The Candy Bar Alternative

The more I learn about sugar and how my body processes the stuff, the less I worry about the particular source–be it low glycemic coconut sugar or the demonized high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

I definitely don’t go out of my way to eat products containing HFCS. I don’t keep it in my kitchen or cook with it, but I agree with the Nutrition Diva on this one.

We should be less concerned with the form sugar takes and more concerned about the quantity. Excessive consumption seems to be the American Way. I wrote about recommended levels of sugar intake in a previous postAll sweeteners should be consumed in moderation.

That said, there’s a ginormous difference between a homemade treat and a Snicker’s Bar.


This candy bar contains almost three-quarters of the recommended maximum amount of sugar for a teenage boy!


Definitely not real. Highly processed and not something I could make in my own kitchen. Not to mention a rather alarming amount of sugar.  I definitely wouldn’t send one with my teenager for quick energy before after school sports.

No calorie counting here!

No calorie counting here!

The question then is what can be sent that is easily portable, real and sweet enough to appeal to a teenage boy more concerned with taste than nutrition.

The inspiration for one of the sweet treats that can be commonly found in my son’s backpack came from a vegan cookbook I found at Costco. The Forks Over Knives Cookbook has an awesome dessert section and, with a couple of improvisations, the following recipe was born…

A Better Granola Bar

  • 1/2 cup peanut or almond butter
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup brown rice syrup (or honey)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract (can use all vanilla)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8-1/4 cup uncooked millet
  • 2 cups whole rolled oats (not the quick kind)

Line the bottom of an 8×8″ pan with foil that extends up the sides. Lightly grease with cooking spray.

Heat nut butter and sweeteners together in a bowl in the microwave–just enough to mix easily, then stir together until smooth.

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and almond extract, cinnamon and salt.

In a large bowl mix oats and millet with the syrup mixture. Stir well until oats are evenly coated. Use wet hands or the back of a wet spatula (water will keep it from sticking) to very firmly and evenly press the mixture into the prepared pan.

Bake at 350 for approximately 15 minutes–or until the edges look a bit browned. Cool to room temperature, remove from pan, remove foil and place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes before cutting with large kitchen knife (pressing straight down for a clean cut) into 8 equal rectangles.


To make it even more decadent, add 1/3 cup chocolate chips to the oat mixture before pressing into pan. Try chopped, dried apricots, toasted and roughly chopped almonds or whatever else appeals to you.

Perfect for packing! Only 3 teaspoons of sugar per bar.


Selling Soda at School: Is It Legal?

Last February my son’s school had a fundraiser on Valentines Day. Called “A Crush for a Crush”, students had the option to purchase an Orange Crush to send to another student for a mere $1.

Cute, huh?

But technically illegal. Ed Code SB 965 specifically outlines what kinds of drinks can or cannot be sold on K through 12 campuses, and soft drinks are definitely NOT on the list of approved beverages.

Yesterday I attended my son’s middle school track meet. It was a beautiful day–but warm for this time of year. I was thirsty. As I walked past the school snack bar on my way to the drinking fountain, I happened to notice that the parent club was selling candy and soda.

Having read the school wellness policy, I know that these items cannot be sold on campus during the school day. Just out of curiosity I asked a couple of my son’s teachers/track coaches if they were aware of the policy.

They were not. In fact, they seemed rather surprised. And, truth be told, I’m not quite sure they believed me. One of the coaches even asked me why.

Here’s a solid answer to his question from the Center for Science in the Public Interest:

Students buy and consume fewer unhealthy snack foods and beverages when there are
school policies in place to prohibit or restrict the sale of these items in school.

Selling low-nutrition foods in schools sends children the message that good nutrition is
not important and conflicts with what children learn in nutrition education. 

• Selling junk foods and sugary drinks in vending machines and a la carte lines undermines the recent efforts schools across the country have made to offer healthier school meals.

• It is shortsighted to supplement school budgets at the expense of our children’s health.
In the long run, we are sure to spend more on diet-related health-care costs than we
can raise by selling sugary beverages and junk foods in schools.

• Many assume that schools will lose money if they replace junk foods and sugary drinks
with healthier foods and beverages. Research and case studies from schools across the
country show that this is not the case.

I later spoke with the district superintendent who assured me that this problem will be addressed. Most likely during the next school year.

Check out the legislation for yourself. SB 965 addresses beverages and SB 12 details the requirements for foods sold outside of school provided meals.

If you live outside California, here’s a link to the National Association of State Boards of Education to find out how your state deals with vending machine and other food/beverage sales at school.

Does your child’s school have a wellness policy? Tell us if you’ve read it.

If you have personal experience/knowledge about what type of food and beverages are sold at schools in your area, please share it with us here.

The policies/laws are changing. Slowly. These changes are long overdue. It’s time to get the word out so there can be some oversight. Parents, teachers, food service workers and administrators need to work together. We all share common goals of improving the quality of the food and drink our children consume while at school and protecting their health in the long run.

A+ for apples.

A+ for apples.