Fuel for New Year’s Resolutions – Tropical Caramel Cashew Energy Bars

If you’re like most New Year’s resolution makers, there’s a good chance you pledged to better your health through diet and exercise. Starting a new fitness routine and eating “clean” are two of the most popular undertakings this time of year; just look at the January crowds in the gym and line at the salad bar. Unfortunately, a 2012 study conducted by the University of Scranton revealed that while 75% of people keep their resolutions for at least a week, nearly half (46%) fall off the wagon of good intentions within six months. And, by the year end, only a mere 8% of us can say we stayed stuck it out.

Get motivated by working out with friends.” Get motivated by working out with friends.

 

But, always an optimist, I want everyone to reach their goals! I think setting practical, attainable resolutions and staying motivated is the key to success. And, if you succeed with modest goals one year, you’re likely to succeed with grander goals the next year – and, viola, suddenly you wake up one morning and those once-avoided healthy behaviors, like taking a predawn run and ditching the drive-thru for an egg-white omelet, seem completely, 100%  normal. But, even folks who have been living a healthy lifestyle for years (myself included) aren’t immune to the occasional case of I-don’t-want-to-do-it-itis. As the daylight hours get shorter and the weather gets colder, I sometimes find myself making all sorts of excuses not to exercise – I just want to pack on some fat and hibernate!

Ingredients Ingredients

 

Thank goodness, I can usually pull myself out of this winter fitness funk with a motivational tactic or two. Arranging for a friend to meet me for a social run or a joining a new group class (Prancercise, anyone?) reminds me of all the fun and support that can be found in the fitness community. Also, trying out the latest workout gear always gets me back on track, literally – oh, the thrill of a shiny new pair of running shoes! However, the biggest motivator for me is eating yummy things; I do consider myself a fit foodie after all! So, yes, food motivates me to exercise; it’s a positively correlated relationship in my eyes. The more I exercise, the more food is needed to fuel my performance and help aid in recovery.  Since I know “I am what I eat,” I try to keep my focus on healthy food choices that still taste heavenly. One of my go-to snacks is an energy, granola or protein bar – most pack a nice combo of healthy fats, carbs and protein which is exactly what I need to feel an perform my best. While buying bars at the grocery store is fine (read labels to know what you’re getting), I prefer to take a few extra minutes to whip up my own. I can control the ingredients and portion size to suit my individual needs as well as tinker around with new flavor profiles.

Mixing Bowl Mixing Bowl

 

Talk about motivation - a recent island-inspired flavor combo I created will make working out in cold weather well worth the effort.  One bite and my Tropical Caramel Cashew Energy Bars will whisk your taste buds away to a land where palm trees sway. Pineapple, mango, cashews and coconut co-mingle with oats and hemp seed while smooth, creamy caramel keeps the whole flavor explosion intact. Depending on your dietary needs, use one of the several brands of caramel from Litehouse Foods such as Old-Fashioned Caramel Dip and Low-Fat Caramel Dip.

Cashew Caramel Energy Bars on Parchment Cashew Caramel Energy Bars on Parchment

 

As you read through the ingredient list, you may be wondering about the hemp seeds. Raw, shelled hemp seed is a “super food” that contains the entire chain of essential amino acids – this makes it a complete protein source and excellent option for vegetarians.  Comprised of 33% protein; hemp seed is also a good source of essential fatty acids, magnesium, iron, potassium, fiber, and loads of antioxidants. If you use Low-Fat Caramel Dip and cut the bars into the recommended 24 servings, each bar has 188 calories, 8 grams of total fat, and 24 grams total carbohydrate (including 2 grams dietary fiber) and almost 5 grams of protein. Enjoy!

Tropical Caramel Cashew Energy Bars Tropical Caramel Cashew Energy Bars

 

Tropical Caramel Cashew Energy Bars

Serves 24 | Finish in 1 hour 15 minutes
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Get motivated to keep your New Year’s health and fitness resolutions with a tasty reward – Tropical Caramel Cashew Energy Bars. This easy recipe is a great “to-go” snack that will fuel your workouts and help your muscles recover afterward.

Ingredients

2 cups old-fashioned oats (gluten free if needed),
1 cup raw shelled hemp seed,
1 cup coarsely chopped raw cashews,
½ cup coarsely chopped dried pineapple,
1/2 cup coarsely chopped dried mango,
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut,
1/2 tsp salt,
1 ¼ cup Litehouse Food Low-Fat Caramel Dip (or may substitute Old-Fashioned Caramel),

Directions

1) Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9×13 inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on the ends for easy removal and cleanup. Spray parchment paper with baking spray.

2) In a large bowl, stir together the oats, hemp seed, cashews, pineapple, mango, coconut and salt.

3) Heat caramel dip in microwave for 1 minute on high power. Pour warmed caramel into oat mixture and stir well to combine.

4) Spread mixture evenly into prepared pan and press down firmly with spatula to pack mixture down.

5) Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and immediately use the back of drinking glass to press down on bars while they are still soft. Let cool in pan for approximately 30 minutes or until firming up.

6) Lift bars out of pan using edges of parchment. Cut into 24 bars using a very sharp knife. Store bars in an air-tight container.


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