With three kinds of veggies and the texture and flavor that your kids expect, this Healthy Meatball recipe is a perfect family dinner option. And since the baked meatballs taste so good, the kids will be happy to tuck into their plates! (Bonus: They freeze well too.)

healthy-meatballs-with-spaghetti

Healthy Meatball Recipe

While I’m all for continuing to expose our kids to what we want them to eat, there are times when tucking veggies into foods they already love—like meatballs—can go a long way towards making us all feel better at mealtime. My whole family loves these easy meatballs, kids and parents both.

And I love that we all get an extra serving of vegetables in the process.

These are delicious on their own, simmered in Marinara Sauce, and/or paired with a favorite pasta. We also sometimes eat them plain, we love them so much.

ingredients in healthy meatball recipe

Ingredients You Need

To make this recipe you’ll need:

  • Carrots, parsley, and onion: These add flavor and nutrients to the meatballs.
  • Ground beef: I like grass-fed beef for the extra healthy fats and since it tends to be leaner, but any type will do.
  • Breadcrumbs: Plain or Italian-flavored breadcrumbs work well here.
  • Egg: This helps the meatballs hold together.
  • Milk: A little milk adds moisture to help the batter stay moist and delicious.
  • Grated Parmesan
  • Salt, optional to taste.

Step-By-Step Instructions

Here’s a look at the process involved in making these easy meatballs so you know what to expect. Scroll down to the end of the post for the full amounts and times.

how-to-make-healthy-meatballs--step-by-step
  1. Preheat the oven and gather your ingredients. Grind up the veggies in a food processor. 
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and grind to combine into a smooth mixture.
  3. Portion into 2-tablespoon size meatballs and place on the baking sheet.
  4. Bake!
  5. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate if desired.
  6. Simmer in marinara sauce if desired.

TIP: To make these gluten-free, simply choose gluten-free breadcrumbs.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to you make simple meatballs?

This recipe comes together easily in a food processor to ensure that the batter is uniform and comes together without fuss. Yes, you have to wash the food processor, but the evenly chopped meat and veggie mixture is well worth that minimal effort. (And you can always stick it into the dishwasher!)

Are these homemade meatballs healthy?

With three kinds of veggies, lean ground beef, and a method that allows you to easily drain off any excess fat, these are a healthy meatball recipe to share with the whole family.

Can I make these as mini meatballs?

Sure! You can make these with just 1 tablespoon of the mixture and reduce the cooking time to closer to about 18-22 minutes.

healthy-meatballs-on-adult-and-kids-plate

Ground Turkey Meatballs

If you want to make your toddler turkey meatballs, simply swap in ground turkey for the ground beef in the recipe below. The texture and flavor will be similar, and the meatballs will have a slightly lighter final color. You may need to reduce the cooking time slightly.

Aim for an internal temperature of 165 degrees and try not to over cook.

This is a great ground beef recipe for toddlers and kids since it’s very soft and easy to eat, even for babies and younger toddlers.

Make-Ahead Meatballs

You can make a batch of these baked meatballs ahead of time, let cool fully, and freeze in a zip top freezer bag for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge or simmer in a quart of marinara sauce in a large pot until thawed and warmed through.

They’re a great recipe to make a double batch—serve one batch for dinner this week and stash the other into the freezer for a future easy meal!

Find more of my favorite Freezer Meals to help make life a little easier.

healthy meatballs with spaghetti in white bowls

Baked Meatballs for Baby Led Weaning

Meatballs with hidden vegetables are an excellent food for baby led weaning. You can offer small cubes or mash into marinara or tomato sauce and offer on a preloaded spoon. Your baby will get iron, as well as protein and fiber. And lots of flavor they will love!

These meatballs have vitamin A and C from the carrots and parsley, as well as fiber and protein.

How to Store

To store, let cool fully and store in an airtight container in the fridge or up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Best Tips for Success

  • Grind the veggies up before you add the rest of the ingredients to make sure they are all uniform in size. This is key. You’re aiming for the veggies to have a similar consistency as the ground meat.
  • Resist the urge to add in more veggies. There is over a cup of veggies in this recipe, which is enough to add extra nutrients, yet you honestly can’t tell. (My husband couldn’t tell either, which was honestly the true test!) If you add more, the texture won’t be as good.
  • Serve them with a sauce your family likes, whether that’s marinara, meat sauce, or even ketchup.
  • Simmer them in marinara sauce for even more tender and flavorful meatballs, just like grandma would have done! (Or at least, my grandma would have, though you of course don’t have to.)
  • Even though there are vegetables tucked into this recipe, I still recommend being honest with your kids about what they’re eating. Let them take a bite, be excited about their dinner, and then share the good news!
  • To make these gluten-free, simply use GF breadcrumbs (these are really good) or even cornmeal.

Related Recipes


I’d love to hear your feedback on this recipe, so please comment below!

healthy meatballs in large bowl and small kids bowl

Healthy Meatballs (with Hidden Vegetables)

With the texture you expect from a traditional meatball but added nutrition from three types of veggies, your whole family will love these.
4.98 from 48 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 22 minutes
Total Time 32 minutes
Cuisine Italian
Course Dinner
Calories 1760kcal
Servings 8 about 20

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup parsley leaves, lightly packed
  • 1 small onion, peeled and halved
  • 1/2 cup Italian-flavored bread crumbs
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Coat with nonstick spray. Place the carrots, parsley, and onion into a food processor. Grind well, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  • Add the remaining ingredients and grind to combine into a smooth mixture. Portion into 2-tablespoon-size meatballs and place on the prepared baking sheet.
  • Bake for 22-25 minutes or until cooked through. Serve with warm marinara sauce and pasta (or ketchup and other simple sides!) as desired.

Video

Notes

  • To store, let cool fully and store in an airtight container in the fridge or up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • Grind the veggies up before you add the rest of the ingredients to make sure they are all uniform in size. This is key. You’re aiming for the veggies to have a similar consistency as the ground meat.
  • Resist the urge to add in more veggies. There is over a cup of veggies in this recipe, which is enough to add extra nutrients, yet you honestly can’t tell.
  • Serve them with a sauce your family likes, whether that’s marinara, meat sauce, or even ketchup.
  • Simmer them in marinara sauce for even more tender and flavorful meatballs.
  • Even though there are vegetables tucked into this recipe, I still recommend being honest with your kids about what they’re eating. Let them take a bite, be excited about their dinner, and then share the good news! 
  • To make these gluten-free, simply use GF bread crumbs (these are really good) or even cornmeal.
  • Serve them diced or mashed to younger toddlers and babies as needed.
  • Sub in ground turkey if desired.

Nutrition

Calories: 1760kcal, Carbohydrates: 63g, Protein: 115g, Fat: 114g, Saturated Fat: 46g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g, Monounsaturated Fat: 47g, Trans Fat: 6g, Cholesterol: 533mg, Sodium: 3173mg, Potassium: 2058mg, Fiber: 8g, Sugar: 14g, Vitamin A: 14056IU, Vitamin C: 53mg, Calcium: 892mg, Iron: 15mg
Tried this recipe?Rate in the comments and tag @yummytoddlerfood on IG!

This post was first published November 2017.

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