What Runners Eat – Cherry Cashew Bars

Every runner has a routine for how to fuel up before, during and after a workout. GUs, gels, Clif bars, shot bloks, bagels, bananas, oatmeal, coffee, copious amounts of peanut butter…an athlete’s fuel regimen is as unique as their stride. But what happens when you can’t eat most of the “performance foods” in the marketplace?

I have celiac disease, and have to avoid wheat. If you know anyone with gluten issues, you’re likely familiar with the fact that gluten sneaks into nearly every food that comes in a package. It’s cheap filler for food manufacturers, but for people like me, it’s physically crippling. One of the few convenience foods I can eat are Larabars.

Look at the package of any Larabar and you’ll see a simple list of real foods – nuts, dates, and perhaps another dried fruit for flavor. This is my kind of food – it has protein, fat and sugar from the dried fruit – nothing funny or unpronounceable. But at $1.29-$1.50 per bar, my grocery budget can’t afford for Larabars to be a daily treat. A couple of years ago, I set out to save a little money and make my own energy bars. I tested the first batch out on a hiking trip in Colorado. At 14,000 feet when my companions had run out of snacks, these little bars saved the day and gave us the energy to get back down the mountain safely. I’ve been hooked ever since.

If you frequent race expos, as so many of us do, you’ve probably seen the mini Larabar bites. They are a genius snack solution – two little bites of energy bar is enough to take the edge off an afternoon snack attack, without investing in the calories of eating a whole bar…because let’s face it – once you open that package, you’re eating the whole thing.

When you make your own energy bars, you can cut them in whatever size you like, wrap them in cling wrap and stash them in the fridge to keep them fresh. And for the low price of about $4, you can make the equivalent of about 14 Larabars – what a bargain! Did I mention that you can make a batch in less than 10 minutes?

Runners, it’s time to take performance foods into your own hands.

Runners, what’s your favorite pre and post-run fueling strategy? Share your training secrets in the comments…

Cherry Cashew Energy Bars
Makes approximately 14 bars (3×2”)
105 cal, 3.7g fat, 180mg potassium, 18g carbs, 2g fiber, 12g sugars, 1.7g protein

The recipe below is merely a guide. To experiment with your own flavors, use a 1:1 ratio of nuts to dried fruits, with dates being the largest proportion of the fruit – grate in a dash of lemon or orange zest if you’re feeling adventurous. Almonds, cashews and pecans work really well – if you want to use some peanuts, you’ll need to cut them with cashews or almonds, otherwise the bars will be too soft to hold together because of the higher amount of oil in peanuts. Cherry Pie Larabars are my favorite variety, so this is my version. I might be bragging a little, but I think these are even better than Lara’s.

1 cup of unsalted, toasted cashews
¾ cup of dried, pitted dates
¼ cup of dried tart cherries
1 pinch of kosher salt
¼ tsp ground cinnamon

Equipment: Parchment paper (or waxed paper), sheet pan, food processor, rubber spatula, paring knife, cling wrap

  1. Line a small sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside. Add add all ingredients to the bowl of a food processor. Process until the mixture is ground fairly fine, and just begins to clump up into a rough paste.
  2. Turn the paste onto the parchment paper, and use rubber spatula to smooth the paste into about 1/3″ thick sheet. Fold the parchment over the top of the bars, and use your fingers to press very firmly and evenly distribute the mixture to form nice, uniform bars.
  3. Stash the sheet pan in the fridge to cool for 30 minutes, then remove and cut into bars with a sharp paring knife. Individually wrap in cling wrap and store in the fridge to keep them fresh for a couple of weeks (if they last that long).

Note: If you feel like getting fancy, you can freshen up the flavor of the nuts by popping them into a 350 degree oven for 5 minutes. Be sure to let the nuts cool before you make the bars, otherwise you’ll be making homemade nut butter…which is a post for another day.


13 thoughts on “What Runners Eat – Cherry Cashew Bars

  1. There are terrific, Jenn! I used almonds instead of cashews (what I had on hand) and the flavor is terrific. I can see experimenting with the ingredients going forward.

    They were a bit crumblier than I anticipated while cutting, even though they were in the fridge a good 45-50 minutes. This made cutting and wrapping kind of tough. Next time I may throw them in the freezer so they get nice and hard. Maybe I didn’t press hard enough, either? I’ll experiment. Thanks for the fantastic recipe!

  2. Or – I just had a revelation as I was cleaning up. These don’t have to be bars, especially if the bars aren’t cooperating. I mushed all the little bits and pieces together into a couple blobs. They almost look like drop cookies before they go in the oven. They seem to be holding together pretty well, so this could be a good solution. 🙂

    • Yes, you do need to do some serious pressing with making the bars. Cashew ones hold together a bit better – there’s a little more fat in cashews and they’re a bit softer. Adding slightly more dates than nuts can help, too – dates are super sticky.

      Glad you liked them – I had one for my mid-run snack today – salty & sweet hit the spot! My current batch is 50% golden figs & 50% dates with cashews and a dash of lemon zest – amazing.

  3. Yes! I’ve been making my own for years, and generally add in a little ground flaxseed for the extra protein, fiber, and omega-3s. Or maybe some chocolate chips for a littel decadence!

    If you live near an Arabic grocery, you can also buy date paste, which is nice to use instead of the pitted dates. It’s a little easier to work with since it’s been mushed up.

    • Thank you – adding ground flax is a GENIUS addition – I’m going to add that to my next batch! I have bought date paste, and I love it – but it’s a bit of a trek to the Indian grocery to get it, so I end up using dates more often. Thank you for the fantastic tips!

  4. YES on the date paste! It makes life easier! I started making my own coconut date rolls after not wanting to pay a fortune for them pre-made. And then I experimented with, hmm, let me see if I can make a Larabar. I added cocoa powder to my mixture (along with chopped cashews), and it was exactly like the Larabar chocolate one. I’ll have to try the cherry one sometime. 🙂

  5. I made these with roasted almonds and pressed them into a loaf pan. Are they ever good! I just cut out dairy and sugar again and it’s so nice to have a quick snack. I think I’ll add some flax to the next batch too.

    • Thanks, Jodi! I am HOOKED on these bars too…and I’m trying to cut out sugar as well…they’re satisfying and so simple to make. I’m working on a new batch of banana ones and oven-drying the bananas myself. I’ll let you know how they turn out! Glad you like them!

  6. Jenn,
    Not for runners only….This recipe is a winner for my clients (and me) looking for a “grab and go” treat. It is easy to make and travels well. Thank you from all of us!

    • Thanks, Anita! I LOVE these little bars – they come together in about 5 minutes, and I keep a little tub of them in the fridge all the time for quick snacks. I hope you and your clients enjoy them!

  7. Pingback: Runners’ Bars | Discovering the Extraordinary

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