More-Healthy Energy Bars


These are great energy bars, with a nice profile of protein, fat, and carbs to provide energy and satiety.  They’re only appropriate for a low-carb diet if you eat them during exercise.  They have better ingredients and better nutrition than most anything you’ll find in the store, since those need to be shelf-stable instead of being nutritious.  Best of all, these are fairly low in sugar while still being quite tasty and they should have a fairly nice glycemic profile for energy both now and later.





1/4 c chia

1/2 c hemp seed hearts

1/4 c flax seeds


2 c “old-fashioned” oats

1/2 c coconut oil


1 c raisins


2 c pecans

1 c sunflower seeds (raw)

1 c pumpkin seeds (raw)

1 c cashews (raw)

1 c almonds (raw)


1 package silken tofu

2 T Kidsweet (or 4 T sugar)

3/4 t sea salt

1/2 t NuSalt

1/2 c honey



  1. In food processor, finely grind chia, hemp, and flax to a powder.  Set aside.
  2.  Toast all nuts and seeds in the oven at 350*F.   Pecans (usually not raw) take about 25 minutes, the rest about half an hour.  Allow to cool.
  3. Coarsely grind pumpkin and sunflower seeds, set aside.  Grind pecans, set aside.  Grind almonds and cashews.  (a large/powerful food processor might be able to handle them all at once).
  4. Drain tofu then mix it with the Kidsweet, honey, and salts.
  5.  Heat coconut oil in a pot, then add oats.  Stir until light brown and toasted.
  6.  Slowly combine all ingredients in food processor with one cup of water.  For a standard  power food processor, it’s probably two batches, with half of each step’s ingredients at a time.  For  a smoother texture bar, process longer.
  7.  Line a jelly roll pan with parchment and pour mixture (nearly a paste now) out onto parchment and spread evenly.  Bake at 350* for 40-50 minutes, until the top is becoming golden brown (the very edges will likely be dark).
  8.  Cool for a few minutes and cut into bars while still hot.  Remove parchment from pan and place directly on cooling rack.  Cool and package.

Yield: 20 bars.


Keep bars refrigerated until the day you’re going to use them.   For easy transport, wrap like a gift in wax paper and close with a small piece of masking tape.






Nutrition data (via MyFitnessPal):

Calories: 561

Carbs: 30g

Fat: 46g

Protein: 16g

Sugars: 8g

Sodium: 75mg


Bengali Masar Dal Recipe

[I’ll do some photos next time I make it]

This is the best-tasting food in the world, and it’s pretty easy to make, besides being really inexpensive and healthy for you.  The final consistency is approximately that of a homemade apple sauce, except it’s savory and served hot.

This takes about 45 minutes to cook.  There’s no separate prep time if you’re working on one step as the previous one is going.  If you’re going to serve this with rice, don’t forget to start the rice cooker before you start this recipe.

Ingredients, Step 1:

  • 7 1/2 cups water
  • 1 Anaheim chili
  • 2 Jalapeno chilies
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 1/2 cups red/pink lentils (masar dal)*

Start the water to boil on high.  Cut the stem end off of the chilies.  For a milder taste, scrape the seeds out.  Dice or puree them.  Put the chilies, turmeric, and salt in the water as soon as possible and bring everything to a boil.  Set the timer for 30 minutes and add the lentils.  Return to a boil, then reduce heat to “medium” (~7000 BTU on my stove). Stir with increasing frequency to keep them from sticking to the bottom of the pot.

  • apparently some brands of lentils come with small stones in them.  I haven’t found this to be true with any of the lentils I’ve bought, but keep it in mind.  Fortunately, small stones probably aren’t pink, so they should be easy to see.  Most recipes call for washing and sorting the lentils, but I always skip that step.

Ingredients, Step 2:

  • 2-3 oz cooking oil (organic canola / extra virgin olive blend is good), depending on pan size
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 14oz can diced tomatoes

Start the oil heating in a large flat-bottomed pan while you dice the onion.  When the oil is hot, add the onion and cook on medium-high heat until the onions begin to brown on the edges.  Add the ginger.  Cook until the ginger stops sizzling, then add the can of tomatoes.  Cook the mixture on medium heat until the oil has separated out of the mixture and the tomatoes are somewhat carmelized.  That should be just about at the 30 minute mark if your stove is like mine.  When the mixture is ready, stir it into the lentil pot.

Ingredients, Step 3:

  • 1 oz cooking oil
  • 1 tablespoon panch phoron (equal parts cumin, fennel, mustard, fenugreek, and black “onion” seeds)
  • 4 bay leaves (European, or 2 Indian-sized, crumbled)

Make sure the bottom of this pan is smooth.  If it has ridges (like a Circulon) the spices will get jammed up.  An omelet pan works great.   Pay attention to the heat.  You need to get the oil hot to fry the spices, but you do not want to burn these.  A little bit of smoke will signal when the spices are ready, and you have to dump them in the pot right away to prevent a burned flavor.   That said: add the panch phoron to the hot oil, fry until some of the seeds pop like popcorn, and then add the bay leaves.  Get the bay leaves down in the oil and fry until you first see smoke, them dump them in the pot and stir.

You want the lentils to cook with the tomato/onion mixture for at least five minutes, preferably ten, with the spices going in half way through.  But don’t let the lentils burn on the bottom of the pan for the sake of reaching a ten-minute mark – just turn off the heat and let them cool together if you need to.

This dish can be eaten straight (just a little bit scovie) or is great with basmathi rice.  It reheats easily and stores well for about a week.  Note, the bay leaves are not intended to be eaten but go ahead and crunch right through the other spices.

This recipe was adapted from Julie Shani’s Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking, which is an excellent cookbook.  Most of the recipes are easy to adapt to the tastes of your household.

If you can’t find any of the ingredients at your grocery story, any Asian or Indian store will have them.  Big Asian stores often have the best prices on all of these ingredients, including the produce.

Nutrition Information (Generated by

Per serving (recipe makes 8):

Calories: 272

Carbs: 26g

Fat: 15g

Protein: 10g

Sodium: 380mg

Sugar: 2g

Chocolate Shake Diet

What could sound more gimmicky than “The Chocolate Shake Diet”, right?  There’s all sorts of chocolate shake products – Slimfast, Carnation Instant Breakfast, and all kinds of more expensive options.  But they don’t work (at least not for me or many people I’ve talked to).  Why?  Look at this breakdown of the ingredients in Slimfast – yeah, 34 grams of sugar.  My daily target is 31 grams of sugar, and somehow many people don’t lose any weight consuming several times that on a diet.  But, hey, it doesn’t taste bad, does it?

OK, so then back to losing weight with a bit of scientifically sound nutrition instead.  I was inspired by some successes I saw and when I looked more closely, what I found was that the secret to those successes was a constant stream of protein, to avoid hunger.  Also important were simple rules, and ease of implementation of the diet.  I also saw that the diet programs that sell products especially geared for weight loss are extremely expensive.  The first rule of sales is to find the pain, right?  They see the desperate fatties coming and take full advantage of them.  Looking around, Americans need to start with losing fifty megatons of weight, and 70% of them are living paycheck to paycheck.  I have no wish to buy into such expensive programs myself and I thought I could do better.

So, I began researching various products, looking at what they were made of, what their nutritional properties were, etc.  Then I began cross-referencing the desired characteristics with commercially available products that were both sufficient and (relatively) affordable.  Then I narrowed them down by product reviews for quality, usability and taste.

So then, here is the diet in three easy steps:

  1. Consume 10 grams of quality protein one hour before every meal and whenever you have a craving for a snack.
  2. Consume 20 grams of quality protein once a day with a quality multivitamin as a meal replacement.
  3. Cut back on normal carbohydrate consumption by half.

That’s it.  A simple diet that will leave you never feeling hungry and consistently losing weight.  While drinking chocolate shakes.  Read on for details on each of those steps.

Pre-gaming Meals with Protein

The trick here is that if you have 10 grams of protein an hour before each meal, you won’t be as hungry when you eat the meal.  You will eat less without feeling hungry.  It’s no secret that every successful diet is ultimately about calorie restriction, but fighting Nature is a bitch, and it’s very hard to succeed if you’re hungry.

Now comes the part with product suggestions.  I’m recommending these because they work for me.  I’m still using them in my quest to de-lard myself and get my health under control.

First: BSN Syntha-6 Protein Powder.

Here are the things to like about it:

  • It’s a protein isolate.  The mixture is made from pure proteins with very few calories worth of product that we don’t need.
  • It has only 2g of sugar per full serving.  Some sugar is going to be inherent in any product that is derived from milk, but this manufacturer really gets it down.  That’s very important for your insulin response.  If you spike your insulin, you’re just going to be hungry again soon.  Don’t do that – you won’t get slim very fast that way!!!
  • It’s US-made.  I don’t want to be on a melamine diet, do you?
  • The protein mixture is a combination of fast, medium, and slow-digesting proteins.  This is really important as it helps stretch out the amount of time over which your body will digest the drink.  That helps keep you sated for longer.
  • It tastes really good.  I’m a fool for chocolate milkshakes, and, hey, this isn’t the real thing but I never recoil at the thought of this diet drink.
  • It mixes very easily with water.  Sure, it tastes better with milk.  But you’re trying to keep your calories down here.  Think.
  • It’s competitively priced. You can get cheaper stuff at Walmart, but the protein quality is not as good.  You can very easily spend more too.

Here’s what not to like about it:

  • Artificial sweeteners.  Yeah, I’m not down with it. I try to avoid these whenever I can.  I just couldn’t find a natural low-calorie sweetener (one of my other side projects, stay tuned…) in a product that had all of the other required properties.  Who knows, maybe I’ll manufacture one someday.  But in the meantime, I’m faced with a stark choice: what’s worse for me – using artificial sweeteners for a few months or being a lard-ass.  There’s not really a question in my mind.
  • Lack of disclosure.  The exact protein/amino acid ratios aren’t disclosed by the manufacturer.  Their website says they think people will rip them off if they say what’s in the protein mixture.  Hrm, maybe.   Other brands list theirs.  Again, I don’t like it but I think the trade-off is worth it.  And, empirically, it’s a good blend.

OK, then, product recommendation #2: Sundesa Blenderbottle with Blenderball

Really, these are fantastic.  It’s a plastic sports bottle with a surgical-grade stainless steel ball inside.  The lid screws on nicely, the ball mixes the drink with about 10 seconds of shaking, and it cleans up very easily.  This is important because you’re going to be cleaning the bottle 4-5 times a day.  The ball is smooth so it doesn’t scratch the bottle (you don’t want to drink plastic powder!).  The opening for drinking is smaller than the ball, so you don’t have to open it after shaking – just drink.

Get the 20oz size (I got the “macho” 28 oz size initially, and that’s silly for a half-cup of drink).  In fact, get three bottles so you can bring one or two with you when you go out.  If they had a 12-oz ‘mini’ size, I’d get that.


Take your favorite high-strength multi-vitamin once a day.  You can do it with your meal replacement, or as I often do, I find it easier to take one first thing in the morning.  Having all your essential nutrients covered is one way to avoid cravings.  I’m a big fan of the ‘Mens Maximum’ vitamin that’s been sold under WalMart’s OneSource brand and then most recently by BJ’s.  I see it’s missing from their website at the moment, but sometimes I see it at the store.  Get the best one you can find, and that doesn’t depend on having a high price.

OK, then, that’s the hardware, so here’s an example of how to use it:

  1. wake up time – get 10g of shake going first thing.  That’s a half scoop.  Usually I’ll do about half a cup of water for a thick shake.  You can adjust the water to your taste.  Take your vitamin with it.
  2. Weigh yourself.  Keep weighing yourself every day, several times a day, with your shoes on and without.  Get a feeling for how your weight fluctuates during the day as well as over time.  The feedback you’ll get from watching the numbers tick down over time is self-reinforcing as well.
  3. Have breakfast.  Do you normally have two pieces of French Toast?  Have one.  Enjoy your bacon.  Yes, enjoy your bacon.
  4. 10AM doldrums – you want some junk food.  No!  Have a half-scoop chocolate shake.  Yum, it’s a frikkin’ chocolate shake.
  5. Lunch time.  I find lunch to be the easiest meal to replace.  Take a full scoop in about a cup of water.  Go ahead, round it over.  Shake it up and enjoy.
  6. 2PM blues – half ounce shake.
  7. Sensible dinner.  Eat half the fries or spaghetti your fat-self would have.  Have at the meatballs.
  8. 11PM “I’m up too late and hungry”.  Go ahead, have a 10g shake.  There’s no caffeine in the mix, but if you’re very sensitive to theobromine then maybe you want to use a different flavor.  Click on the product image above and then look at the selection of flavors on Amazon’s page.  I don’t understand how another flavor could be better than chocolate, so I’m content to be boring and consistent here.  But, go ahead you wild person, you, experiment with other flavors.

So, what kind of results are you going to see here?  I’m down 16 pounds in 3 weeks.  I’m not sick of the effort at all at this point.  How much Syntha-6 are you going to have to buy?  I’m going through a bottle every two weeks.  Amazon has a subscription service to ship these once a month, but that doesn’t cut it for me.  I didn’t see a way to subscribe twice, so I’m paying the 5% premium to get these on demand.  (UPDATE: There’s now a 5 Pound option, in some flavors with an additional 10% savings per pound.  First delivery on the subscription is about two weeks after ordering, so you might want to order a 2.91lb unit without subscription and a 5lb unit with subscription at the same time).

Speaking of which, you do have Prime, right?  It’s ridiculously useful.  So, I need to lose about 50 pounds, and if my weight loss continues at about 5 pounds a week, that’s $150 I’m going to have to spend on this product.  That’s such a good value for me, that I simply can’t complain.  If it takes twice as long, I’m still going to be a happy camper.  A happy, 190lb camper.

Lastly, I’ll note, Syntha-6 isn’t sold as a weight-loss product.  In fact, its primary purpose is for body builders to get extra protein for adding weight, of the muscle variety.  Are these two goals in conflict?  Not really – they both speak to the quality of the protein in the product, and it’s just that we’re using it here for a different goal.  When I get back to a reasonable weight and back to the weight room, I’m going to strongly consider continuing to use this product for its originally intended purpose.  In the meantime, I’m very happy with its results for this new use.

Have you tried this technique?  Leave a comment below with how well you did!