Healthy, school-safe, gluten-free energy bites

energy bars lined up on a platter next to an open jar of coconut
Healthy, gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free. What more do you need?

With back-to-school just around the corner, I’m already trying out new snacks for our lunches. These days nearly every school is nut-free or nut-safe.  Even though nuts are an excellent choice for healthy snack options, it’s important to respect the guidelines set out by your child’s school to keep everyone safe. These school-safe energy bites are a product of whatever I had in my pantry this day, but they are gluten-free, dairy-free and nut-free. 

A healthy snack

So what makes them so healthy?

  • High in protein (sunflower seed butter and hemp seeds)
  • Great source of healthy fat (coconut)
  • High in energy providing B vitamins (sunflower seeds)
  • Naturally sweetened (maple syrup, dates)
  • High in fibre and antioxidants (dates)

School-friendly, school-safe

These energy bites are great for school lunches because they’re peanut-free. They are also gluten-free and dairy-free. They travel well, so they’re a great option for an after-school snack, if you’re heading to extra-curricular activities straight from school.

Adult and kid friendly

I have made these “bites” in different sizes.  You can shape them into balls or press them into bars, depending on who you’re serving them to. 

The mixture can be pressed into bars (shown here) or rolled into balls.

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I used my Epicure silicone pan for these, however there are similar ones on Amazon like this one:

Variations and adjustments

You can play around with the dry ingredients to throw in some other healthy ingredients such as ground flax seed, pumpkin seeds or oats. If you want to add nuts, you can sub any nut for the sunflower seeds, or use a nut butter (peanut, almond) instead of sunflower seed butter. You could also add mini chocolate chips, which I didn’t do, but definitely will next time!

These are fairly sweet, so you could also get away with reducing/omitting the maple syrup. I would try mixing it up without it at first, sample it, then add the maple syrup in small amounts to your liking.


As always, I love a good make-ahead recipe that can be stored in the fridge or freezer for future use.

If you’re looking for a healthy back-to-school lunch idea, check out my Back-to-school lunch bowls.

Also, last year at this time, I purchased The School Year Survival Cookbook and it is life-changing! I especially love and make the Multigrain Muffin Mix regularly and the entire Breakfast section of the book. These recipes are great for getting ahead when meal prepping for back-to-school, but I also use them often when entertaining for brunch. Definitely worth the buy!

Recipe – Healthy, school-safe, gluten-free energy bites 

  • 2 cups dates (soaked in warm water for 20 minutes)
  • 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds 
  • 1/3 cup sunflower seed butter
  • 1/2 cup hemp seeds
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut (plus more for coating the outsides) 
  • 1 Tbsp. maple syrup

Basically all you have to do is blend everything together in the food processor, once you’ve soaked your dates and drained out the water. Shape into balls (about 1 Tbsp. each) or press into bars, roll in coconut (or coconut flour if you prefer a smoother texture on the outside) and store in an air-tight container in the fridge or freezer. Pretty simple. Enjoy!

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