Healthy Veggie-Loaded Meatballs

Sometimes, you gotta be stealthy when it comes to veggies and kids.

Healthy Veggie-Loaded Meatballs

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.

Healthy Veggie-Loaded Meatballs

"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 Veggie-Loaded Meatballs. 

Guys, my daughter loooovved these 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.

Healthy Veggie-Loaded Meatballs

"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.

Makes 18 meatballs

Ingredients:

  • 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
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 pound ground grass-fed beef
  • 2 tablespoon flax meal

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. In a food processor, combine the broccoli, carrots, baby spinach, green onions, and garlic. Pulse until finely chopped.
  3. 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. 
  4. 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). Note: Using a baking dish or a baking sheet with a lip is important, as the vegetables will give off some water during the cooking process.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until meat is cooked through.
  6. Enjoy warm on their own, with Crockpot Tomato Sauce, over zoodles, your favorite pasta or save fore later! Store leftovers in fridge for up to 5 days or in freezer for a month

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