One of the keys to “selling” healthy food to our daughter is to invest in the fun of food. Can we roll it? Stuff it? Make a cool shape? Eat with our hands? Enjoying our meals is so much more than taste, and my husband and I take full advantage of the multi-sensory aspects of food allure. “Eye appeal is half the meal,” Jake often reminds me. In my Seasonal Fruits post I noted that June only eats unsweetened fruit desserts. But if we want June to see fruit as a bona fide special treat, we have to focus on the packaging. Take that familiar-looking fruit and turn it into something new.
Date balls are a good example of how fruit can become exciting without adding loads of sugar. June loves regular dates, and they work wonderfully as an everyday treat. But when you transform ordinary dates into these scrumptious ‘snowballs’, the everyday fruit becomes exceptional. Of course it helps that the date balls look like candy—this visual bait primes June’s brain for a mouth-watering experience.
I only recently started experimenting with adding chocolate to our sugar-free date balls. I wanted more of an indulgent finish than our usual date balls, good for company or special occasions. The chocolate I use in this recipe is raw cacao powder. Cacao powder is less processed than most cocoa powder products and it may retain more healthy flavanols. (Plain, unsweetened cocoa powder is a good substitution.)
There are many studies looking into the health benefits of chocolate, but just how much do you need to get these benefits? 200mg/day of cocoa flavonoids is the common recommendation that I’ve found by researchers up to this point. The estimates vary, but you would need to consume roughly 2.5grams (1/2 tbsp.) of unprocessed/unsweetened cocoa or cacao powder to get that amount. To give you some idea of proportions, eating about 4-5 of these date balls will get you to 200mg of flavonoids.
Praise for Chocolate Date Balls
Friends and family have been sampling my chocolate date balls, and the response has been enthusiastic! The adult testers were happy to find a sugar-free dessert that truly satisfies a chocolate and sweets craving. The kid testers not only gobbled up their snowballs, but were eyeing for more.
You’ll need to chill the date balls so they properly harden like any chocolate candy should. I recommend putting some in the refrigerator and some in the freezer and see how much chilling you prefer. My vote is on frozen chocolate date balls, but put them to the test with your family. Bon appetit!