Ever since the transition to Junior Kindergarten happened at our house, I have been looking for a "go-to" list of no-nut homemade snacks to send in lunch boxes to school. Fortunately, none of my family members (or even extended family members) have severe dietary allergies, but I am getting a fairly good idea now at how challenging, frustrating, time-consuming, and energy-draining it must be to have a nut-allergy (or any dietary allergy for that matter!) Mercy! I feel your pain people!
My search this week ended up with me whipping up a simply delicious, very quick and easy recipe that checked off every box on my top 10 list of criteria to fulfill when searching for snack recipes to make for school lunches! AWESOME!
Here are my top 10 criteria for making homemade snack recipes!
- Delicious: DONE! These taste similar to cookie dough. Check!
- Nutrient-rich: Read on to see why this RD mom is happy. Check!
- Nut-free: School safe. Check!
- No bake: Save on our monthly Union Gas bill! Check!
- Quick and easy to make: Less time in kitchen and more time with family. Check!
- Uses "normal" ingredients: You have them in your cupboard right now. Check!
- Miniature size: Portion control for us all. Check!
- Minimal dishes to clean: LOVE to use my food processor for this reason. Check!
- Keeps well: Make them once and use all week long. Check!
- Packable: Easy to pack for your planned snacks with the kids on the go. Check!
And they LOOK delicious enough that my son begs to eat one while I am taking photos. Don't forget that we eat with our eyes before we eat with our stomach, so visually appealing food is an added bonus to spark your tastebuds, as well as your children's.
Still need more reasons to try this recipe?! How about trying the nutrient-rich and health-promoting sunflower seed butter!
Here's the dish on this no-nut butter.
Sunflower Seed Butter
We don't usually talk too much about the nut-butter alternatives, like sunflower seed butter, but they are just as jam-packed with nutrition as their nutty counterparts.
Per 1 Tbsp of natural sunflower seed butter vs. natural peanut butter, here are the stats (1)
SUNFLOWER BUTTER PEANUT BUTTER
- Calories (kcal) 85 Calories (kcal) 100
- Fat (g) 7 Fat (g) 8
- Carbohydrate (g) 4 g Carbohydrate (g) 3
- Protein (g) 3 Protein (g) 4
So, there is essentially no difference between the macronutrients (fat/carb/protein) of the two. However, when we dig down a little deeper, we see that sunflower seed butter has more bang for our buck in terms of the sub classification of the macronutrients, as well as its vitamin and mineral content.
Nutrient analysis of these two butters shows us that sunflower seed butter has less saturated fat (we want to minimize our intake of this fat), and more monounsaturated fat (heart healthy fat), as well as more magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, iron, manganese, vitamin E, and selenium than peanut butter (2).
And we certainly cannot forget that both nuts and seeds are rich sources of phytosterols, or plant sterols, which have the super-power to block the absorption of cholesterol from the food we eat and lower our blood cholesterol levels, as well as decrease the risk of certain types of cancer and boost our immune function. And just when thought it couldn't get any better for the mighty sunflower seed, we also know that they have the third highest concentration of phytosterols, second only to wheat germ and sesame seeds. (3)
You know what that means, make room in the fridge for your sunflower seed butter, (right next to the peanut butter and almond butter of course!)
Nut-free Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Energy Bites
Adapted from theprettybee.com
- 1 cup small flakes oats
- 3/4 cup regular Cheerios
- 1/3 cup maple syrup (the REAL stuff, not that fake table syrup folks!)
- 1/2 cup sunflower seed butter (I used the "Nuts to you Nut Butter" brand)
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips
- Place the oats and Cheerios into a food processor and pulse until they are coarsely ground up.
- Add the maple syrup and sunflower seed butter and pulse until a thick dough forms.
- Stop the food processor. Stir in chocolate chips.
- Use your hands to roll the dough out into 14 little balls.
- Place in an air-tight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 7 days for optimal freshness.
And, being a geeky dietitian of course, when I plugged in the ingredients into the easy-to-use recipe analyzer from Dietitians of Canada called "eaTracker", this is what I got!
Nutritional analysis per one energy-bite:
- Calories (kcal) 123
- Fat (g) 6.7 (healthy fats from the sunflower seed butter)
- Carbohydrate (g) 16.5 (which includes 1.2 grams of fibre and 7.7 grams sugar = 2 tsp mostly added sugar)
- Protein (g) 3.4
So there you have it my friends. Another recipe to add to your lunchbox-approved list and perhaps a new ingredient to add to your regular shopping list.
Have a good one,
- USDA Nutrient Database. Accessed November 11, 2016 at https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/.
- Gorrepati K, Balasubramanian S, Chandra P. Plant based butters. Food Sci Technol. 2015 Jul;52(7):3965-76. Click here for abstract.
- Phillips KM, Ruggio DM, Ashraf-Khorassani M. Phytosterol composition of nuts and seeds commonly consumed in the United States. J Agric Food Chem. 2005 Nov 30;53(24):9436-45. Click here for abstract.