These healthy meatballs are going to change family dinners! Kid-approved and loaded with three kinds of veggies and a flavor that you expect from a meatballs. Freezer-friendly, egg-free and gluten free, this easy meatball recipe is going to become a family favorite.Jump to Recipe
Healthy Meatballs (with veggies)
I’m pretty lucky when it comes to my daughter and her eating habits. She happily eats a broad variety of foods. Fruits, protein, a few gluten free grains and veggies.
Okay, fine…..some veggies. And sometimes. And what veggies she will or will not eat changes on a dime without any warning or rhyme or reason!
I used to get really frustrated by her sudden veggie protests. Baffled and dumbfounded even…and then I finally realized I had to simply roll with the punches of parenthood and hide the veggies.
Well, not all the veggies. Just the ones that she refuses to eat.
“Hidden veggies” can be a bit controversial. And I totally understand why. Children should learn that veggies are part of a healthy balanced diet and how can they do that if all the vegetables that they are eating are just hidden in their food? They might be getting the vitamins and nutrients, but are they learning to eat their veggies?
Not so much.
When I first became a mom, I was convinced that if I did everything “right”, my daughter would grow into a veggie-loving lady and there would never be any dinnertime battles over Brussels sprouts. I made her baby food from scratch. Exposed to her to as many veggies early on as possible so that I could expand her taste palate. Heck, I even let her play with veggies before I cooked them so that she could see what they looked like right out of the ground. Yep, I was convinced I was doing everything right to raise my girl to love her veggies. And for a while, it worked like a dream. My daughter ate every little veggie I gave her, with very few rejections.
And then parenthood does what it does best…..and humbled the hell out of me.
As a teacher and early childhood development expert, I should have seen it coming. As a mom, I was hoping I could defeat the odds. But it happened. Around the time that my little lady turned 3, veggies started to become her arch-nemesis. And my veggie-lovin’ girl wouldn’t touch a carrot or broccoli floret with a 10-foot pole.
At first, I hoped it was just a bump in the road. Then I was optimistic it would be a short phase. And then, I remembered all that I knew about child development and food….and embraced it (see Why Your Child Won’t Try New Foods….and How to Turn It Around)
So now at dinner, my (now 5 year old) daughter still gets the same food exact food as her dad and I…veggies included. I just now add bonus veggies to whatever I know she will eat.
Like these Healthy Meatballs (with veggies).
TNNers, my daughter loooovved these healthy meatballs. And while there are veggies strategically added to the recipe, I didn’t hide the fact that they are in there at all. In fact, my daughter helped me PUT the veggies into the food processor and watched as I rolled the veggies and meat together into little balls. And then, with full knowledge of their veggie-loaded goodness, she took a bite.
“Mom! These are really yummy! I like the spinach in these!” she gleefully informed me, shoving the rest of her meatball into her mouth.
Moral of the story: Being a parent requires you to be creative and flexible in many ways….including at the dinner table. While my girl doesn’t like raw spinach in her salad, she does like it in her meatballs. I can live with that. Instead of facing a dinner time battle or deciding that veggies didn’t need to be part of her life during childhood, I found another road….and I’m pleased as punch with myself for that.
Want to make sure you always have spinach on hand for these healthy meatballs? Check out my tips & tricks for keeping spinach fresh all week!
Other veggie-packed recipes your kids will love
- Chickpea Vegetable Nuggets
- Kid-Friendly Vegetable Sauce
- Veggie-Loaded Chicken Bites
- Kid-Friendly Spinach Muffins
Healthy Meatballs (with veggies)
- 1 1/2 cups fresh broccoli florets
- 1 large carrot roughly chopped
- 1 1/2 cups baby spinach loosely packed
- 2 stalks green onions
- 1 clove garlic
- 3/4 tsp salt or to taste
- 1/4 tsp pepper or to taste
- 1 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
- 1 pound ground beef can sub ground turkey or chicken
- 2 tbsp flax meal
- Preheat your oven to 400℉.
- In a food processor, combine the broccoli, carrots, baby spinach, green onions, and garlic. Pulse until finely chopped.
- Transfer the veggies to a large bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Time to get messy! Using your (freshly washed) hands, mix the ingredients until everything is well blended.
- Gently roll the meat into golfball size portions. Arrange the meatballs in a single layer in a large baking dish (you might need to use two baking dishes depending on how large they are).
- Bake for 20-25 minutes or until meat is cooked through.
- Enjoy warm on their own, with Crockpot Tomato Sauce, over your favorite pasta or save for later! Store leftovers in fridge for up to 5days or in freezer for a month
The nutritional information is provided as an estimate only and may vary based on the product type, servings and other factors. If you are following a diet, please consult with a professional nutritionist or your doctor. Stay healthy!
Sounds SO yummy!!! I can’t wait to make these!!
What a great way to sneak in some more veggies!
I have an extremely picky 7yr old daughter whom eats lots of fruit and only broccoli as a vegetable and that is sometimes & very little meat…. so this was a great way to sneak in vegetables and she absolutely loved them! I did use dark ground turkey meat instead of beef & they stilled turned out YUMMY! thank you! Linda ~ instagram @fruitandveggiesforlife
I can’t get over how many veggies you crammed in those meat balls! That is a great way to stretch the meat budget too – thanks for the great dinner recipe!
Emily @ Recipes to Nourish
I love how much goodness you can pack into meatballs! I’ve never tried adding broccoli before and I love that you load yours up with a bunch of it. I bet these are delicious!
So perfect for kids! I’ll definitely be making these for my rugrats soon 🙂 They love veggies luckily but I bet they’d absolutely love these.
I will have to give Jack a go with these. He’s become increasingly difficult at the dinner table. But these looks so good! Thanks for the tips, you’re always such a good source for gentle parenting tips!
Yum! What a great way to sneak in some veggies!
These are perfect to sneak in a few more veggies on my son. He is still not a veggie lover 🙂
There’s so much goodness in these! I know plenty of adults that need veggies hidden, too… 😉
I love meatballs for all those nourishing goodies they can hide. And kids happily gobble them up. Love this recipe!!
These veggie loaded meatballs look and sound so delicious !! I’m loving it !
I love this idea! I’m with you and don’t want to hide veggies from my daughter- but like you said, she knew about them. I think we may have this issue with our 18 month old- she loves something one day and is over it the next. We do our best giving her a variety of foods, but putting veggies in the meatballs is so smart! And they look so delicious!
I love sneaking veggies into meatballs, but don’t think I’ve ever gotten quite this many in. Looks delicious!
I love meatballs. And I love that these are loaded with veggies!!
I love stealth veggie recipes, because even though I’m all grown up, sometimes eating my veggies still feels like a chore. Veggie-loaded meatballs ftw!
Kari - Get Inspired Everyday!
I love your story, it takes me back to my mom doing the exact same thing for my much younger sister, she just refused to eat peas, so my mom starting grinding them into here meatballs and burger patties – worked like a charm!
These would be great for anyone who needs more veggies in their diet…must make them soon..
Hidden veggie recipes are best. Thanks for sharing!
We just ate these for dinner, delicious! My boys were asking for seconds! Definitely will be making these again and doubling the recipe. Thank you so much!
I made this, but must have added too many veggies because the mix was too watery / loose to ball up. But no worries: I threw the mix onto a cast iron skillet and made one giant mega-patty instead. Cooking it in the oven for 45 min to 1 hr (depending on how browned you want the edges) at 400F created the perfect meat-veg mega-patty to cut up into wedges and serve over zoodles. Thanks for the recipe template!
Have you tried with grated zucchini? Think it would work ok?
I have done something similar. It would, but I would suggest squeezing the liquid out of the zucchini before adding it to the meatballs.
Just made these for dinner! Oh. My. Gosh. These are a keeper! The amount of veggies in them is amazing and they taste SO good! Truly impressed by these! (I made the ranch dip on the side as I can’t get enough of that either).
Thank you for another wonderful, healthy recipe!
I’m so glad you liked them! And I love that ranch recipe too!
These have been a favorite of ours for YEARS! I don’t both making any other meatballs because these are always a winning recipe
This recipe is a must for my picky eaters! I have an allergy to flaxseed, what would you suggest as a substitute? (I have many seed allergies, so chia would not work either).
You could try an egg, as that is often the binder in many meatball recipes. I haven tired it though
Love this! And what a great way to use up leftover spaghetti sauce. Thank you so much for sharing. I will be trying these with my almost- 2 year old who already went from loving to hating veggies overnight.
Yay! That is so wonderful to hear!
Can I use frozen spinach? If so, how much?
I haven’t tried but that sounds like something I would totally give a go! I’d say 1/4-1/3 cup of defrosted spinach would be a good place to start. Be sure to drain off/squeeze out any extra liquid!
This is a great way to sneak in greens! Silly question- Should the veggies be steamed before mixing into the meat or raw?
They cook with the meat! No need to do any pre cooking!