Spaghetti and meatballs–a family staple. The dish is as Italian as hard shell tacos are Mexican, yet both are considered American family favorites. To each culture, these items are known comfort foods. Much like other foods in the American comfort food circle, whether it be mac and cheese or mashed potatoes, the comfort traditionally comes at a health cost (usually in the form of saturated fat). But it’s hard to stray from the classics, which is why my family created a healthy alternative to the classic spaghetti and meatballs. It’s all the health benefits without the taste compromises (I have four girls and they gobble it all up!).

 

Loaded with Vitamins & Nutrients

The lean ground turkey not only supplies a low-fat form of protein, but good amounts of B vitamins (riboflavin, niacin, B6 andB12), iron, selenium and zinc. And the fresh herbs amplify the flavor, and, depending on the herbs used, will provide nutrients like vitamin C, folate, iron, and potassium, to name a few. Although herbs seem small, both fresh and dried herbs pack a whole lot of antioxidants, so take satisfaction in using either. Serve over a bed of whole-wheat pasta, to benefit from the fiber and antioxidants that whole grains contain for a healthy alternative to bleached, white flour pastas. Don’t forget to round out the dish with non-starchy vegetables!

 

Get your family involved with this one! There is no better way to bond than over a family dinner. Our daughters get involved with the meal prep and table setting. From snipping the fresh herbs with kitchen shears to hand-forming the meatballs the family appreciates the dish in more ways than one because it brings us all together!

 

Stuffed Garlic & Herb Meatballs

approximately 8 servings

Ingredients:

1 lb. lean ground turkey

1/2 small onion, finely chopped

1 garlic head, finely chopped

1 cup fresh herbs, chopped (I used sage and chives from our garden)

1 – 8 oz. package of panko breadcrumbs

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

2 tsp salt

1 egg

 

Directions:

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a pan with foil and spray with cooking spray. Place all the ingredients in a large bowl and combine together well (I find it is best to combine it with my hands). Using a tablespoonful, form into balls about 1″ – 1 1/2″ in diameter and arranged onto prepared pan. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until browned. Serve on whole wheat pasta with your favorite marinara sauce and enjoy!

Ben Bratcher is a Registered Dietitian at Kaiser Permanente in California. He also works for Montebello Unified School District (MUSD) developing lesson plans that are incorporated into the curriculum for grades Pre K-12. As a father to four girls, Ben teaches his own children about food and how to make healthful choices, which includes attending to a fruit and vegetable garden that boasts 29 different varieties of heirloom tomatoes.

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