It’s time to forget expensive store-bought snacks and make these no-bake chocolate energy balls instead.
Let me ask you a question:
How often do you snack?
During the week, I always pack two snacks: one for the mid-morning stomach grumbles and another for the 3 p.m. slump.
And while we tend to be more intentional about putting together healthy meals, it’s easy to drop the ball at snack time, reaching for whatever’s most convenient such as a bag of chips or a candy bar.
Even healthier options like a piece of fruit, bag of popcorn, or a granola bar can still leave us feeling hungry within an hour after snacking – or sometimes less.
So, how can you make a decision that’s nutritious and will keep you full for longer? By thinking of snacks as mini-meals rather than something just to munch on.
By mini-meal, I’m talking about including a source of fat and protein in addition to carbohydrates, which should also be high in fiber.
For example, instead of eating just an apple, pair it with peanut butter, an ounce of nuts, or a cheese stick. By having protein and fat along with the carbs, you can more easily keep your blood sugars stable, meaning no dip in energy or hunger pangs within an hour of eating.
While fruit or veggies eaten with a healthy source of protein and fat are A+ choices, we sometimes need an easier grab-and-go option.
Rather than buying an expensive granola bar that’s likely high in added sugars and low in protein and fiber, make your own energy balls filled with all-natural ingredients.
These no-bake bites are packed full of nutrient-rich foods. Thanks to the dates, they are also free of added sugar.
So, let’s break these chocolatey guys down, starting with the carbs.
Carbohydrates are important as they’re the body’s primary energy source. For these bites, we’re using dates and rolled oats.
In addition to a little sweetness, dates are an excellent source of fiber, potassium (which many of us don’t get enough of each day), magnesium, copper, and manganese. Plus, they’re rich in disease-fighting antioxidants.
Worried about all that sugar? Thanks to the fiber in dates, the natural sugars are broken down more slowly, and won’t cause a dramatic spike in blood sugar.
Our next carb source is one of my favorite ingredients. A pantry staple, oats are known for being heart-healthy thanks to their high fiber content, specifically beta-glucan.
Research has shown that this specific type of fiber is associated with lowering LDL and total cholesterol levels, reducing blood sugar levels, improving satiety, and promoting the growth of healthful gut bacteria.
In addition to fiber, oats are an excellent source of B vitamins. They also contain a small amount of protein and fat, which brings me to my next point:
Unlike carbs, fat and protein are digested more slowly, supplying your body with a steady stream of energy throughout the day.
For protein as well as fat, we’re adding ground flax seeds and whole almonds to these energy bites.
High in essential omega-3 fatty acids and a good source of protein, flax seeds also supply an extra boost of fiber. While I like to buy pre-ground flaxseeds, you can buy them whole and then grind them at home in a blender, food processor, or coffee grinder.
Almonds are similar to flax seeds in that they provide healthy fats, fiber, and protein. They’re also an excellent source of vitamin E, which has antioxidant properties.
Finally, coconut oil contains small amounts of fats known as medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which may help boost metabolism and boost healthy HDL cholesterol levels.
Throw in a little cocoa powder for a deep, chocolatey flavor and you’ve got yourself a nutritious, easy snack, perfect for eating before a high-intensity workout or packing and bringing with you to work or when traveling.
While a few more ingredients are required than you might find in simple date and nut bites, the oats and flax seeds are what make these bites seriously taste like balls of oatmeal cookie dough. And who doesn’t want to snack on cookie dough?
Naturally sweetened and packed full of fiber, healthy fats, and protein, these no-bake chocolate energy balls are the perfect snack.
- ¼ cup raw almonds, or other unroasted nut of choice
- ¾ cup old fashioned rolled oats
- 2 tablespoons ground flax seed
- 2–3 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 10 ounces medjool dates
- 1–2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
- Place almonds in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add oats, ground flax seed, and cocoa powder. Pulse until well combined.
- Add dates and pulse for 30 seconds, or until mixture is combined and crumbly. Drizzle 1 tablespoon melted coconut oil over mixture and pulse for a few seconds, or until the mixture is sticky and holds together. If still crumbly, add more oil and pulse again.
- Roll into 24 1-inch balls and place in a baking dish or on a tray.
- Refrigerate for 20 minutes, or until firm. Enjoy immediately, or keep leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
- Category: Snacks
- Method: No-Cook, No-Bake
- Cuisine: Vegan
Keywords: energy bites, chocolate, dates, oats
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Measure Ingredients
Measure out all of your ingredients, and melt the coconut oil. If your dates are slightly hard, soak them in a bowl of hot water for 5-10 minutes, or until softened.
For the cocoa powder, I’ve found that 2 rounded tablespoons provides just the right amount of chocolate flavor. However, before rolling the mixture into balls, you can taste and add more cocoa powder to taste as needed.
If you’re trying to cut back on calories, I’ve also had success making these with 2 tablespoons of water instead of the melted coconut oil.
Step 2 – Combine Ingredients in Food Processor
Place the almonds in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
Add the oats, flax seed, and cocoa powder, and pulse again until well combined.
Add the dates and pulse for 30 seconds, or until the mixture is fully combined and crumbly. Drizzle the melted coconut oil over the top and pulse for a few seconds, or until the mixture is sticky and holds together.
If the mixture is still crumbly, add an additional 2-3 teaspoons of melted oil and pulse again.
Step 3 – Roll into Balls and Refrigerate
Roll into 24 1-inch balls and place onto a tray or in a baking dish.
Place in the fridge to chill for 20 minutes, or until firm.
Enjoy immediately, or keep leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
These bites can also be stored in the freezer for several months. Let them thaw in the fridge for a few hours before eating.
Jump On the Flax Seed Train
These powerhouse seeds are a staple in any healthy pantry. However, it’s important to know how to store them properly.
Once ground, flax seeds should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer, as their high fat content makes them susceptible to going rancid.
When stored properly, ground flax seeds will keep in the fridge for 6 months, or in the freezer for a year.
So, how can you make sure your ground flax seed doesn’t go to waste? Sprinkle a little over oatmeal and yogurt, or add it to smoothies and salad dressings. They can also provide a fiber boost to baked goods and pancakes.
For more flax-filled inspiration, check out these recipes next:
- Mostly Healthy Cinnamon Blueberry Coffee Cake
- Fig Newtons for Grown-Ups
- Healthy Whole Grain Pear Hazelnut Muffins
What’s your go-to snack? Share in the comments below, and make sure to leave a rating to let us know how much you loved this recipe!
Photos by Kelli McGrane, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on September 26, 2012. Last updated: January 22, 2020 at 12:24 pm.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
The written contents of this article have been reviewed and verified by a registered dietitian for informational purposes only. This article should not be construed as personalized or professional medical advice. Foodal and Ask the Experts, LLC assume no liability for the use or misuse of the material presented above. Always consult with a medical professional before changing your diet, or using supplements or manufactured or natural medications.
About Kelli McGrane, MS, RD
Kelli McGrane is a Denver-based registered dietitian with a lifelong love of food. She holds undergraduate and master’s degrees in nutrition science from Boston University. As a registered dietitian, she believes in the importance of food to nourish not only your body, but your soul as well. Nutrition is very personal, and you won’t find any food rules here, other than to simply enjoy what you eat.