Daily Nutrition

Beat Winter Burnout by Boosting Your Iron Levels

It’s tough to stay energized and motivated through the winter months. I’m experiencing this firsthand—in January I started training for my first ultra marathon. Right now I’m having serious doubts about why I selected a spring race, which requires training in snow and ice.

I’m keeping my hopes high that spring weather is right around the corner, but for as long as the temperatures stay below freezing, you’ll find me in my kitchen baking nourishing treats. The promise of returning from a run to a steaming mug of my favorite tea and a homemade treat definitely helps me get out the door.

To beat winter burnout, it’s important to boost or maintain your iron levels, especially if you’re running high mileage, which can quickly deplete your iron stores. Fill your plate with iron-rich foods like grass-fed ground beef and bison, kale and spinach, eggs and beans. Pairing these with vitamin C–rich foods like citrus helps improve iron absorption.

Also, snacks high in iron are easy to make, because foods like oats, cereal, nuts, seeds, apricots, blackstrap molasses, and dark chocolate are loaded with the mineral. So bingo! I’ve paired all these mineral-rich foods into one delicious no-bake granola bar. It’s so good you’ll want to make this recipe on repeat.

RELATED: The Female Runner’s Complete Guide to Iron

Elyse’s Iron-Rich No-Bake Granola Bars

Melting chocolate over Elyse Kopecky's no-bake granola bars, a snack high in iron

Boost your iron intake and energy with these homemade granola bars. They’re loaded with dark chocolate, blackstrap molasses, pumpkin seeds, oats, dried fruit, and almonds—powerhouse, iron-rich ingredients that provide essential minerals to keep you running strong. They’re also high in protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs to keep your blood sugar levels balanced and your happiness high.

These bars are more crumbly than store-bought bars because of the lower sugar content and whole food ingredients. If packing them to-go, use a hard-sided container, not a bag. Some peanut butter brands are super runny and won’t work as well. Elyse likes Adams Natural and Santa Cruz Organic Peanut Butter. To make this vegetarian and dairy-free recipe also gluten-free, simply use certified gluten-free oats.

  • 2 cups instant oats (“quick-cooking”, not rolled oats)
  • 1 cup crispy rice cereal
  • ½ cup unsalted roasted almonds, chopped
  • ⅓ cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • ¼ cup chopped tart cherries, cranberries, or dried apricots
  • ½ cup unsalted creamy almond butter or peanut butter
  • 3 tablespoons virgin coconut oil
  • ¼ cup blackstrap molasses
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 4 ounces dark chocolate bar (70% cocoa or higher) or ½ cup dark chocolate chips
  1. Line an 8 x 8-inch baking dish with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the oats, crispy rice, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and dried fruit.
  3. Melt the nut butter and coconut oil in a small saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat. Add the molasses, honey, and salt and stir until smooth. Pour wet ingredients over the dry and stir to combine.
  4. Scoop the mixture into the baking dish. Spread out and press down evenly and very firmly with the back of a metal spatula.
  5. Wipe out the saucepan, add the chocolate, and melt over low heat, stirring occasionally. Drizzle the chocolate evenly over the granola bars and use a rubber spatula to spread out to coat the entire top. Place baking dish in the fridge for 1 hour, or until the chocolate solidifies.
  6. Use the corners of the parchment paper to lift bars out of the baking dish and place on a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to cut into 16 squares. Store bars in an airtight container in the pantry or fridge.