Mitzi Dulan can’t confirm that ace pitcher Johnny Cueto fueled up on her recipe for protein energy balls before he went to the mound for the decisive win Wednesday against the Houston Astros, but there’s a good chance he may have nibbled on a few before game time.
Dulan, the team’s nutritionist for the past 11 years, started dropping off double and then quadruple batches of her Honey Peanut Butter Protein Energy Balls to the clubhouse two games before the Royals clinched the central league division.
“The energy balls are crazy popular,” she says. “The guys like them, and they run out every time. I’ve got another similar recipe that incorporates chocolate that has received something like 80,000 shares on Pinterest. I will see about using it next year, but right I can’t change it. I’m too superstitious.”
Protein energy balls are a hot item in the sports nutrition world, says Dulan, a Leawood-based registered dietitian who trademarked herself as “America’s Nutrition Expert” and is the author of “The Pinterest Diet.”
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“I think people are really into the idea of making food at home with natural ingredients so you know what is going into it,” she says.
Dulan’s recipe, which appears on her blog, includes seven good-for-you ingredients without additives: natural peanut butter, whey protein powder and almonds for plenty of protein plus rolled oats, dried apricots, coconut and honey for high-quality carbohydrates, the kind that fuel a natural burst of energy.
Dulan’s recipe tips:
▪ The no-bake recipe requires nothing more than a mixing bowl.
▪ Dulan suggests looking for natural peanut butter with just peanuts and salt on the ingredient label.
▪ Serving size is important: Dulan admits “my challenge is to have just one.” She estimates three slightly smaller than a ping pong balls qualify as a serving.
▪ If you want to experiment with the recipe, she suggests swapping dried cherries for the dried apricots.
Dulan says her role as team nutritionist includes helping players hone in on performance-based nutrition, providing counseling and individual meal plans as well as taking a lead role in educating players and their families on trending nutrition topics.
Dulan attends once every homestand and meets with players twice during spring training, but she encourages players to stay in touch year-round by text. “I tell them if they are standing in the grocery store and they’re not sure what to buy that they can take a photo and text it to me,” she says.
So far her Honey Peanut Butter Protein Energy Balls recipe has only had 9,000 social media shares, but if the Royals keep on their winning streak, the recipe may go viral.
“(First baseman) Eric Hosmer says the protein energy bars are one of his favorite snacks,” she says.
Honey Peanut Butter Protein Energy Balls
Makes 2 dozen
Serving size: 3 energy balls
1¼ cup old-fashioned oats
3 tablespoons shredded coconut
½ cup sliced almonds, chopped
1 scoop whey protein powder
½ cup honey
½ cup dried apricots, chopped
½ cup peanut butter
In a medium bowl, combine the oats, coconut, almonds, and protein powder. Stir until well distributed. Add the honey, apricots, and peanut butter, and stir all ingredients well. Put mixing bowl into the refrigerator for 20 to 30 minutes. Then roll into rounded balls. Chill. Will last refrigerated for about 5 days.
Nutrition Information: Calories per serving, 196; protein, 6 g; carbs, 25 g; fat, 8 g; fiber, 2.5 g; sodium, 41 g
Mitzi’s disclosure: I was previously a spokesperson for the National Honey Board and was compensated for my time but opinions are my own.