Nothing, and I mean nothing, is getting in my way this year.

Last year I promised myself that I would participate in the River Valley Run 5K. After photographing it for the last two years, this was the year that I was actually going to participate. I went to the gym, trained my little heart out, lost 20lbs., and I was feeling great. Then I got the call. They needed me to photograph the run. There was no one else. And so...I said yes. But this year? Nope. Not happening. Nuh-uh. It's my resolution. I am training for the run again.

I feel great when I'm exercising, eating right - strange coincidence, isn't it? I've loved baking cookies, but since they're not going to aid me in my goal, the butter/sugar/flour has got to be replaced by healthier options. My biggest struggle is breakfast. I have hypothyroidism and, because of the medication I take to control it, I can't eat any dairy for 4 hours after taking the medication. Plus, I just don't like to eat in the morning. However, research has shown that eating breakfast revs up the metabolism helping you to burn more calories. It's definitely a necessary part of the day. So...what to eat? These granola bars are not only super easy to whip up, they're low calorie and low fat, easy to grab and go, filled with heart healthy whole grains, and they're easy on the budget. The original recipe can be found at EatingWell.com. I've tweaked their version to save on more calories.

1/4 cup Egg Beaters
1 egg white
1/4 Splenda Brown Sugar Substitute (or 1/2 cup brown sugar)
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon maple extract
1 1/2 cups toasted old fashioned oats
2/3 cup chopped dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1 tablespoon whole wheat flour

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Spread oats on to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Toast the oats for approximately 15 minutes or until they smell "oaty" and "toasty". Pull out of oven and let 'em cool down.

Drop oven temperature down to 325 degrees.

Now, line an 8 x 11-inch pan with foil and give it a good, solid coat of cooking spray. We don't want these bars to stick.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg beaters, egg white, brown sugar, oil, cinnamon, salt and vanilla in a large bowl.

Stir in oats, dried cranberries, pecans and flour. Once it's all mixed together, dump into the pan and make sure to press and pack the mixture in really good.

Bake until golden brown about 30 to 35 minutes. Cool and then cut into 16 bars. Wrap the bars up in plastic wrap, tuck 'em in your purse, the kids' lunchboxes, your snack drawer at work...

By the way, here are a few variations you may want to try:

...use dried cherries, almonds, and almond extract

...use dried blueberries, walnuts, and vanilla extract

...use dried pinapple, macadamia nuts, and coconut extract

...use dried strawberries, peanuts, and vanilla extract

...use golden raisins, walnuts, and rum extract

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~ Erin