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We all need an infusion of energy at some point during the day, whether it’s midmorning, that dreaded afternoon slump or after a punishing workout. Coffee is one solution; a fistful of M&M’s is another. (Though we don’t recommend that option!) For something more nutritious that has a little staying power, grab for your balls.
Energy balls are all the rage among the fit-minded crew. Their simple, whole-food ingredients deliver clutch nutritional value and, what’s more, they’re a cinch to make. Just whirl together a few ingredients in your food processor, roll ’em up and girl — you got balls!
Sidestep energy-ball pitfalls with this foolproof formula for success.
Process Makes Perfect. Your blender is great for smoothies, but balls? Not so much. For this job, a food processor is ideal. It easily mashes and combines dried fruit and nuts in recipes where there is no liquid involved.
In a Bind. Dried fruit is a main ball ingredient because it adds natural sweetness to the recipe. And along with nut butters and liquid sweeteners such as honey or agave, dried fruit also acts as a binder to make your balls sticky and cohesive.
Perform the Pinch Test. After processing, your ball mixture should stick together easily when pinched. If it crumbles under pressure, add some additional binders.
Size Matters. You do not want big balls. A ball is a snack, not a meal, and each should come in at about 150 calories. Roll the recommended number of balls per recipe as best you can.
Protein Power. You can add protein powder to any ball recipe to make it more muscle-minded. Just be sure to add a little extra dry fruit or sweetener to compensate for the dryness of the powder.
Extra Credit. Boost the nutritional value of your balls with healthy add-ins like chia seeds, hemp hearts, cacao nibs, spices and even superfood powders such as açai or matcha.
Ready to Freeze!
Energy balls can stay fresh for months in the freezer. Place a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet and spread the balls out. Pop them in the fridge for about two hours, then transfer them to an airtight container.
Savory Snack: Club Med Balls
Makes: 14 balls
Who said energy bites have to be sweet? These balls are gluten-free, low-sugar and perfect for on-the-go snacking. Chickpeas may seem like a strange ingredient, but they keep your balls moist, add extra fiber and protein, and help bind everything together. The sunflower seeds contain vitamin E to optimize immunity, and the tahini is a stellar source of energizing unsaturated fat.
- Replace chickpeas with navy beans.
- Use hempseeds instead of sunflower seeds.
- Trade quinoa flour for brown rice flour.
- 1 (14 oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 2 tbsp tahini
- 3 tbsp brown rice flour
- ¼ cup unsalted sunflower seeds
- ¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tbsp pitted Kalamata olives
- 1 tbsp honey
- 2 tsp lemon zest
- 2 tsp fresh thyme
- 1 tsp paprika
Add all ingredients to a food processor container and blend until mixture clumps together. Form into 1-inch balls.
Nutrition Facts (per serving = 2 balls): calories 156, fat 7 g, carbs 18 g, fiber 4 g, sugar 4 g, protein 6 g, sodium 211 mg
Delish Dessert: Mayan Salted Truffle Balls
Makes: 14 balls
Oh-so chocolaty and perfectly sweet, these balls will crush any craving without a speck of nutritional guilt. Coconut oil makes them extra fudgy, while cayenne infuses your balls with a surprising kick. What’s more, the nuts in these balls may put a smile on your face: Recent research shows that women who eat more walnuts are less likely to suffer from depression.
- Replace dates with dried figs.
- Use hazelnuts instead of walnuts.
- Swap coconut oil for melted butter.
- 1¼ cups pitted dates
- 1 cup walnuts
- 3 tbsp cocoa powder
- 2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp maple syrup or honey
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp cayenne
- 2 oz dark chocolate (about 70% cocoa), chopped
- ¼ tsp flakey salt
Place dates in a small bowl, cover with warm water and let soak for 15 minutes. Drain and pat dry with paper towels. Add walnuts to a food processor container and pulse into small pieces. Add dates, cocoa powder, coconut oil, vanilla, maple syrup or honey, cinnamon and cayenne and blend until mixture sticks together when pressed between your fingers. Roll mixture into 1-inch balls and place on a parchment-paper-lined plate. Microwave chocolate in a small bowl on high in 20-second intervals until melted, stirring between each interval. Drizzle chocolate over balls and sprinkle with salt. Chill in the refrigerator 30 minutes, or until chocolate has set.
Nutrition Facts (per serving = 2 balls): calories 275, fat 19 g, carbs 28 g, fiber 5 g, sugar 20 g, protein 4 g, sodium 45 mg
Quickie Breakfast: Dirty Chai Oatmeal Balls
Makes: 12 balls
Perk up your morning with this nutritious riff on a trendy coffee shop drink — perfect for those hurry-up days when you don’t have a second to spare. The almond butter is rich in cholesterol-crushing monounsaturated fat, while spices like cinnamon and cloves are a concentrated source of anti-aging antioxidants. And to power you through to lunch while delivering plenty of soluble fiber, the rolled oats take center stage.
- Replace oats with quinoa or rye flakes.
- Swap almond butter for peanut or cashew butter.
- Use brown rice syrup instead of honey.
- 1 tbsp instant espresso powder
- 2 tbsp warm water
- 1¼ cups rolled oats
- 2 tbsp cacao nibs
- ¾ tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp cardamom
- ¼ tsp ground ginger
- ⅛ tsp ground cloves
- ⅛ tsp ground nutmeg
- ½ cup almond butter
- ⅓ cup honey
- 1 tsp vanilla
In a small bowl, dissolve espresso powder in warm water. In a separate bowl, combine oats, cacao nibs, cinnamon, cardamom, ground ginger, cloves and nutmeg. Add almond butter, honey, espresso and vanilla. Stir with a spatula until well-combined. Place bowl in the freezer for about 10 minutes (or in the fridge for 20 minutes), then form mixture into 1-inch balls.
Tip: Cooling your ball batter in the fridge or freezer helps firm it up, making it easier to handle, and roll into perfect balls.
Nutrition Facts (per serving = 2 balls): calories 269, fat 15 g, carbs 33 g, fiber 4 g, sugar 15 g, protein 6 g, sodium 4 mg
Afternoon Energy Boost: Spud Love Balls
Makes: 16 balls
Packed with quality carbs and healthy fat, these balls are truly an afternoon delight. Sweet potato is laced with immune-boosting vitamin A, while parched plums (also known by their less-than-hip name — prunes) are loaded with bone-strengthening vitamin K. The ginger zing also will wake up your taste buds and give your brain a much-needed boost.
- Trade pecans for almonds.
- Use dried dates instead of plums.
- Toss in ground chia seeds instead of flax.
- 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped
- ½ cup pitted dried plums (aka prunes)
- 1 cup pecans
- ¾ cup rolled oats
- 3 tbsp ground flaxseed
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1½ tsp ginger powder
- pinch salt
- ⅓ cup dried shredded coconut
Place sweet potatoes in a steamer basket and set in a pot with 1-inch of water. Bring to a boil and steam until potatoes are fork-tender, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool. Place dried plums in a bowl, cover with hot water and let soak 30 minutes. Drain and pat dry with paper towels. Add pecans and oats to a food processor container and process until finely chopped. Add sweet potatoes, plums, flaxseed, honey, ginger powder and a pinch of salt and process until mixture clumps together. Using damp hands, form mixture into 1-inch balls. Spread coconut on a plate. Roll balls in coconut and chill in the refrigerator until firm.
Tip: No steamer basket? Simply boil your sweet potato cubes instead.
Nutrition Facts (per serving = 2 balls): calories 209, fat 13 g, carbs 23 g, fiber 4 g, sugar 10 g, protein 3 g, sodium 12 mg
Anytime Superfood Surge: Mean Green Power Balls
Makes: 14 balls
These rich-tasting balls pack a power punch of nutrition and contain plenty of fiber to keep your system running smoothly. The natural cocoa and greens powder contain a bevy of antioxidants, while hempseeds deliver a payload of heart-healthy omega-3’s. Bonus: The dried figs are a rich source of bone-boosting calcium.
- Trade almond butter for cashew or sunflower butter.
- Replace hempseeds with sunflower seeds.
- Use dried plums or dates instead of figs.
- 1 cup dried figs, stems trimmed
- ¾ cup unsalted almonds
- ¼ cup almond butter
- 3 tbsp hempseeds (hemp hearts)
- 2 tbsp raw (natural) cocoa powder
- 2 tbsp honey
- 2 tbsp greens powder of choice, such as Amazing Grass
- ⅛ tsp salt
Place figs in a bowl, cover with hot water and soak 15 minutes. Drain and pat dry with paper towels. Add almonds to a food processor container and chop into small pieces. Add figs and remaining ingredients and process until mixture sticks together when pinched between your fingers. Using damp hands, roll mixture into 1-inch balls.
Nutrition Facts (per serving = 2 balls): calories 244, fat 15 g, carbs 25 g, fiber 5 g, sugar 16 g, protein 7 g, sodium 47 mg
Muscle-Building Pick-Me-Up: PB&J Protein Balls
Makes: 16 balls
Everyone’s favorite childhood sandwich is on a roll. This protein-packed postworkout snack can help kick-start your muscle-building process with the power of peanuts, and the tart cherries contain plenty of antioxidants to curtail inflammation and improve recovery. As for energy replenishment, the quality carbs in the dates do the job lickety-split.
- Replace dates with dried plums.
- Swap the protein powder for peanut butter powder.
- Use dried strawberries instead of cherries.
- 1 cup pitted dates
- ¾ cup unsalted roasted peanuts
- 1 cup dried tart cherries
- ⅓ cup plain or vanilla protein powder
- ⅓ cup unsalted peanut butter
- ⅛ tsp salt
Place dates in a bowl, cover with hot water and let soak 30 minutes. Drain and pat dry with paper towels. Add peanuts to a food processor container and pulverize into small pieces. Add remaining ingredients and blend until the mixture sticks together when pressed between your fingers. Form into 1-inch balls.
Nutrition Facts (per serving = 2 balls): calories 269, fat 12 g, carbs 34 g, fiber 4 g, sugar 25 g, protein 9 g, sodium 44 mg