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Have a ball: Healthy dessert options take a new shape

Staying healthy can be tough, especially when it comes to limiting sweets in your diet. But satisfying your sweet tooth doesn’t always have to be followed by regret and self-loathing. Denying yourself small indulgences can lead to catastrophe (i.e. 3 a.m. ice cream binges), so keep your taste buds happy with these mindful (yet decadent) treats.

The following no-cook dessert recipes will leave you both content and blissfully unapologetic. These treats, though unique in taste, have one thing in common: their shape. Similar in size to the oh-so-trendy cake ball, these dessert balls are made from natural, unrefined sweetness (agave nectar, dates and fruit) that are actually good for you.

Have you had your dessert today?

Fudge Date Balls

Medjool dates are a great substitute for sugar, with a sticky texture that tastes of caramel and honey. Medjools are delicious whole or stuffed with nuts, sweet cheese or other fillings, but when chopped and combined with unsweetened cocoa powder, the result is basically fudge. Blended with walnuts, vanilla and coconut, Fudge Date Balls are dangerously addictive.

1 1/3 cup pitted Dates
1 cup Walnuts
3-4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt
Coconut (to taste)

Combine pitted dates, cocoa powder, salt, vanilla and walnuts in a food processor. If you don’t have a food processor, you can use a blender but it’s a little more difficult. Once the ingredients form a big gooey mass, sprinkle in some coconut. Roll “dough” into 1-inch balls.

Mango Coconut Balls

If you’re in the mood, raw, vegan Mango Coconut Balls offer fresh and fruity combination. Without gluten, nuts or cocoa, these little balls of bliss are virtually allergy free. The sweet, dried mango combined with lemon zest, coconut, and agave nectar is heaven. Try this recipe with dried apricots, too!

3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/3 cup extra unsweetened shredded coconut for rolling.
2 cups dried unsweetened unsulphured mango (soaked in some filtered water for about 1/2 an hour)
1/2 cup agave nectar
8 tbsp cold pressed coconut oil
2 tsp freshly grated lemon zest

Place all the ingredients in your food processor (except the extra 1/3 cup of coconut) and pulse into well combined. The mixture is ready when it congeals together and almost forms a ball. Roll the mixture into small balls and roll in shredded coconut. Freeze on a baking tray lined with parchment paper for about 20 minutes. Store in a container in the fridge.

Oatmeal Cookie Balls

At just 53 calories per ball, these sweet treats are hard to pass up. You may have seen these similar, locally-made nuggets for sale in coffee shops around Austin, but $3 a ball is pretty steep. Why not make your own?

2 cups oats (quick or old fashioned)

¼ tsp kosher salt

2 cups packed, pitted, dried dates

¼ cup roasted (unsalted) sunflower seeds

2 tbsp almond butter (or peanut butter)

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tbsp water

Combine oats, salt, dates and sunflower seeds in food processor and pulse (then run for 30 seconds) to combine. Add almond butter, vanilla, cinnamon and water and run until uniformly combined. Roll into 1 tbsp. size balls (or to whichever size you prefer) and store in an air tight container in the fridge. Will keep for up to 1 week.

Now go on. Live a little!

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