Healthy Meatballs, Three Ways

Featured Article, Healthy Meal Ideas, Healthy Recipes and Nutrition
on September 19, 2014
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I’ve never met a single person who doesn’t adore meatballs. Whether they’re perched atop a mound of spaghetti, simmering in a sumptuous broth, or nestled into creamy mashed potatoes, one thing is certain: meatballs are spheres of comfort and joy. That is, until you realize that a relatively small, 3.5-ounce portion, dishes up 350 calories, 27 fat grams and 972 milligrams of sodium. And that’s JUST for the meatballs – no sauce, pasta, or mashed potatoes – plain meatballs. You’ll have to power walk (over 4 MPH) for over an hour to burn off those orbs of deliciousness.

But wait – healthy meatballs are within reach. Or, I should say, healthy and mouth-watering meatballs are yours! Start with lean meat (turkey, chicken, lean beef) and you can enjoy globally-inspired meatballs every week. I’ve created recipes that catapult meatballs from the ordinary to the extraordinary. The Tex-Mex turkey meatballs showcase the distinct flavors of the southwest: chili powder, cumin, cilantro, avocado, black beans, and fire-roasted tomatoes. The Asian-inspired chicken meatballs are simmered in a sesame- and soy-infused orange glaze. And, lastly, the beef meatballs are roasted and then skewered with the traditional ingredients found in an Italian caprese salad. I hope you’ll try all three!

Tex-Mex Turkey Meatballs with Cilantro and Avocado

tex mex turkey meatballs

Note: If you don’t have a food processor, coarsely chop the black beans before combing with the turkey and other ingredients in the meatballs.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground turkey breast
  • 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 teaspoon ground chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 15-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup frozen white corn, keep frozen until ready to use
  • 1 ripe avocado, diced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Directions: 

  1. In a food processor, combine the ground turkey, beans, chili powder, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper. Pulse on and off until evenly blended, without over processing. Shape the mixture into 16 meatballs.
  2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the meatballs and cook 5-7 minutes, until browned on all sides. Add the tomatoes, water and corn and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 5 more minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the avocado and cilantro and serve. Serves 4.

Nutrition Info Per Serving:

Calories: 300
Total Fat: 12 grams
Saturated Fat: 1.6 grams
Total Carbohydrate: 26 grams
Sugars: 5 grams
Protein: 28 grams
Sodium: 187 milligrams
Cholesterol: 34 milligrams
Fiber: 10 grams

Asian Orange Chicken Meatballs

meatballs

Note: Check out the calories, super low. If desired, serve the meatballs and sauce over brown rice or Chinese egg noodles – they both will soak up the sweet and savory sauce and nothing will be left behind!

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the ground chicken, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, ginger, salt, and black pepper. Mix well and shape the mixture into 16 meatballs.
  2. Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the meatballs and cook for 5-7 minutes, until browned on all sides.
  3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the orange juice, soy sauce, cornstarch, and sesame oil. Add the orange juice mixture to the meatballs and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 5 more minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through and the sauce thickens. Transfer the meatballs and sauce to a serving platter and top with fresh chives. Serves 4.

Nutrition Info Per Serving:

Calories: 192
Total Fat: 11 grams
Saturated Fat: 2.5 grams
Total Carbohydrate: 9 grams
Sugars: 5 grams
Protein: 16 grams
Sodium: 622 milligrams
Cholesterol: 73 milligrams
Fiber: <1 gram 

Italian Beef Caprese Kebabs

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Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 pound lean ground beef (preferably 93% lean)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 16 cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 8 ounces mozzarella balls or part-skim mozzarella cheese, cut into 16 equal cubes
  • 16 fresh basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, egg, parmesan, oregano, thyme, and black pepper. Mix well and shape the mixture into 16 meatballs. Transfer the meatballs to the prepared pan. In a small bowl, whisk together the ketchup and Dijon mustard. Brush the mixture all over the meatballs. Transfer the meatballs to the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes, until browned and cooked through (150-160 degrees on a meat thermometer).
  3. Remove the meatballs from the oven and let stand 5 minutes. When cool enough to handle, skewer and alternate the meatballs with the cherry tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and basil leaves. Transfer to a serving platter and drizzle with olive oil. Serves 4.

Nutrition Info Per Serving: 

Calories: 331
Total Fat: 18 grams
Saturated Fat: 9 grams
Total Carbohydrate: 8 grams
Sugars: 4 grams
Protein: 35 grams
Sodium: 501 milligrams
Cholesterol: 123 milligrams
Fiber: 1 gram

robin-miller-food-network-shortcut-tip-trick-health-cook-spryRobin Miller has been a TV personality, food writer and nutritionist since 1990 and she is the author of ten books, including Robin Takes 5 for Busy FamiliesRobin Takes 5, and the bestselling cookbook Quick Fix Meals. You can view her website at: www.robinmillercooks.com.