We can’t stop eating these! But that’s a good thing. Here’s the recipe for a delicious brain-boosting snack for you and your kids, courtesy of our friend Becca Jansen, author of The Art of the Wholesome Breakfast and Artful Palate blogger.

energy balls

Boasting high-quality nutrition, these nearly raw, easy-to-make energy snacks are a hit at our house! This recipe lends itself to a variety of dried fruit, seed, and nut combinations, and these energy balls are significantly healthier than your typical store-bought granola bar.  They are also quite simple to prepare, and my kids especially enjoy making them (with a little help). I realize the importance of having healthy snacking options readily available so we are less likely to grab a convenient, less nutritious, packaged and processed snack.

When assessing foods for brain health, we look for those high in antioxidants, healthy fats, and vitamins and minerals. Nuts and seeds are loaded with beneficial nutrients. Not to mention, they also add incredible taste and texture.  Healthy, monounsaturated fats, found in nuts and seeds, are essential for brain health. The healthy fats we consume encourage ketosis, which assists in protecting the brain against disease and providing lasting energy. These fats also help with production of a neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, which improves learning and memory.

I add organic raw cacao nibs in this recipe because it is universally recognized now as one of the best superfoods around. Raw cacao contains a significantly higher amount of antioxidants than heated cocoa does. As we know, dark chocolate, in itself, is touted as a good antioxidant source. We know that antioxidants are proven to help our brains function. Raw cacao is rich in flavonoids, substances that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Studies show that these substances assist in brain blood flow and optimal oxygen levels as well as promoting nerve function. Raw cacao also contains phenethylamine, which plays a role in increasing focus and alertness. This substance is also shown to improve mental clarity, stamina, energy, motivation and even joy. I, for one, love a joyful child in my house!

Coconut oil, too, has properties which promote brain and full-body health. It can decrease inflammation and help destroy harmful bacteria which can affect both our brain and mood.

These tasty balls are gluten free, soy free, and suitable for both a vegetarian and vegan diet.

Seed & Nut Brain-Boosting Energy Balls

Makes 24 1.5-inch balls

1 cup smooth/creamy nut butter (such as peanut, almond, cashew or sunflower)
1/2 cup agave nectar, honey or pure maple syrup (or a combination)
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats or instant oats (instant oats make the ball a little easier to form because they’re smaller flakes, but these are pictured with regular oats)
1/4 cup ground flax seeds
1/4 cup hulled hemp seeds (you may substitute for chia seeds or use a combination)
1/2 cup almond meal (or almond flour)
1/8-1/4 tsp. salt (depending on how salty your nut butter is)
3/4 cup dried fruit, coarsely chopped (such as raisins, apricots, dates or blueberries)
1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
Additional shredded coconut or unsweetened cocoa powder for rolling balls

  1. Line a baking sheet or tray with wax paper or parchment paper and set aside.
    In a mixing bowl add: oats, flax seed meal, ground flax seeds, hemp or chia seeds, almond meal, raisins or other dried fruit, and shredded coconut. Stir to combine ingredients well.
  2. In a saucepan on low heat melt together: honey or syrup, nut butter, and coconut oil. With a spoon, stir while heating, so it mixes well. Then stir in vanilla extract and salt. Once mixture is melted together, remove from heat.
  3. Pour liquid mixture into your bowl over dry ingredients and mix well. It is easiest to mix this all with your hands. Use disposable kitchen gloves if you don’t want your hands messy. Then form into 1.5-inch balls. Set balls on lined baking sheet.
  4. Finally, roll each ball in shredded coconut or unsweetened cocoa powder. Place your baking sheet with balls in the refrigerator for an hour or more. This will help them to hold together better before you remove them, stack, and store them all in an airtight container to maintain freshness. Enjoy this grab-and-go snack all week!

See more posts from Becca on the Artful Palate blog!

Want more ways to boost your kids’ brains? Download the Q Wunder app to help them learn social and emotional skills — and have fun while they’re at it!