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Giving meatballs a healthy makeover

Last weekend the LH and I watched our good friend Pat win his seventh consecutive national squash championship. Go Pat!

The evening was entertaining for many reasons, but mainly because at one point I heard someone mention a player with “better length and tighter balls” than his opponent. As grown-up as I try to be, I confess that made me choke on my gin and tonic. In fact, I find it hard to take any kind of balls seriously. Soft balls, hard balls, big balls, small balls, spiky balls, smooth balls, fun balls, championship balls... they are all very funny. I know they shouldn't be. I also know my mum is dialing the phone furiously right now to give me a transatlantic telling off. Sorry!

So, in an effort to be a little more mature, I thought I'd give the good old meatball a healthy makeover. Meatballs are popular in Bermuda, especially the little ones drenched in barbeque sauce. But that's a whole lot of sodium, saturated fat and sugar a pretty deadly combination. If you're a fan, why not make your own instead?

Cooking your own meatballs is time-consuming I admit. But do this for a crowd or freeze leftover portions and it's well worth the effort. This is a classic recipe with a couple of small tweaks that make a big difference in terms of your health. I have listed lean beef as the main ingredient but you can swap this for ground chicken or turkey too. Whatever you decide, I encourage you to buy organic where possible. This way you avoid the hormones and antibiotics and it's a checkout “vote” for ethical farming. Also, if “Food, Inc” has put you off ground meat for good, you do have the option of getting the butcher to grind chicken/turkey breasts or lean steak in front of you. The bonus is that you know exactly what you are getting. The downside is that due to the size of the equipment, the butcher may need you to commit to quite a lot.

I opted for lean beef as a base here because the quantity is stretched by the inclusion of bulgar wheat. Also the meatballs are baked, rather than fried which is an altogether healthier method. The recipe uses whole wheat breadcrumbs and spaghetti rather than white two more steps in the right direction. Enjoy!

Ingredients (serves 6)

Meatballs: ⅓c bulgar wheat; ½ c hot water; 8oz lean ground beef (or chicken/turkey); 1 medium onion, finely grated; 2 large egg whites, beaten; 2 cloves garlic, minced; 1 tsp mixed Italian herbs (dried); ½ tsp low-salt; ½ tsp ground black pepper; 1c whole wheat breadcrumbs

Sauce and Pasta: 4c low-sodium marinara sauce (Amy's do a great one); ½ c fresh basil leaves, torn; 1lb whole wheat spaghetti

Method: 1. Mix the bulgar wheat and water in bowl. Allow to stand until the bulgar has absorbed the water and is tender (approx 30 mins). 2. Also preheat the oven to 350F and coat two non-stick baking sheets with olive oil spray. 3. Combine the beef, onion, egg whites, garlic, herbs, seasoning, breadcrumbs and the bulgar in a large bowl and mix well. 4. Shape the mix into 1in meatballs (24 approx), place on the baking sheets and bake for 25 minutes. Take them out of the oven and allow to drain on kitchen paper towel. 5. Put the water for the pasta on to boil. 6. In the meantime, in a Dutch Oven or Le Cruset type casserole dish, bring the sauce to a simmer, add in the meatballs and the basil, cover and cook very gently for another 20 minutes. 7. Cook the pasta as per package directions and when ready serve with the meatballs and sauce. Remember plenty (approximately half your plate) of green veg or salad too.


The advice given in this article is not intended to replace medical advice, but to complement it. Always consult your GP if you have any health concerns. Catherine Burns BA Hons, Dip ION is the managing director of natural ltd and a fully qualified nutritional therapist trained by the Institute for Optimum Nutrition in the UK. Please note that she is not a registered dietitian. For details, please go to www.natural.bm or call 236-7511.

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Published March 30, 2012 at 2:00 am (Updated March 30, 2012 at 8:48 am)

Giving meatballs a healthy makeover

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