If your toddler doesn’t love eating their green veggies straight up, try serving them in these yummy Whole Grain Mini Meatballs with Kale. They are moist, filled with classic Italian flavor, and make for a really nutritious toddler dinner.
How to Make Mini Meatballs
I love making mini meatballs for toddlers since the serving size is much better suited to their appetites. And they can be a perfect finger food, which can make toddler meals much easier for everyone at the table. To portion out the mini meatballs, I use a 1-tablespoon measuring spoon and then roll the meat mixture into a ball. Easy!
Healthy Meatball Recipe
I don’t make a habit of hiding vegetables in foods since I want my kids to know what they are eating. But since I can’t yet convince my girl to eat sautéed greens or kale salad, these healthy toddler meatballs are a good alternative to serving up kale chips or green smoothies. We eat a lot of meatballs in our house, so the bar for these toddler meatballs is high—and thankfully the marinara sauce helps the teensy bits of green not to be too alarming!
Mini Meatballs with Spaghetti
You can serve these Whole Grain Mini Kale Meatballs over pasta, polenta, and even toast for open-face sandwiches and top with a little melted cheese. If your toddler isn’t totally on board with the texture of meat, you can mash a few pieces up in warm marinara sauce to help them take small, more appealing tastes. This is also an excellent way to serve meatballs to babies.
Mini Meatballs without Breadcrumbs
If you need to make these toddler meatballs gluten-free, try using favorite GF breadcrumbs or simply use cornmeal. If you’d like to use grass-fed beef to increase the healthy fats, that is a healthy option and one that will work well here.
Frozen Mini Meatballs
You can bake a batch of these healthy meatballs, let them cool, and store in an airtight freezer bag for up to 3 months. Thaw right in a simmering pot of pasta sauce to serve!
How long should I cook mini meatballs?
This recipe takes about 18-20 minutes to cook, so you can make the whole thing in about 30 minutes. Not too bad for a healthy family dinner! You can of course also make the meat mixture ahead and stick it into the fridge until you’re ready to bake. (Breaking steps up is sometimes necessary when cooking with toddlers around…)
Nutrition in Mini Meatballs
These toddler meatballs have fiber and Vitamin C from the kale, protein from the beef, and extra antioxidants from the onion and garlic. The inclusion of oats adds extra fiber and B vitamins. If you serve them in tomato-based sauce, you’ll add in more Vitamins A and C too!
(If you’re looking for more easy dinner ideas, check out 25 Make-Ahead Toddler Dinners.)
Classic Italian meatballs with kale tucked inside to help toddlers eat their greens!
- 1/4 cup rolled oats
- 1/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs
- 2-4 kale leaves, stems removed
- 1 small onion, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 garlic clove, peeled
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
- 1 egg
- Preheat oven to 375 F. Coat a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. Place the oats, breadcrumbs, kale, onion, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to grind.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and grind until thoroughly minced and uniform. Form into 1-tablespoon-size meatballs and place on the prepared baking sheet.
- Bake for about 18 minutes, or until brown and cooked through. Drain on paper towels if necessary. Warm in your favorite marinara sauce and serve with polenta, whole grain pasta, or alongside whole-wheat toast.
Use cornmeal instead of breadcrumbs to make these meatballs gluten free.
Use half ground Italian sausage and half ground beef for extra flavor.
Try with ground turkey.
Use baby spinach instead of kale.