Update: since I’ve first posted this recipe, I’ve further cut down on the fat, subbed AP flour one-to-one for whole-wheat, and used granulated birch sugar instead of brown sugar.
You know the ‘How to have a bikini body’ meme right? I’m positive we shouldn’t stress so much about our physical appearances (at least lot less than the media would suggest anyway), but I also don’t want to be a hypocrite.
I do watch what I eat and work out regularly, not so much as to fit any mould but to respect my body by treating it right. At the same time I also allow myself the occasional indulgence which I think is necessary for balance in life, and those treats are the things I like to post about.
Today’s recipe is an in-between in the sense that it’s most definitely a dessert, but it’s way less bad for you and that beach bod of yours than the average sweet. That’s what I call a win-win! Read on for my healthier take on the classic jam shortbread bars.
Shortbread is one part white sugar, two parts butter and three parts flour. Here I have:
- substituted 2/3 of the flour with oats, nuts and protein powder
- swapped the butter for margarine and used less than 40% of the initial amount
- cut white sugar completely
- the jam was a naturally sweet, no-sugar-added (diabetic) fig spread
And believe it or not after all this messing around, it’s still amazing! Let’s see why altering the original recipe is good for you:
White flour is heavily processed, the most nutritional aspects of the grain like fiber, vitamins and minerals are stripped away. The downsides to it are an overall lack of nutrients, highly refined carbs and also the gluten if you have sensitivities.
Oats on the other hand are among the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat. They are packed with important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and are high in fiber and protein compared to other grains. Nearly all of the carbs in oats come from complex starches, which you digest slowly. Also, they are naturally gluten-free.
Nuts were walnuts in my case, but the recipe would work with almonds, pecans, hazelnuts or pistachios as well, so knock yourself out! They are nutritional powerhouses: complete packages of protein, heart-healthy fats, fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
I’ve been drinking protein shakes post-workout and just lately started replacing some of the flour with protein powder in baked goods. My favorite whey protein is gluten, lactose and also sugar-free, plus the vanilla flavor complements most sweets well. Work with a 1:3 conversion (that is 1/3 cup of protein powder for every 1 cup of flour).
Figs are a great source of fibre and they are full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants as well. They contain prebiotics, which help support the good bacteria in your gut. Moreover, their potassium content helps regulate the amount of sugar which is absorbed into your body. The natural sugar content of figs also allows you to cut further down on the amount of sweetener used in recipes. I made this with a sugar-free, thick plum preserve as well, if you want a more fall-ish taste.
On to the old debate: butter or margarine, as fats and calories in them are about the same. The cold hard truth is, the healthiest option would be to skip both. The problem with butter lies in saturated fat and cholesterol, while the main concern with margarine is trans fats, the result of hydrogenation. Experts suggest consuming monounsaturated fats whenever possible (olive oil uncooked or vegetable oil for cooking). When baking, use a hard stick of trans-fat-free margarine in place of butter but whichever you select, limit your overall consumption.
What I also love about this healthier take is the texture; how crunchy-crumbly it is thanks to the oats and nuts. Frankly, there’s still fructose (fruit sugar) and a fair amount of fat in these bars, but they are incomparable to the average jam shortbread square in nutritional value. If you want a guilt-free dessert, it won’t get any better than this!
And as with everything else, portion size is key!
Healthy Fig Crumble Bars
Healthier, crunchy-crumbly squares filled with a yummy sugar-free fig spread.
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats, fine
½ cup walnuts
1 cup whole-wheat flour
½ cup vanilla protein powder
1/4 cup granulated birch sugar (or other sugar alternative)
150 g (10 tbsp) cold margarine, cut to cubes
¼ tsp salt
1 tbsp baking powder
1 ½ cup diabetic fig preserves
- Preheat oven to 175°C (350°F), line a 22 by 22 cm (9×9”) baking dish with aluminium foil, covering the sides as well.
- In a food processor, pulse nuts until chopped but not too fine.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer equipped with the paddle attachment, mix oats, nuts, flour, protein powder, sugar, salt and baking powder for a few seconds until combined.
- Add margarine cubes one by one and mix until a coarse crumb of the size of peas forms and margarine is evenly distributed.
- With the back of a spoon, push 2/3 of the crumb mixture in bottom of tray. Bake until golden, about 20 min.
- Remove from the oven, spread preserves evenly on crust. Crumble remaining streusel on top.
- Transfer back to oven and bake until topping is golden, about 30 min.
- Remove from oven, let cool before slicing. Enjoy!
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