Energy Balls and “Always, Sometimes, & Never” Foods

4 from 2 votes

Hooray! It’s October 1st, and the first day of the October Unprocessed 2013 challenge! Today we also begin our month-long series of fabulous guest posts.

Krista and Jeff Roche, aka the Rambling Roches, are busy working parents of two young sons. Amidst the happy chaos of parenthood, they prioritize healthy eating and family nutrition. After losing a combined total of eighty pounds through clean eating, they’ve made it their lifestyle and enjoy writing about their family’s culinary adventures on their blog.

Today they’re sharing their terrific recipe for “Energy Balls” — along with their smart philosophy of “Always, Sometimes, and Never” foods. They also wrote a brilliant poem to go with it — how great is that?

#Unprocessed Energy Balls

So, you’ve got children who eat every vegetable, never beg for junk food, and eat only unprocessed food. No? Neither do we! We do have children who will taste vegetables, gobble fruit, and who have gradually accepted that we don’t eat fast food. We’re stepping in the right direction as a family, still on the road to optimal nutrition.

Last year we completed October Unprocessed, but didn’t involve the children much. This year, we’ll be using October Unprocessed to reflect on and improve our family’s eating habits. To do so we’ll talking to our children about Always, Sometimes, and Never foods. When my son Finn was two, his preschool introduced us to this concept. We’ve been loving it ever since. While, I think each family will define that in terms of their own food values, here are our definitions:

“Always” Foods

These are foods that you can eat anytime. Organic fruits, veggies, lean proteins, full-fat dairy, and whole grains fall into this category for us. Plants and happy animals are Always Foods.

“Sometimes” Foods

This category includes items with less nutritional value, but none of the harmful ingredients contained in Never Foods. Think homemade treats and packaged goods that qualify as unprocessed. You can increase your family’s nutrition by preparing these Sometimes Foods at home with Kitchen Test approved ingredients.

“Never” Foods

To us, Never Foods aren’t really food at all. To quote Michael Pollan, they’re “edible food-like substances.” In particular look for ingredients like artificial dyes, high fructose corn syrup, and trans fats. In our family, we put soda, processed junk food, and fast food into this category.

One note about Never Foods, is that the name is a misnomer. For most of us, they are more like very rare foods. For example, a handful of trips to the local ice cream shop is on tap for our family every summer, regardless of the dyed sprinkles and candy toppings. We can tolerate this and other forays into the field of Never Foods, as long as it is very rare.

As with everything parenting, this Always-Sometimes-Never model isn’t one-size-fits-all. It’s a guideline to adopt and adapt to fit your family. If you’re just starting on the path to healthy eating, some of our Never Foods might act more like Sometimes Foods in your household. Use the formulation that works for you, then revise and revamp as needed. You can each your children about nutrition as you apply the model that works for you, and build your catalog of healthy, kid-friendly recipes along the way.

Krista and Finn making Energy Balls

Before we get to one of our favorite kid-friendly recipes, here’s a poem we’ll be using this month with our little guys to talk about Always, Sometimes, and Never Foods:

ALWAYS FOODS are the very best!
They pass the Unprocessed Kitchen Test,
So, eat more of these foods than all the rest.

Fruits and veggies are Always Foods,
That will keep your body feeling good.
Nuts and seeds and eggs and meat,
Are perfect Always Foods to eat!

Farmers markets are great spots,
To get Always Foods that are tops.
There’s one more thing so don’t panic,
Always Foods should be organic.

SOMETIMES FOODS can be okay,
Just not too many in one day,
So you’ll have the energy to play!

Sometimes Foods include some sweets,
Like chocolate milk or home-baked treats.
Perhaps some tasty whole-grain crackers,
Would be perfect for your afternoon snacker.

Sometimes Foods include lemonade,
And the birthday cake dear grandma made.
A little of these foods can be just fine,
Just remember — not all the time.

NEVER FOODS mean beware!
Since you treat your body with good care,
Never Foods should be very rare.

Their ingredient lists are tough to read,
With funny sounding names indeed.
With high fructose corn syrup and GMOs,
These types of food are major NOs!

While these treats might look yummy,
They will be hurtful to your tummy.
So if it’s dyed #40 Red,
Eat an organic apple instead!

A last reminder before we go:
ALWAYS foods will help you grow!
SOMETIMES foods can be okay,
And NEVER foods mean stay away!

Energy Balls

4 from 2 votes

Energy Balls

By: Krista and Jeff Roche
This recipe passes both the Kitchen Test and the Kid Test. Due to the chocolate chips, we classify this as a Sometimes Food, albeit a very frequent one in our household. The nut butter and oats provide protein, and the flax and chia offer health benefits like Omega-3s. We hope you enjoy these gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free snacks!
Prep: 15 minutes
Total: 15 minutes
Servings: 8 servings


  • 1 cup gluten-free rolled oats
  • ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • ½ cup peanut or almond butter
  • ½ cup chocolate chips
  • 8 medjool dates, pitted
  • 1 tablespoon ground chia seeds
  • 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal


  • Place all ingredients in a food processor. (Oh, the irony of October Unprocessed!)
  • Mix thoroughly.
  • Roll into balls.
  • Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.


1. Make sure all of your ingredients pass the Kitchen Test. Not all nut butters pass. For the chocolate chips, we use Enjoy Life.
2. Use organic ingredients if you can.
3. We prefer Bob’s Red Mill for the oats and flax.


Calories: 306kcal, Carbohydrates: 37g, Protein: 7g, Fat: 16g, Saturated Fat: 6g, Cholesterol: 1mg, Sodium: 85mg, Potassium: 353mg, Fiber: 5g, Sugar: 25g, Vitamin A: 60IU, Calcium: 54mg, Iron: 1.4mg
Like this recipe? Rate and comment below!


A photo of Andrew Wilder leaning into the frame and smiling, hovering over mixing bowls in the kitchen.

Welcome to Eating Rules!

Hi! My name is Andrew Wilder, and I think healthy eating doesn’t have to suck. With just three simple eating rules, we'll kickstart your journey into the delicious and vibrant world of unprocessed food.

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September 29, 2014 8:15 am

Would these work well with soaked oats?
Along with real foods, we follow a Weston A Price diet and soak/sprout/sour all our grains and legumes.

September 23, 2014 10:12 am

LOVE the poem! 🙂 And can’t wait to try the recipe …

October 9, 2013 4:08 pm

Hi Stephanie! Here’s a Nut-Free version: You try pumpkin puree in place of the nut butter. I just made a delightful version using:
1 cup organic oats
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut
2-3 Tbsp pumpkin puree
3 large dates, pitted
1 Tbsp raisins
1Tbsp ground flax
(1tsp vanilla optional)
1 tsp cinnamon or to taste
1/8 tsp ground cloves

Processed all together in my food processor and scooped into tupperware using mini scoop to make bite size morsels (about Tbsp). Dusted with a little more cinnamon and unsweetened coconut and put in refrigerator. Delish raw (or baked). I prefer raw as it holds up well and tastes sweeter. Enjoy!!!