Homemade Fig Bars

An important skill when grocery shopping is reading and interpreting food labels. On the side of the box you’ll learn what constitutes a serving size, how many calories are in the serving, the amount of fat and the ingredients in that food. The nutrition label is there to educate the consumer about what they’re buying.

However don’t rely on just the information presented on the top numbers section to give you all the details you need. One of the most startling examples is the listing of trans fat. Pick up a package of Fig Newtons and read the top part of the label - 0 grams trans fat. You smile as you add the product to your shopping cart, thinking that you made a healthy choice and your family is eating a nutritious snack made with “real fruit”. If you read the list of ingredients, you would have seen partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil on the label. Partially hydrogenated oils are trans fats, the stuff your doctor warns you to stay clear off. The effects of trans fat in the diet are staggering, Alzheimer's, cancer, diabetes,heart disease and the list continues. So how can a food contain partially hydrogenated oil and still show zero grams of trans fat? Simple rounding. If a food has less than 0.5 grams of trans fat then it can be labeled as zero grams. If you ate four cookies (double the listed serving size) you consumed at least one gram of trans fat.

Trans fat can be hiding in boxes of your favorite baked goods. Food manufactures of cookies, pies and donuts use it for its chemical nature and ease of use. Foods with trans fats are less prevalent today than they were three to four years ago, but it is still necessary to read the list of ingredients.

A few weeks ago I emailed a triathlete friend who was using Fig Newtons as his source of fuel on long rides. I knew that he was accumulating some serious miles and therefore large amounts of Fig Newtons. I sent him an email suggesting he reconsider his fueling choice. Like many, he was unaware of the harm he was causing to his body.

Here’s a homemade Fig Newton recipe minus the trans fat and high fructose corn syrup. They are perfect for training nutrition or in school lunch boxes.

Homemade Fig Bars

  • 1 cup roughly chopped dried figs, stems removed
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Place the figs in a small bowl, cover with hot water, and soak for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove the figs from the water with a slotted spoon and place in the bowl of a food processor.
  4. Add the honey and 1 tablespoon of the soaking liquid. Puree until smooth and spreadable.
  5. Cream together the butter and sugar for 2 minutes, or until smooth, using a hand mixer.
  6. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until incorporated.
  7. Add the flour and mix until a dough forms.
  8. Roll dough between two pieces of parchment paper into two 12 x 4 inch rectangles.
  9. Spread the fig mixture on one half of each rectangle - spreading up the 12-inch side and leaving a 1/4-1/2 inch border.
  10. Fold the dough over on top of itself and gently press the dough together at the edges.
  11. Cut each log into 10 cookies and transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  12. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until golden.

Source: www.weelicious.com

Originally published in the West Hartford Fleet Feet newsletter, "The Extra Mile" (August 28, 2012, Issue #111)