When I am not creating recipes to share online, I work in a Diabetes Education Center and counsel clients on diabetes during various stages including pre-diabetes, newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes, advanced diabetes, as well as type 1 diabetes. Nutritionally, one message always stays the same – for a more stable blood sugar level, combine your carbohydrates, or sugar, with a protein source. Sometimes it is difficult to come up with ways to incorporate protein into snacks, so I’ve created these High Protein Peanut Butter Energy Balls that are Refined Sugar-Free, Gluten-Free, and Vegan for just that reason. And they are simple to make with only five ingredients! With 6 grams of protein per energy ball, they are a great addition to any snack or just on their own.
“The peanut butter in these peanut butter energy balls, like other nut butters, is a good source of protein which is helpful for stabilizing blood sugar levels. Look for a natural peanut butter that is 100% peanuts, with no other funky ingredients.”
The ‘Diabetic Diet’ is really just healthy eating. We should all be eating less refined carbohydrates, less sugar, choosing low glycemic index, and including a protein source at each meal and snack. Carbohydrates, both healthy ones and not so healthy ones, will all eventually break down into sugar. Yes, even oatmeal, fruit and quinoa will eventually break down into sugar, alongside the less desirable carbohydrates including white bread, bagels, and white rice. Protein foods generally do not break down into sugar (or only a very small amount will), so it makes sense that if you eat something that contains a carbohydrate, pair it with something that contains protein for a stable post-meal blood sugar level.
If you find yourself reaching for carbohydrates at snack time – fruit, granola bars, crackers or toast – you may be finding they don’t keep you satisfied for very long, and your blood sugars may be taking you on a roller coaster. I created these High Protein Peanut Butter Energy Balls for a quick simple go-to snack, which can be had on their own, or in addition to a piece of fruit. I’ve written about why I adore hemp hearts in previous posts, from their high protein content (see post for Simple Homemade Hemp Milk), their sustainability standpoint (see post for Vegan Ranch Hemp Salad Dressing), their high mineral content (see post on Chia Seeds, Flaxseeds Hemp Hearts – Which One Is For You) and their omega-3 fatty acid content (see post Vegan Hemp and Sunflower Seed Pate)..
I’ve tried to make this peanut butter energy balls recipe as simple as possible, with some variations included at the bottom of the recipe. With only 5 ingredients, there is a good chance you will you will be ready to make them just when you need them. Most recipes I’ve come across for energy balls contain larger amounts of sweetener. My Protein Tahini Hemp Balls are also a good higher protein, lower sugar option, but contain oats which some of you have requested an alternative for. I have scaled back the honey or maple syrup as much as I could without sacrificing taste and the sweet-tooth satisfaction, with the result being only 1.4 grams, or 1/3 of a teaspoon, of natural sugar per protein ball.
High Protein Peanut Butter Balls [Refined Sugar-Free | GF | Vegan]
- 1 cup peanut butter natural*
- ¼ cup maple syrup or honey unpasteurized
- 2 tbsp water
- 1 cup shredded coconut unsweetened
- 1 cup hemp hearts
- 1/2 cup sunflower seeds raw
- 1/8 tsp salt* optional, use if peanut butter is unsalted
- Mix the peanut butter, maple syrup or honey, water and salt if using in a saucepan over medium heat and stir to combine. Don't heat the honey too much, or the goodness will be cooked off. Heat until the mixture is well blended and a slightly runny consistency which will make it easier to blend with the dry ingredients.
- While the peanut butter is heating, add the coconut to a heavy bottom frying pan over medium heat. Toast the coconut for 1 to 2 minutes, or until it is fragrant and turns light brown in colour.
- Add the toasted coconut, hemp hearts, and sunflower seeds into a mixing bowl and stir to combine. Next, add the peanut butter mixture and stir well using a wooden spoon until everything is well incorporated.
- Place the mixing bowl in the fridge for 15 to 30 minutes to let the mixture solidify slightly. Once rested, remove from the fridge and start rolling the mixture into 22 ping-pong sized balls. Store in the fridge for up to 5 days, or store in the freezer and take out as needed.
Make it nut free: Use tahini or sunflower seed butter in place of peanut butter
Try it with almond butter for a different flavour and nutrient profile
Omit the sunflower seed and add pumpkin seeds to boost the zinc
Rachel Dickens, The Conscious Dietitian, is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She graduated with her Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics in 2010 from Griffith University. She strives to provide evidence-based nutrition information with a focus on plant-based nutrition, and share some of her favourite seasonal recipes and sustainable eating tips.