I’m not a fan of your average bliss ball as a snack for kids, especially the packaged ones you’ll find on the supermarket shelves next to the muesli bars or in the health food aisle either pre-made or in the DIY mixes, yes, even the ones at the health food shop. They might seem harmless enough, maybe even healthy when you read all the clever marketing words on their packaging, and I guess when compared to muesli bars that sit alongside them in the supermarket – which contain refined sugar and other highly processed ingredients – they may be a slightly better option. But bliss balls are predominately made of dried fruit, which actually makes them little concentrated packets of sugar. If you read the ingredients labels you’ll see that about 5 small bliss balls (cos let’s be honest, what child eats just 1!) contains about 8.5 teaspoons of sugar. While we are talking fruit sugar, and fruit sugar is ok, a lot of it is not ideal for kids – it’s going to spike their blood sugar levels, leave them hungry and possibly irritable (when that blood sugar level crashes) and not sustain them between meals. Most dried fruit and bliss balls also contain vegetable/seed oils – these oils are highly processed with heat, toxic solvents and industrial chemicals, and not what we want to put in our little peoples bodies. As always, read the ingredients of anything you purchase in a packet, because what might appear healthy on the outside, may not be on the inside.
That being said, bliss balls that are made with the right ingredients – less dried fruit, some protein and healthy fats – like my Prune & Walnut Bliss Balls, can make for a healthy satisfying and filling sweet snack for kids that will keep their blood sugar balanced between meals.
Most bliss balls are made with dates, but I like to make mine with prunes instead, mainly because prunes contain half the amount of sugar as dates. Prunes are known for their natural laxative effects and their insoluble fibre also provides food for our friendly gut bacteria to feed on. They’re a great source of beta-carotene (converts to vitamin A) and antioxidants – some research suggest they contain almost 2x the amount of antioxidants as blueberries – which help protect cells and tissue against damage from free radicals. They also contain vitamin K to support healthy bones and teeth, and iron – whilst this is non-heme iron and not very well absorbed, the vitamin C in prunes will enhance its absorption. Iron aids the transport of oxygen through the blood and children are at higher risk of iron deficiency than adults, because they need more iron during growth spurts.
You could use any nuts, but I’ve chosen walnuts because their slight bitterness pairs well with the prunes and because they’re full of healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. If you’re making this for big kids (you), do add the optional extra, 1 Tbsp of raw cacao powder, for a delicious chocolate hit – perfect with a cup of tea.
Prune & Walnut Bliss Balls
Makes: Approx 25 – Prep time: 10 mins – Cool time: 1-hour
150g walnuts (cashews or almonds also work well) *preferably organic
250g preservative-free pitted prunes *preferably organic
2 Tbsp ground linseeds
2 Tbsp chia seeds
¼ cup almond butter
1 tbsp coconut oil
½ tsp cinnamon
½ cup unsweetened desiccated coconut, for rolling
Optional extras: 1 Tbsp raw cacao powder
- Place nuts in your food processor and pulse until coarsely ground. Add prunes, chia seeds, linseeds, almond butter and cinnamon and pulse until combined. Add coconut oil and pulse until mixture forms ball and hold together.
- Place coconut in shallow dish or plate. Roll mixture into 1 tsp balls and roll balls in coconut to coat.
- Place in the fridge for 1 hour to set (or 30 minutes in the freezer if you simply can’t wait). Store in airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.