Pre-oven bars

Coconut Apricot Breakfast Bars with Oats and Nuts

May 19, 2017
Coconut Apricot Breakfast Bars

These delicately sweet coconut and apricot-flavoured bars are the perfect healthy snack to grab before a workout or when that mid-afternoon slump hits. Think of them as a bowl of oats you can grab on the go, like a healthier and more nutrient dense version of Quaker's Oatmeal-to-Go bars. I store them in my freezer for an on-the-go breakfast before my easy morning runs. These bars contain no added sugar or oil, and are naturally sweet with hints of apricot, toasted coconut and banana, giving them a tropical flair. The almonds and cashews add a nice nutty flavour as well as a crunch, especially if you choose a roasted variety. I do generally prefer less flavourful foods before runs, as I find them to be easier on the stomach. However, if you wanted to increase the proportion of rapidly available carbohydrate or would simply like a sweeter bar, you could add a dash or two of maple syrup to the dough before baking. These bars provide a nice balance of carbs, fat, fiber and protein to help fuel you through your day and keep you feeling satisfied.

As some of you may know, I'm running a half marathon in Ottawa at the end of the month.I have running on the brain right now, so I'm going to go a bit into specifics about how I fuel for my runs and races. (If you have no interest in fueling for endurance sports, then feel free to skip to the recipe.) My nutrition strategy differs depending on the intensity of the run or workout I'm doing. Immediately before an easy run, I will generally choose a smaller portioned snack with a balance of carbohydrates, protein and fat. For example, if I am easy running in the morning before work, I will eat a good dinner the night before and then have a snack, a glass of water and a cup of coffee before hitting the trails. Once my run is over, I'll have my normal breakfast and, of course, more coffee. Nutrition science suggests that it is beneficial to have a balanced snack or meal, including carbs, protein and fat, prior to exercise1. Carbohydrates help to provide fuel for the working muscles while protein may help in decreasing muscle breakdown during intense activity. Fats can prevent you from feeling hungry during your workout and are vital for the absorption of certain vitamins. Thus, for an easy run, I will usually choose something, like these bars, with a good balance of protein, carbohydrate and fat. Alternatively, if I am doing a more intense workout or race, I will opt for something a bit different for a pre-workout meal or snack. Usually, depending on what I'm doing, this would be something with a higher proportion of readily available carbohydrate, with less fat and fiber. For a race, I would try to wake up a bit earlier and have a light, high carbohydrate meal, at least two hours before my race. For me this is almost always rice cereal, because it is gentle on my stomach and easily absorbed. I usually mix in a bunch of weird things like chia, carrots, ginger, protein powder, almond milk and cinnamon. If I'm feeling hungry,  I might also have a Larabar or an orange twenty minutes to half an hour before warm up, which will be about an hour before gun time. This might be a little too much fiber for some runners, but seems to work fine for me. I don't usually eat a huge dinner the night before races either, because it will often leave me feeling sick as well as nervous the next morning. Instead, I'll eat a normal to light dinner and increase my intake evenly over the course of the day. For race day, I would recommend experimenting with meals ahead of time by test driving them in workout. Try out different things to find out what agrees with your stomach best and gives you the most energy. Generally, different people have vastly different preferences for pre-race  meals, so it might require a bit of trial and error before you find something that works. Other ideas for things to try before your race could include, oatmeal with fruit, bagel with peanut butter and honey, quinoa or rice with stir fried veggies and tofu, baked potato with tofu and grilled vegetables or a hummus and veggies sandwich. In general, the closer your get to your start time, the less fat and fiber content you should aim for and the smaller the portion.

Apricots and cashews
Coconut

Total Time: 30 Makes: 12-18 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1/2 c + 2 Tbsp of dried apricots
  • 2 c rolled oats (GF if needed)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 c sliced almonds
  • 1 c chopped cashews
  • 1/4 c + 2 Tbsp unsweetened coconut

Optional

  • 1/4 c Maple Syrup
Set up of coconut apricot bars

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. In a food processor, pulse 1 cup of natural almonds and 1 cup of cashews until roughly chopped.
  3. Pour both types of nuts from the food processor into a mixing bowl, setting aside 1/4 cup of the mixed nuts in a smaller bowl.
  4. Process 2 ripe bananas and 1/2 cup of dried apricot in the food processor until smooth.
  5. Add 2 cups of rolled oats, a teaspoon of vanilla and a 1/4 teaspoon of salt.
  6. Process until the dough is well mixed. Some larger pieces of oats should remain in the dough.
  7. Now, pour the dough into the mixing bowl with the nuts and add the 1/4 c of unsweetened coconut. Stir with a wooden spoon until all of the ingredients are evenly incorporated.
  8. Line a rectangular 8 x 11 baking dish with parchment paper.
  9.  Pour the mixture from the mixing bowl into the baking dish, smoothing and spreading evenly as you go. You might need to use your hands and then a rolling pin or glass to really flatten it out.
  10. Once the bars have been flattened, coarsely chop the 2 tablespoons of dried apricot and sprinkle over top. Add the nuts you previously set aside as well as the extra 2 tablespoons of unsweetened coconut. Pat down with your hands to flatten.
  11. Bake at 350 F for 25 minutes.
  12. Then, remove carefully from oven and allow to cool before slicing into bars or squares.
  13. Once the bars have totally cooled, they can be stored in the freezer for up to 1 month.
Close up of coconut apricot bar

In other news, I'm actually up early writing this from a hammock in Mexico. I'm at the Hard Rock Cafe Hotel in Cancun, for a destination wedding. Best wishes to the lovely bride and groom!

I hope you enjoy the bars, let me know if you try them on Instagram or in the comments below. Or you can share your favourite go to meal for before races and tough workouts, I love to see what other people eat and do before races.

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