Back to School Snacks: Banana Oat Bars (For Kids & Adults!)

August 23, 2013

A lot of my patients who are parents ask me for ideas of snacks for their kids.  Since these foods are often packed for lunch or eaten on the go, convenience is a considered factor.  Unfortunately, most convenient snacks are processed experiments disguised as food.  Scientists work hard to make them highly palatable, usually by playing to our preferences for fat, salt, and sweet flavors.   In order to cheaply make a lot of product that has a long shelf life, inferior ingredients are chosen then enhanced by sugar/salt/fat until they taste so good we can’t help but to crave more.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, each organ system has a corresponding flavor.  For example, the heart’s associated flavor is bitter, and the spleen’s flavor is sweet.  One must eat the right balance of the 5 flavors (bitter, sweet, acrid, salty, sour) in order to nourish each organ system.  Eating too much of 1 flavor or not enough of another flavor can create an internal imbalance.  So, it’s not that “sweet” is bad.  But too much concentrated sweet, for example, can damage the spleen.

The proper way to eat sugar is when it’s consumed in its “protective gear,” the way Mother Nature packaged it.  Dates, for instance, have sugar.  But they also have nutritional benefit in the form of vitamins, nutrients, and fiber.  When we eat food that is nutrient dense – even if it contains sugar (or fat) – we become nourished.  A nourished body is satiated, has less cravings, less swings, less dips.

Dr. Joel Fuhrman, M.D. developed the term “nutritarian” to reflect this way of eating which he describes in his book Eat to Live.  Processed foods are stripped of so much of their beneficial nutrients, that we are still hungry after eating them. We may eat a lot, but our bodies remain undernourished.  Meanwhile we suffer the consequences of eating these inflammatory “foods.”  Stomach pain, GERD, bowel distress, joint pain, fatigue, foggy brain, etc.  Eating as a nutritarian, it really doesn’t matter if you’re a vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, flexetarian, paleo-enthusiast, or whatever.  The important part is the nutrient-density of your food.

I like this recipe from Eat to Live because it is sweet, but made with real, whole ingredients and their “protective gear” of nutrients.  It is also free from some of the major common allergens and irritants (wheat, dairy, soy, eggs).  It’s easy to make, and I think it tastes really yummy.  As with any flavor, sweets should be eaten as part of a well-balanced diet that includes all of the 5 flavors.

Banana Oat Bars

Recipe notes:  I use ½ cup of applesauce, but not the date sugar.  I fine the bars sweet and moist.  I also add a few shakes of sea salt.  Enjoy!

Do you have a favorite convenient snack that is whole food-based?  Please share your experiences!

I wish you and your families a smooth and healthy transition into the new school year.

In good health,


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