are a great source, in particular apricots and goji berries. Thus was born these healthy fruit and nut bars. Packed full of delicious, naturally high-in-iron containing foods, that masquerade as a tasty 2-bite sized snack.
Fruit and nut has always been a favourite of mine, and long before I became a fully fledged dark chocolate convert the Cadbury’s fruit and nut bars were my favourite. They were, of course, sickly sweet and in no way shape or form do they represent these healthy fruit and nut bars I present today except for the nostalgia of fruit, nut and chocolate.
There is actually more to the combination of dried fruit, nuts and dark chocolate than you might think. When it comes to snacking well there is wisdom in combining a mixture of macronutrients: that is, carbohydrates, fats, protein and fibre. Dried fruit is a concentrated delivery of carbohydrates (which is the reason they are strongly flavoured and make a great whole foods sweetener), so by combining them with nuts, seeds and a very dark chocolate you’re balancing out the sugars with fat and protein. This in turn is better for blood sugar, longer sustaining energy and satiation (feeling full). Plus, both nuts and dark chocolate can be a good source of iron, too.
The ingredients that make these Healthy fruit and nut bars iron rich
There is so much more to improving your iron levels than diet (that is for another post, another day), but of course knowing foods that are rich in iron is a good start. We have all heard the common ones, but perhaps a few of the following are a surprise to you:
- Goji berries (also known as Wolf berries). Originally hailing from Asia, goji berries are a mineral rich berry that contain high levels of iron and are small and bright red in colour. Throughout China, Tibet and India they have been used for hundreds (some reports say thousands) of years as a medicine, with traditional benefits including benefiting the liver, eyes, fertility, immune function and longevity. Today, we known much more about their substantial nutritional impact, notable antioxidants and non heme iron.
- Dried apricots. I used dried apricots in these healthy fruit and nut bars 2 reasons. They help the bars stick together, and they are a great source of plant based iron. I prefer to use the dark coloured, organic ones, which create a less impressive result in terms of colour but I get to skip on the sulphur dioxide.
- Almonds. Pistachios are intact higher in iron, but almonds tasted better in this recipe so I used them instead. To maximise the iron potential in my nuts I used pre activated and dehydrated nuts. You can read this post here about what that means.
- Sesame seeds. The final choice in my ingredients list for a iron rich whole food was sesame seeds. Sesame seeds are such a widely available, affordable and delicious addition to any diet and are often overlooked. We eat a lot of sesame (in the form of tahini) for its mineral benefits- it is a great source of calcium, and has respectable levels of iron too.
Choosing a chocolate for the Healthy fruit and nut bars
You can use whatever you like, but to pack a punch and maximise the nutrients in these bars then the darker you go, the better. More cacao/cocoa means more antioxidants and minerals so for these bars I opted for a raw, 85% dark chocolate but you could go darker. There is also some benefit in choosing a bar that uses cacao instead of cocoa, as the less processed cacao contains higher levels of minerals (including iron) and antioxidants.
There is so much choice is chocolate these days. It is overwhelming to know which is the best choice and ‘the darker the better’ is too simplified. I like to support brands that are transparent about their sourcing and harvesting, include sustainable packaging and include minimal, quality ingredients.
Well, enjoy these devious, healthy and iron-rich snack bars. If you’re after some other delicious snack recipes, I have you covered. Check out my
- No bake vegan choc vanilla slice
- Healthy vegan peanut butter fudge
- Superfood seed snack bars
- Low carb vegan bliss balls
As always, I welcome any reviews, comments or questions below. If you make the bars I would love to hear from you! Your feedback helps others find his recipe too.
Much love. J xx
These healthy fruit and nuts bars are so delicious and so easy to make- and secretly rich in plant based iron! They are gluten and grain free, paleo friendly, packed full of good fats, protein and antioxidants and use only 8 ingredients.
FRUIT AND NUT MIX
- 1 1/3 cup (185g) packed, dried best-quality apricots (see notes)
- 1 cup (100g) goji berries (see notes)
- 1 cup (70g) shredded coconut
- 1 cup (130g) sesame seeds
- 1 cup (130g) almonds, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup (70g) runny, natural peanut butter (see notes)
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 200g dark chocolate (1 used 90%, but anything between 60-90% will be great)
- 1 Tbsp smooth peanut butter
- Preheat the oven to 180 C and line a baking tray with baking paper or a silicone mat. Set aside.
- Add the apricots and goji berries to a food processor and pulse to form a thick paste. This can take a while, and it wont become smooth, however you want a mixture that is quite broken down and very soft or spreadable. If your mixture does not seem like a wet-ish mass (it should) add 1 tsp of water at a time (to the food processor while its running) until it does. Don’t add more than 3 tsp of water though. Set aside.
- Add the coconut, sesame seeds, almonds and peanut butter to a large bowl. Mix well, and use your hands to get everything mixed evenly. Spread on the lined baking tray in a thin layer then bake for 7-9 minutes or until the mix becomes fragrant and just starts to brown. BE CAREFUL to not burn! Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Don’t skip this step. I have, and it burns your hands in the next step!
- Pour slightly cooled nut mixture back into the mixing bowl. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the apricot and goji mixture into the bowl as well, taking time to get all of the blended fruit into the bowl. Add vanilla, then mix the contents well. It is easiest to get your hands in there, squeezing everything together. If the fruit you used was quite dry (and you didn’t get enough water in during step 2), you can easily remedy this by adding an extra 1 Tbsp nut butter. You want to be able to pick up an amount of the mix and shape it together to hold well, but not be so wet that it sticks to your hand and is too wet to work with. Once you have reached this consistency, squeeze some of the mixture into desired shapes. I choose small logs about 2 Tbsp in size- you could do balls instead. Place each one back on the lined tray, and repeat until all the mixture is used up. Place tray in the freezer for 1 hour.
- After the hour, break the chocolate into small chunks and add to a heat proof bowl with the 1 Tbsp peanut butter. Set over a pot of just simmering water (make sure the bowl sits above the water line, and does not touch it). Melt fully, then remove from the heat.
- Remove bars from the freezer and dip each one into the melted chocolate. I find using two forks easiest to do this, dropping each one into the bowl, then rolling them to coat. Use the two forks to pick the bar up and allow any excess chocolate to drip back into the bowl before placing the bar back onto the lined tray. Repeat with all the bars, then place the tray back in the fridge to set.
- Store bars in an airtight container in the fridge (for up to 2 weeks) or the freezer (up to 3 months).
- I use the best quality dried apricots I can find 9and organic ones to reduce sulphate consumption- but that is my personal preference). The apricots I used were very soft, juicy and flavoursome. If your apricots are hard and stiff increase the volume to at least 220g in total.
- Goji Berrys come in varying degrees of quality, similarly to dried apricots. Opt to use ones that are softer and juicer where possible, but don’t stress too much about the. it is just important to take note that if your fruit is dry and hard the recipe will have less moister than mine and thus the mix might end up too dry. This is easily remedied- just add more water when blending the fruit.
- You can sub peanut butter for any preferred nut or seed butter.
Keywords: Vegan, plant based recipes, paleo friendly, grain free, fruit and nut