With the definition of treats being “anything that affords much pleasure”, what’s not to love about them? Treats have always been a part of the human experience and have been used for a variety of reasons including celebrating special occasions, a reward for a job well done or even as consolation for something lost.
However, we often try to limit our treats as they are usually considered unhealthy tending to be processed foods which are high in calories with little nutritional value. In addition, they can contain high levels of added sugar, sodium and fat. In some ways, this “unhealthy” aspect of a treat seems to contradict their intended purpose which is ultimately to make us feel good. Although the pleasure a treat can provide is irrefutable, it is interesting to consider whether treats need these less than healthy ingredients to wield this benefit.
The difference between a snack and a treat
I recently came across an article by registered dietitian Cara Rosenbloom entitled “Do you know the difference between a snack and a treat”? which outlines these differences and asserts that “small quantities of treats can be part of a healthy diet, but they should not be confused with nourishing snacks.”
According to Rosenbloom, snacks are generally considered “mini-meals” which help sustain and nourish the body. They can serve to boost mood and energy levels, stabilize blood sugars and sustain feelings of fullness to prevent overeating at the next meal. Some of the suggestions for nutritious snacks include fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and dates.
Can treats be healthy and nutritious too?
My feeling is that, based on whole foods, plant-based eating (WFPB), a treat can also be as healthy and nutritious as a snack. A good example is these Triple Layer Tahini Bars. If you consider the ingredient list, as with many WFPB treats, the main ingredients are nuts, seeds, dates and, in this instance, cacao powder. These ingredients closely resemble the foods listed in Rosenbloom’s definition of a healthy and nutritious snack.
Recipe for Triple Layer Tahini Bars
This particular recipe was inspired by Deliciously Ella and there is flexibility in creating these bars depending on your preferences. If you are not a fan of tahini, I have included an option for a sweeter, caramel middle layer. Also, even though the chocolate is made from scratch using cacao powder, it can be replaced with a 100g chocolate bar of your choice. I made 16 squares with this recipe but again, size can be adjusted as needed.
- 200 g ground almonds
- 10 pitted Medjool dates
- 2 tbsp smooth peanut butter
- pinch of salt
- 5 tbsp melted coconut oil
- 4 tbsps cacao powder
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 5 pitted Medjool dates
- 115 g tahini
- 1 tbsp peanut butter
- 3 tbsp melted coconut oil
- pinch of salt
- 7 pitted Medjool dates
- 3 tbsps almond milk
- 3 tbsps almond butter
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tsp coconut oil
- Line an 8″ x 8″ baking tin with parchment paper.
- For the base, place the almonds, dates, peanut butter and salt in a food processor and pulse until the mixture sticks together. Press it evenly into the prepared tin and place in freezer while making the middle layer.
- For Tahini middle, warm the coconut oil, dates and tahini on low heat until blended and then pulse in food processor until smooth.
- For caramel middle, blend the dates, almond milk, almond butter, maple syrup and coconut oil in a food processor until smooth.
- Spread the middle layer evenly over the base. If using the tahini middle, return to the freezer for up to an hour to set or if using the caramel layer, only about 15 minutes is usually needed.
- For the top layer, warm coconut oil over low heat until melted and then combine with cacao powder and maple syrup.
- Once the middle layer has set, pour over the chocolate topping and place in fridge for at least 2 hours until ready to serve.
Even though a lot of the WFPB treats contain healthy and nutritious ingredients, they still need to be consumed in moderation especially if they are part of a weight loss plan. However, there is no doubt in my mind that all treats are not created equal so next time you are looking for food to treat yourself, why not give one of these healthy and nutritious WFPB treats a try?