Picky Eater Bento #3! Sneaky Vegetables Back to School Recipes!
Bulk up traditional meatballs AND sneak more veggies into your meal with these mini turkey veggie meatballs! Grated carrots and yellow squash mix into these baked turkey meatballs so discretely, adding just a bit of natural sweetness and some fun color.
Even picky eaters and veggie haters won’t be able to resist (or even notice the veggies are there)! The trick is to get your veggies REALLY small—I like to use a cheese grater to get a super-finely grated texture.
Serve your turkey veggie meatballs over noodles, or you could build a more nutritious meatball sub. Better yet, serve in lettuce wraps for an extra dose of veggies and a satisfying crunch! Don’t knock it ‘til you try it—some picky eaters actually might go for this because of that crunch!
But, you can also make your turkey veggie meatballs mini-sized and simply serve with skewers for a fun snack. With a side of marinara or ketchup for dipping, this recipe makes veggies so easy and FUN to eat!
Making Friends with Veggies
Often, picky eating habits are rooted in a fear of the unfamiliar. When someone—a child or an adult—hasn’t tried a certain vegetable, they’re more likely to think that they’ll dislike it! And, even if they’ve tried the food a few times, research shows we need multiple exposures to new foods before we start liking them.
So, the idea behind these turkey veggie meatballs isn’t to ‘hide’ the veggies sneakily. But, meatballs are a familiar and tasty food that most kids already know and enjoy. And, pairing unfamiliar foods with familiar foods makes kids more likely to give those new foods a try!
Yes, this helps to mask the taste of the veggies a bit. And, grating your veggies REALLY small allows them to mix into the meat discretely. But, when you serve up these turkey veggie meatballs, acknowledge the veggies and the fun flecks of color!
By pointing out the veggies, kids have an opportunity to get familiar with some new foods they may not be as comfortable with. Then, when they venture to try these turkey veggie meatballs, they’ll have a positive experience that shows just how delicious vegetables can be!
1 lb ground turkey
½ cup carrots, grated
½ cup yellow squash, grated
1 small onion, diced
½ cup quick-cooking oats (or bread crumbs or cornmeal)
2 Tbsp broth
¾ tsp salt
Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).
In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and mix to combine.
OPTION: If you don’t want to grate your veggies yourself, add roughly chopped carrots, squash, and onion to a food processor. Pulse to small, ground-up pieces. Add oats and pulse to integrate. Then, add meat to a bowl with your veggie mixture, an egg, broth, and salt.
Roll into balls. (I like to make mini meatballs with a small 2-teaspoon cookie scoop, but you can make these any size you prefer!)
Place on a baking sheet or in a glass baking dish and bake 18-22 minutes, until cooked through to 165°F (75°C).
Serve with marinara sauce, ketchup, or any dip that you like!
Yields ~60 mini turkey veggie meatballs (portioned with a 2-tsp cookie scoop)
Yields ~30 regular-sized turkey veggie meatballs (portioned with a 4-tsp cookie scoop)
*Nutrition provided for 10 mini meatballs, or 5 regular-sized meatballs.
Serving Size:10 mini meatballs (or 5 regular-sized)