These healthy and delicious plant-based chocolate chip protein bars were created by Sweet Simple Vegan. Please find their video here on their awesome Youtube channel, and the recipe can be found here. These bars are a fun and satisfying grab and go breakfast idea. Oats have a low carbon footprint, which makes oatmeal one of the most planet-friendly breakfasts around (see the post on this site for Apple Oatmeal). This recipe uses whole rolled oats as well as oat flour, which you can either purchase or make in a high speed blender by spinning up some rolled oats. Healthy fat is supplied by almond butter (there is no oil or butter in the recipe). Chia, flax, and hemp seeds add nutrition, but the bars taste like a treat due to the combination of dark chocolate chips and nuts. For the environment and for worker justice, please remember to buy Fair Trade chocolate chips if possible. See the post about chocolate peanut butter popcorn for more info on the environmental impacts of chocolate.
The recipe calls for a vegan protein powder. However, you don’t really need to rely on protein powders, since protein can be found everywhere in a balanced diet. For example, in this recipe, almond butter and oats are actually the biggest sources of protein, with almond butter giving 2 grams per bar and oats supplying 3 grams per bar. The protein powder adds another 1.7 grams per bar, and the nuts, hemp hearts, chia and flax seeds (present at relatively amounts) together add another gram of protein in addition to the other nutrients they provide, such as omega-3s, antioxidants, and fiber. I added Fair Trade cacao nibs on top, which are also a good source of antioxidants.
For a low carbon diet, it’s important to stick to plant-based protein powders if you are going to use them. You can see in this table the item by item contribution to both the protein count and the carbon footprint of the major ingredients in this recipe, per bar.
Table 1. Protein and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions per bar for major ingredients in the recipe as written, using pea-based protein powder.
|Protein powder (pea protein)||1.7||3.3|
For comparison, see below for the same information if you use a whey-based protein. Whey is from dairy, and because cows are ruminant animals, they produce methane as part of their natural metabolism.
Table 2. Protein and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions per bar for major ingredients in the recipe using whey-based protein powder, for comparison.
|Protein powder (whey protein)||1.7||53|
You can see the bars made according to the recipe by Sweet Simple Vegan have only 37 grams of CO2-eq per bar, whereas a bar made with whey protein would have 87 CO2-eq per bar!
For more information on the carbon footprint of protein sources, see below. The table shows both the grams of CO2-eq per gram of food and per gram of protein in the food. In general, plant sources are the most planet-friendly way to obtain protein. And, eating a variety of foods throughout the day will get you all of the essential amino acids.
Table 3. Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions associated with various protein-rich foods. The second column shows the conversion factor to calculate grams of CO2-equivalents (which accounts for other greenhouse gases including methane) per gram of food.
|Foods|| GHG emissions
(g CO2-eq/g food)a
|Grams protein/100 g foodb||GHG emissions
(g CO2-eq/g protein)
a Heller and Keoleian (2014) Greenhouse gas emissions estimates of U.S. dietary choices and food loss. Journal of Industrial Ecology.
b USDA Food Composition Database