Apricot & almond and cashew & raisin energy balls (© Mara Yamauchi)
From recreational runners to elite athletes, everyone who is physically active needs energy for training.
Proper meals are not always practical if you’re out and about, so small, portable snacks become essential. But so many of the snacks you can buy are highly processed, and therefore may be less healthy for us than real food. I am always on the look-out for nutritious, simple snacks, and often the answer is to make them yourself.
Drumroll please….enter….energy balls!
Small round packages of nuts, seeds, and dried fruits, energy balls seem to be the latest trend in fashionable, clean eating. With these ingredients, they certainly are nutritious and high in fibre. But the commercially available ones on sale in shops seem to be expensive, and often involve a lot of packaging. So I set myself the challenge of making my own!
I discovered, to my delight, that they are easy to make, and a great way to introduce variety into your diet by using all sorts of different ingredients.
The two basic ingredients in energy balls are nuts (ground up, eg almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans) and dried fruit (mashed to a paste, eg dates, apricots, raisins, cranberries). The nuts provide protein and healthy fats; the fruit provides sweetness (no sugar needed!) and the stickiness to make the balls keep their shape. Add to that a viscous ingredient which will add moisture (eg honey, tahini, peanut butter, coconut oil), and a coating (eg cocoa, flax seeds, desiccated coconut, matcha), and that is all you need.
Two of my recipes are below, but you can experiment with your favourite ingredients and create your own unique mixture. They do not need cooking – just keep in the fridge once made; they also freeze well.
Apricot and almond
125g dried apricots
60g ground almonds
1-2 tablespoons tahini
Desiccated coconut for coating
Make the apricots into a paste in a mixer, or by finely chopping and mashing.
Add the ground almonds. Add 1 tablespoon of tahini and mix well.
Try making a small amount of mixture into a ball with your hands. If it is too dry, add a little more tahini.
Once your mixture is the right consistency, make it all into balls, and coat with desiccated coconut.
Cashew and raisin
60g ground cashews
1 teaspoon set honey
1 tablespoon peanut butter
Flax seeds for coating
Follow the method as above by making the sultanas into a paste and mix with the ground cashews.
Add the honey and mix well. Add the peanut butter gradually until the mixture reaches the right consistency for rolling into balls.
Coat with the flax seeds and store in the fridge.