Protein bars, it’s easy to have a love-hate relationship with them. They are SO convenient, but it’s hard to find protein bars that are lower in sugar and that I feel great about eating or recommending. Where do I begin on the problems with most protein bars? Usually, they have too much added sugar. If they aren’t too sweet, then they are usually sweetened with artificial sweeteners. For women who are trying to conceive or pregnant, artificial sweeteners aren’t a great choice, as they have been associated with increased risk for preterm labor. Not to mention the fact that artificial sweeteners likely only fuel our sweet tooth. The only sweetness in these bars comes from 6 dates. That’s right 6 dates in the whole recipe. I was skeptical they would taste good enough, but cashews have some natural sweetness to them such that 6 dates really are enough.
I’ve experimented a lot with making bars over the years, and it can be quite difficult to make a protein bar that has enough protein to make it a filling snack. Most nut-based bars end up high in fat, which provides some satiety, but usually not enough protein. These Cashew Coconut Collagen bars use collagen for the majority of the protein, but also have some protein from cashews and chia seeds. They have 11 grams of protein, which is decent as I think 10 grams of protein as a reasonable target to shoot for for a snack. It’s important to note that collagen is rich in the amino acids glycine and proline and seems to benefit joint and skin health. You can also get collagen from bone broth, or you can add collagen powder to soups and beverages to receive these benefits. Having a higher protein bar also helps promote satiety, and collagen has very little flavor and is great for this purpose. Collagen does lack essential amino acids like cysteine and tryptophan. Because of this nutrient profile, you shouldn’t rely on collagen as a major protein source due to the lack essential amino acids.
The other thing that I love about these bars is that they’re easy. With a 1-year old at my feet, all I need to do is put all the ingredients into the food processor, blend, and press into a loaf pan, chill and cut up. Voila!
Cashew Coconut bars
Makes 8 bars
Adapted from Cashew Cookie Energy Bars on bitesbymia.com
Please note that I do not recommend making a double recipe as I have found it to be too many ingredients in the food processor, such that the ingredients don’t mix well enough. If you want to double the recipe, you need to process each batch separately.
1¼ cups cashews
⅓ cup shredded coconut or unsweetened coconut chips
6 scoops collagen peptides (I use Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides, but if you’re using another brand, use 60 grams)
6 dates (deglet noor or sun dates, not medjool)
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp unrefined coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp water
Place all ingredients except the water into the food processor. Process until pulverized. Add water and process until mixture starts to stick together. If mixture isn’t sticking together well, add an additional teaspoon of water until it does. You shouldn’t need more than 1 tbsp water. If you add too much water, the bars will become too sticky. Press mixture into a loaf pan. (1 have 2 different loaf pans I use. One is 9 x 5.25 inches. The other is 8.5 x 4.5 inches. They both work great.) Chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes before cutting. Store in the refrigerator. You can also store at room temperature in an airtight container, but they will be considerably softer and can get somewhat messy.
Enjoy! Let me know if you make this recipe. There are definitely variations you can do from the base recipe. I have subbed in hazelnuts when I didn’t have quite enough cashews, and that was delicious!
Nutrition info per bar: 179 calories, 11 grams protein, 11 grams fat, 10 grams carbs, 2 grams fiber.