Saturday, March 19, 2011

Don’t be a chicken…try a chicken meatball!

Every time I have a craving for spaghetti and meatballs, the dietitian in me pops out to say, “make them turkey meatballs” and “do you really need the pasta, too?” However, sometimes turkey meatballs can be so dry, leaving me wanting the real thing. After watching my cousin make chicken meatballs for her toddler, I realized that she had done a good thing…

Why Have You Done a Good Thing?

Chicken meatballs are so moist, especially compared to turkey! They are also lower in fat and saturated fat. Saturated fat can clog arteries and raise your bad cholesterol, so it is definitely wise to limit it when you can. It is found naturally in animal products, such as (from most saturated fat to least) beef, turkey, chicken, pork, and fish. Eggs also contain this saturated fat, which is why the American Heart Association recommends limiting whole eggs to 3 times per week (egg whites are always ok!). And one more thing about these little chickies, they are loaded with vitamins and minerals, especially iron- which carries oxygen around the body, and B12- which helps our body’s metabolism thrive.

So, back to the benefits of chicken meatballs, let’s take a look… (per 4 oz serving)

Beef: 308 calories, 21g fat (8.3 saturated)

Turkey: 266 calories, 15g fat (3.8 saturated)

Chicken, white meat only: 210 calories, 14g fat (3 saturated)

All three are good sources of protein (average 25g pro)

*Although you can use a leaner turkey breast, I have found it to be a little dry for meatballs! However, the white meat chicken seems to be just fine for me.

So, after the slight indulgence of spaghetti with chicken meatballs, the good news is, you can re-use them as a “get back to the healthy routine” meal. Have them for dinner the next night with a small baked potato or ½ cup of brown rice. Pack those little guys for lunch on top of a field green salad, or squeeze them in between 2 slices of fiber-filled whole grain bread. Or, make a stir fry including chopped chicken meatballs and all the veggies you can find. Serve them in a sweet and sour sauce with toothpicks at your next cocktail party; try Swedish chicken meatballs! Have a mini-me running around the house? Kids seem to love chicken meatballs, so freeze a bunch and pop them out when you are in a pinch.

With all of these great ideas, there is no need to be chicken, try chicken meatballs tonight!

Here's a recipe...

1lb ground chicken, white meat only

1 egg

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

salt and pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients in large bowl and form into small meatballs. Place them on a non-stick sprayed baking sheet and add a little more spray on op of the meatballs. Bake on 400 F for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown on top.

--Samantha Jacobs, RD

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