With three kinds of veggies and the texture and flavor that your kids expect, these Healthy Meatballs with Hidden Vegetables are a perfect family dinner option.
I know that toddlers can be a demoralizing task, especially when they refuse their veggies day after day. And while I’m all for continuing to expose them to what we want them to eat, there are times when tucking veggies into foods they already love can go a long way towards making us all feel better at mealtime.
Healthy Meatballs the Family Will Love
When L was a year old, I distinctly remember a meal when she ate 3 full size meatballs. I couldn’t believe that such a little person could have such a big appetite. And while her little sister doesn’t have the natural affinity for meat, they both happily dig into these toddler meatballs—and get an extra serving of vegetables in the process.
Tips for Making the Best Healthy Meatballs
- Use veggies without intense flavors because you don’t want to frustrate your little eaters with a meatball that doesn’t taste like a meatball!
- 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!
How to Make Healthy Meatballs Step-By-Step
- Preheat the oven and gather your ingredients including carrots, parsley, onion, ground beef, breadcrumbs, eggs, milk, Parmesan, and salt.
- Grind up the veggies in a food processor. Add the remaining ingredients and grind to combine into a smooth mixture.
- Portion into 2-tablespoon size meatballs and bake!
- . Serve with warm marinara sauce and pasta (or ketchup and other simple sides!) as desired.
Can I make these into mini meatballs?
Many kids like it when things are more their size, so know that you can make these in 1-inch balls and reduce the cooking time to closer to about 18 minutes. You could even thread them onto a popsicle stick and offer them with a dipping sauce for a fun option!
Can I use ground turkey in this recipe?
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.
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!
Nutrition in Healthy Meatballs
These meatballs have vitamin A and C from the carrots and parsley, as well as fiber. Parsley, which I know we all think of as a garnish, has similar nutrition as other leafy greens, and the flavor pairs much better with the other meatball ingredients. (You can also try baby spinach if you like.) There is protein of course and some calcium from the cheese. The onion adds some extra antioxidants too.
P.S. To make these gluten-free, simply use GF breadcrumbs (these are really good) or even cornmeal.
With the texture you expect from a traditional meatball, but added nutrition from three types of veggies, your whole family will love these.
- 1/2 cup carrots, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup parsley leaves, lightly packed
- 1 small onion, peeled and halved
- 1/2 cup Italian flavored breadcrumbs
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
- 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.
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.