Pack in Nutrition with Energy Balls

Priya’s Peanut Butter Energy Balls. | Priya Hutner

The chewy, salty, sweet taste of energy balls is a delicious and healthy way for added nutrition, especially when you’re on the run. They are a perfect protein pick me up and contain good carbs, healthy fat and fiber.

Energy balls — also called protein balls, protein bites or energy bites —are easy to make and no baking is necessary.

Energy balls — also called protein balls, protein bites or energy bites — are easy to make and no baking is necessary. They are easy to transport and perfect to carry pack in a backpack. They are great for camping, hiking, skiing, biking and school lunches. Energy bites are good to eat before or after working out.

Nut or seed butter base
The combination of flavors is endless. Nut butters are used as the base. Dried fruit, nuts, seeds and oats are common ingredients and create a powerful superfood snack. Cacao, Maca and matcha are flavors that also add antioxidants and unique flavors. Natural sweeteners can be added to create a healthy treat for kids and adults alike. Maple syrup, honey and dates mixed in with the ingredients replace refined sugar while offering plenty of sweetness.

Almond, peanut and cashew butter are a few of the nut butters that can create savory or sweet energy balls. Nut butter can be purchased at the store or made at home. For folks with a nut allergy, seed butters are a great alternative. Pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seed butters can be purchased or easily prepared in a blender or food processor. For a homemade version, use one cup of seeds, a touch of olive oil or avocado oil and salt. A bit of sweetener can also be added, if desired.

Add fruit, oats or chocolate
Dried fruit definitely makes for a sweeter energy ball. Chocolate chips are a popular addition to recipes and offer added sweetness. (It’s best not to carry chocolate ones in your pack on a hot day; it can be a bit messy.) I love coconut in my mixture. Consider adding chia, flax seeds and hemp seeds, which all add fiber and omega 3.

Oats are an excellent binder for energy balls, it’s best to soak them before adding them into the mix because raw oats can be hard to digest. Almond flour can be used instead of oats. Prepared granola can also be used for added crunch and tastiness. Once your energy balls are prepared, they can be rolled in shredded coconut, cacao, cocoa powder, matcha powder or crushed almonds. Dipped in dark chocolate takes these snacks to a whole other level.

Endless combinations
For a savory energy ball, mix nut or seed butter, chia seed, coconut flakes, chopped walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and a pinch of Himalayan sea salt and mix well. For a sweeter version, add chopped dates, raisins, vanilla extract, cinnamon, maple syrup or honey to nut butter. Dried cranberries, cherries, goji berries and blueberries are delicious in energy balls.

Refrigerate or freeze after rolling. Freezing them works really well and kids love them.

Spices are a great way to spice up and add flavor to your protein ball creations. For a chai-flavored energy ball, add a touch of ground cinnamon, cloves, ginger and cardamom to the mixture. For a savory twist, add a touch of curry. Pumpkin-pie spice is fun, too. Almond extract with almond butter and chopped almonds is delightful. Cacao and chili pepper with cacao nibs for extra crunch offers a spicy chocolatey experience.

Toasting almonds, sesame, chia seed and coconut with almond extract is one of my favorite combinations. Espresso adds a lovely flavor profile to energy balls. For a green tea version, consider adding matcha powder to the energy ball mix. Turmeric (anti-inflammatory), maca powder (energy) and collagen (good for the skin) are all fair game to add into energy bites. And don’t discount the simple peanut butter and jelly energy ball; they are perfect for hiking and kids love them. There are many variations to appease any palate.

Whatever name they go by, energy balls, energy bites or protein balls, these tasty treats are easy to make, delicious and healthy. They are excellent to prepare ahead of time and have on hand all of the time. They last for months in the freezer and are great for dessert, snacks, travel or to throw in the gym bag.

Priya’s Protein Energy Balls
1 C peanut or almond butter
1 t toasted sesame seeds
1 t toasted chia
1 T toasted coconut
2 t cacao powder
1 t vanilla extract
½ t almond extract
2 T maple syrup

Mix together and roll into balls. Roll them in additional shredded coconut. Refrigerate or freeze.