Chocolate Cranberry Larabar Hearts – a Healthy Valentine Treat Your Kids (and you!) Will LOVE!
It’s Valentines Week, which means it’s time to think up some fun and delicious healthy treats so my boys don’t think they’re missing out on the chocolate party. Because who wants to miss out on the party?!
Lucky for me, both my boys go to schools that don’t allow candy to be distributed on Valentine’s Day (or any day for that matter). Shouldn’t Valentine’s Day be more about sharing and kindess and love anyway? I look forward to the day when all schools ban unhealtlhy sugar from schools. I know my brain doesn’t focus very well after a candy bar, and I bet I’m not alone in that!
So to get our chocolate fix this week, along with serving my super yummy Chocolate Chia Avocado Pudding topped with strawberries and raspberries, I thought it would be fun to turn our usual Larabars into heart shaped treats for their lunchboxes.
We used to buy Larabars regularly, because they are real food, gluten-free, non-GMO bars that I feel great giving to my kids as snacks. But they aren’t cheap! And so our regular Larabar habit just wasn’t sustainable.
That is, until I tried my first homemade Larabars at my friend Lily’s house, and she passed along the recipe from Chocolate Covered Katie’s blog. I know I’m new at this picture taking thing, but I can’t wait until I can take photos that look like hers! Those bars look so delicious I want to eat the right off my computer screen! 😉
I suppose that’s the point! I quickly headed off to the Natural Grocer down the street to get my ingredients, and we’ve been hooked on homemade Larabars ever since! After those yummy Oatmeal-Raisin Cookie bars, I started changing up the ingredients to recreate our favaorite flavors. We love to make our version of the Blueberry Muffin, Lemon Bars and Almond Butter Cookie the best.
For Valentines, I wanted to add some chocolatey goodness to make them more of a treat than our usual fruit and nut combinations.
In these Chocolate Cranberry Larabar Hearts, there is so much goodness you will feel really great letting your kids snack on these!
First, we have cashews and walnuts. Cashews are full of heart healthy essential fatty acids, which help lower LDL cholesterol. They are rich in the mineral copper, which is great for healthy hair and skin (collagen production!), and they are magnesium rich for strong, healthy bones. With 2/3 of Americans deficient in magnesium, I’m always looking for ways to get more of this important mineral. Cashews are also beneficial in preventing gallstones.
Walnuts are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants, are rich in B-Vitamins for glowing skin and hair, and have been shown to improve fertility and keep dementia at bay. Both nuts have cancer preventing nutrients as well. And contrary to what most believe, both nuts are beneficial for weight loss. As long as portions are controlled, the fat, protein and fiber combination provide important satiety cues that many on weight loss programs miss out on.
Dates are the natural sweetener for most Larabars, and the added health benefits are impressive. Dates are a wonderful source of dietary fiber, which helps with constipation, intestinal disorders, and even binds to cancer causing chemicals in the colon. Dates are rich in vitamins and minerals, including iron, potassium, calcium, manganese, copper and magnesium. The nutrients in dates have been shown to help with energy levels, nervous system fucntioning, bone strengthening, anemia and even seasonal allergies. Doesn’t that sound a lot better than the sugar found in most candy bars that INCREASE the risk of all of these things?!
Cacao Powder is a great source of calcium, zinc, iron, copper and potassium. Cacao also contains more antioxidant flavonoids than red wine, green tea and blueberries. I use Navitas Naturals Cacao Powder, It’s unprocessed, certified organic, raw, vegan cacao, and is another incredibly rich supply of magnesium.
You could add Chocolate Chips for extra chocolatey goodness, but with the dates and the cacao, my boys love their “chocolate” bars! If you do go that route, I wouldn’t add more than a 1/4C. If you’re looking for a brand that is free of all the common allergens, Enjoy Life is my preffered brand.
Dried Cranberries (be sure to purchase cranberries with no sugar added) are antioxidant rich and therefore beneficial in reducing inflammation, and are excellent for urinary tract and bladder infections.
Cinnamon regulates blood sugar, reduces cholesterol, is showing effectivieness in decreasing cancer cells and improving arthritis pain, is effective for menstrual pain and infertility, and is a natural food preservative.
Vanilla is a delicious addition to many sweet treats, and is shown to alleviate anxiety and stress and help regulate menstruation.
Finally, for the fun of our Valentine’s heart theme, I’ve added the nutrient powerhouse, Hemp Hearts. I use Nutiva Organic Hemp Hearts, which are cold processed straight from raw, live hemp seeds. Hemp hearts are a superfood containing 33% protein, which means they are one of the most significant sources of plant protein that exists. By adding Hemp Hearts, we’ve just turned this snack into a protein packed super snack!
Hemp Hearts are also a good source of omega-3 essential fatty acids, along with iron, vitamin E and GLA (gamma-linolenic acid), an Omega-6 fatty acid. Omega 3 fatty acids are important for our brains, skin, joints and heart, while Omega 6’s like GLA are beneficial to hair, skin and bone health, as well as our metabolism. Our bodies cannot make them on their own, which is why it’s so important we get them from good sources in our diet.
And that’s a whole lot of goodness right there! 🙂
Now that you have the nutritional scoop, here’s the recipe:
- In your food processor, mix everything together until a sticky, workable dough is formed.
- Shape into balls to form the dough, then press down until they are your desired thickness.
- Press down with a heart shaped cookie cutter, removing the excess and reworking into another ball of dough to repeat. I keep a bowl with water next to me, as I find that a touch of water on my hands helps this process.
- Store in refridgerator and enjoy!
Of course, you could add Chocolate Chips for extra chocolatey goodness, but with the dates and the cacao, my boys call these chocolate bars! 🙂
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