Grain-Free Chocolate Protein Bites (Vegan, Sugar-Free, Paleo & Candida-Friendly)

[Grain-Free Chocolate Protein Bites are vegan, sugar-free, gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, egg free, soy-free,  yeast-free, and low glycemic. With a Stage 1 variation for the anti-candida diet.]

Gluten-free, sugar-free, vegan, candida chocolate protein balls on

[Protein bites, two ways: ACD Stage 1 (no fruit) on the left; with fruit on the right.]

Like so many teenaged girls, my idol growing up was my older sister.  I wanted to be just like The Nurse. She was tall (I was fairly short), lean and slim (I was chubby), with naturally blonde hair (mine was boring brown) that fell past her waist and swished across the back of her peasant tops and jeans, especially when she rushed to the door to greet her hippie boyfriend. She painted little pink flowers on her cheekbone right below her eyelashes; she wore turquoise eyeliner and shimmery coral lipstick; and she cut the labels off her designer jeans just to prove she was anti-establishment. I never knew what she and her hip 60’s friends were up to when they gathered in her bedroom in the basement, giggles and guffaws wafting through the closed door as I sat and watched Little House on the Prairie–but whatever it was, I knew it was cool.

So, naturally, when I hit puberty and immediately decided I was too fat and needed to go on a diet, I consulted first with The Nurse.

“Start the day with a bowl of cornflakes and skim milk,” she advised. “Then, for lunch at school, have the soup of the day with an orange. For dinner, eat salad and a piece of chicken or some tuna. Oh, and NO SNACKS.”

Candida diet, sugar-free, gluten-free vegan chocolate protein bites on

That last one really got me. I was used to eating snacks at recess, after school, while watching TV. . .  I figured lunch would be easy, since I volunteered at the school cafeteria and was provided a free lunch as compensation. Looking back, I realize I could have chosen anything from the buffet (which, at that time, was more like Jamie Oliver’s vision of school lunch than what most schools actually offer today)–but no, I was determined to lose all the weight, so I focused on my sister’s directive: soup and an orange. When I got home from school around 3:30 PM, ravenous and in need of energy to complete my homework, I ignored my body’s signals and adhered strictly to the diet. My mantra became “NO SNACKS.” By dinnertime, I was ready to wrestle a wolverine for a portion of salad and chicken or tuna.**

But wow, the weight sure did fall off. I lost about 20 pounds in a month. I also started feeling lethargic and depressed. And then I had no energy to see my friends, or really do anything else except keep up with school work and maintain my diet. And then . . . I lost my period. But hey, I was finally able to fit into those red bell bottoms that I really loved.

Grainfree, sugarfree, candida diet Vegan Chocolate Protein Balls on

When I look back on those days (and pretty much all of my twenties and thirties), I’m kind of amazed at how much dieting ruled my life. Nowadays, of course, with my knowledge of holistic nutrition and having spent virtually years of my life on diets that didn’t work, I’ve come to believe that our bodies do generally let us know when things are going well (or not).  What I thought was “fat” all those years was actually really pretty normal, and I wasted a lot of energy worrying about how I looked when I could have been enjoying my life. (I also developed some pretty dysfunctional eating habits, many of which I’m still working to correct all these years later).

Fast forward to today, and I no longer restrict my food  as long as it’s safe for the ACD; I don’t count calories, points, carbs, or fat grams. Another thing I’ve learned is that healthy eating isn’t about restrictions or deprivation (in fact, I consider the ACD to be health-promoting, not “restrictive”). I try to remember that just because you enjoy your food doesn’t mean it’s bad for you. I’m definitely not perfect, but I’m committed to the process, and I celebrate the fact that I’m way ahead of where I was six years ago, when I first started the diet. In fact, these days, I’m probably the one dispensing nutrition advice to The Nurse instead of the other way around (though she doesn’t listen to my advice, either).

In other words, in my world, snacks are JUST FINE. If chosen judiciously, they may even be an essential component of a balanced diet for some people.

I made these protein balls with a sample I received of NuNaturals Nustevia Cocoa Syrup, a stevia-sweetened chocolate syrup that’s just as thick and chocolatey as the canned one I remember from my childhood. I loved the syrup over ice cream and in myriad other ways (like smoothies, fudge, cookies, or even over pancakes. . . ), too, but it worked particularly well in these bites. Like other NuNaturals products that I love, I have no doubt that this syrup will become a staple in my kitchen, too.

I may still wish I were slimmer than I am, but I’ll no longer eliminate healthy snacks or major food groups to get there.  And when I’m craving chocolate that won’t mess with my blood sugar, I reach for these chocolatey treats.

Sugar-free, candida diet chocolate protein bites recipe on

** Okay, not really. I’m scared of wild animals. But I definitely threw one of my sisters to the ground once in a while.

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“Mum, we’re so glad you approve of snacks throughout the day. So, isn’t it about time for another treat? We promise not to wrestle you for it.”

Elsie and Chaser on

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  1. catherine says

    hello Ricky, I enjoy reading your blog sometimes, and I though you might try something instead of chocolate syrup in this recipe (or in another one!). I use little sugar in general but dates, but when baking with chocolate or carob, carob molasse works very well s a sweetener. It is natural and non refined (boiled carob pods only) It reminds me of Blackstrapp molasses for the color and texture, but it tastes like carob ! It is a libanian product, so I buy mine in a international groceries.

    • Thanks so much, Catherine! I’ve heard of carob syrup but have never been able to find it. But I agree, it would probably be awesome in this recipe! Unfortunately, I still can’t have too many dates, as they are the fruit with the highest natural sugar content and can cause a flare of my candida symptoms. But they are a delectable once-in-a-while treat. 🙂

  2. Diane Hudson says

    This post just confirms again how similar our background stories are! I could have written all the same words I too followed every diet that came along! My Mom was the one whose footsteps I followed.
    In college I became anorexic and lost my period as well.
    I am so thankful I found you and all your inspirational words. And BEST of all, your recipes. You have saved me from myself, haha
    . I was a kick-starter! I am still doing exceptionally well. For the first time in my life, it’s not about losing weight or counting or writing anything down.
    I am looking forward to the new cookbook!
    Thank you again for being there.
    Diane Hudson

    • So great to hear from you, Diane! Funny how certain themes can link us together sometimes, isnt’ it? And I’m thrilled that you’re still doing so well! Of course I remember you from the Candida Kick-Start group!! And thanks so much for the kind words about the cookbook. . . I can’t wait for it to be “out there” at last, either. 😉 Hope you’re enjoying the summer (in a healthy, anti-candida kind of way–ha ha!) 😀

  3. Fantastic post-these snacks look so delicious. 🙂 Here’s to many more years of good health Ricki! xo

  4. Frederique says

    They are kinda like chocolate energy balls but without the dates! I’m gonna have to try that stevia chocolate syrup! My daughter will loveeeeeeeee that with strawberries on her pancakes on saturday mornings! Though she is only 3.75 (she turns 4 in september), I still try to limit her refined sugar intake.. especially since the dad doesn’t do that so much *coughs-wrapped-around-her-little-finger-cough* 😀

    • Yes, very much so! I used the prunes to replace the dried fruit (lower glycemic), but the dark chocolate, Stage One variety, were also yummy. I loved the syrup on pancakes myself (and on ice cream, etc etc!!). Hope your daughter loves it, too–and happy early birthday to her! 🙂

  5. You always tell the best stories Ricki! When is your novel coming out? And these bites look delish. Good for pregnant and nursing Mommas. I’m tucking it away! I got a bottle of NuNaturals syrup too – good excuse to try it.

    • Still working on editing that novel. . . the draft is a bit old, now (since I wrote it when I was 10!). 😉 I hope you love the syrup as much as I did–when mixed into the dough, it blends beautifully and really enhances the chocolate flavor. 🙂

  6. Hi Ricki, always enjoy your recipes.
    Do you think almond meal, leftover from making almond milk would work in these bites?
    I always dry it and use it in pancakes and for breading, but I wondered, since you are finely chopping the nuts, if the dried meal wouldn’t be an alternative? What’s your take?

    • Thanks so much, Barb! I haven’t tried it with dried almond meal, but since we’re not worrying about baking them, I’m pretty sure the meal should work. Your texture might be a bit finer than the ones in my photo, but that’s not a bad thing 😉 . If you do try them that way, please let me know how they turn out so other people can use the info, too! 🙂

  7. Your pups are too sweet! And of course I love this recipe. 🙂

  8. Your sister sounds very cool but I am sure you were too. These balls sound really lovely but even nicer is to hear you sounding so much calmer about your weight and chocolate, having followed the journey on your blog. We used to have chocolate topping as kids which we drizzled over ice cream but it was just so sugary and not chocolatey enough so that I never look back on it fondly.

    • Oh, believe me, Johanna, I was not cool! But that’s okay. . . just like my weight, I’m good with being a nerd now. 😉 And chocolate? It NEVER gets a bad rap. Your chocolate syrup sounds like ours, except I actually liked the fact that it was sugary!

  9. H Ricky!
    I really loved reading this post and I’m happy that dieting no longer rules your life and your focus is now on health! These look really yummy 🙂

    • Thanks so much, Cassidy! I’d say I gave up dieting at least 10 years ago, when I was in nutrition school. . . it’s made a huge difference. These days I always try to consider the nutritional/health qualities of what I eat (still not successful 100% of the time, but so much different from before!). 🙂 Glad you like the look of the bites!

  10. I love your blog. I am new to the blogging world but I am also a dog and health nut! Excited to have found you 🙂


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