Gosh they are delicious and there are so many types available for all taste buds preferences. Natural raw food at its best and suitable for Vegan, Paleo, Gluten Free, Dairy free, preservative free, high fibre, high protein, non GMO. Well that’s what the packet say’s right? These words give us the impression these scrumptious little nut and seed balls make a perfect snack of indulgence to feel good about.
But how healthy are they really?
Sure they are made of nuts, known to be a good source of protein, fibre and good fats so yes that deserves a tick, although with store brought bliss balls the amount of nuts are not the greatest ingredient. In fact, they often only account for between 10%-20% of the bliss ball.
The main ingredient is always listed first on a food label. In this case, dates, which claim between 57%-69%. Dates are very high in natural sugar relative to the rest of their nutritional value.
So yes dates have nutritional benefits such as Vitamin B6, Potassium and Magnesium, but don’t let this lead you into a false sense of security that it’s ok to eat the whole packet as a snack if you are mindful about your total calorie intake, want to lose weight, manage your blood sugar or cholesterol levels or eat a lower carb diet.
The real sugar content: Most packet bliss balls are a high carb snack relative to being a high protein snack due to the sugar content. The sugars in these morsels are not just naturally occurring from dates either.
The second ingredient often listed is another dried fruit, a paste, puree or syrup, these also being forms of sugar. NZ current food regulations do not require food labels to differentiate between natural and added sugars. All sugars, naturally occurring or added, are lumped into the same “sugar” listed category.
Natural sugars are those that come directly from fruit and vegetables, I say directly as I’m referring to the whole food itself without being juiced or puree. Once the fruit or vegetable is messed with to become a syrup, juice, puree and then “added” back as an ingredient it is no longer considered a “naturally occurring” sugar.
The claims; “All natural, with real fruit and veges” is a fabulous marketing tactic to misguide you on the products perceivable health status.
Question is this a good snack for my child?
In one packet variety I viewed with marketing appeal to buy for children snacks, had added dried fruit, juice concentrate, brown rice syrup, and juice of “various fruits”. The 40g serving size (about 3 balls) equated to total 18.6g Carbs and of that was 14.4g sugar.
Let’s put this in perspective, this amount is around 3 ½ teaspoons of sugar, this equates to approximately 75% of a small child’s sugar quota for the whole day!
Recommendations from Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition say that adults and children over 11 yrs should consume no more than 30 grams of sugar each day. For children 7-11 yrs are to consume no more that 24g and children from 4-6 yrs, 19g of sugar, MAXIMUM.
These recommendations are referring to “free sugars” (another name for added sugars) and are those that are removed from their original source and added to foods. This includes table sugar, but as mentioned, manufacturers are smarter at disguising these added sugars and use different names on the label such as organic oat syrup, coconut sugar, and fruit juice concentrate, maltose, tapioca syrup etc.
That amount of sugar must taste terribly sweet, you would think?
Well, the taste of sweetness is dulled by the amount of sodium added. In the packets I viewed I found between 47mg -227mg of sodium per packet. Most packet servings were 5 balls, either 70g or 58g.
The message here is Be Bliss Ball aware
The safest bet is to make your own, see Recipe for Apricot and Ginger bliss balls here, that way you can control the amount of sugar and salt you use.
Here are my 5 Tips for choosing bliss ball snacks:
- Make your own
- Eat two balls instead of five
- Seek a recipe that use no more than ½ cup of dates or dried fruit to approximately 3-4 cups quantity of the dry ingredients (nuts/seeds/coconut).
- Wean yourself off the need for something sweet by using less fruit each time you make a batch, and before you know it the taste of the nuts and seeds themselves will taste sweet enough.
- Recipe TIP: If you find the bliss ball mixture is too crumbly when using less fruit and becomes more difficult to mold, add a bit of coconut oil or water to help stick ability, squeeze into shape with wet hands and store in the fridge to firm up.