When I heard we were doing a story on "healthier meatballs," I was skeptical. What could be healthy about a meatball? And if they were "healthy," would they be any good? As it turns out, the answer is yes. My friend and contributing editor Carolyn Malcoun developed some killer meatball recipes for us and if I hadn't known, I never would have guessed they were healthy.

Here are her 6 tips for healthier meatballs:

  • 1. Start with lean meat.
  • To cut saturated fat, opt for meats that are 90% lean or leaner. Or if you want to use a fattier meat, such as pork or lamb, for flavor, combine it with something leaner (ground pork is usually 80% lean and ground turkey breast is 99% lean).
  • Related: 10 Secrets to Healthier Cooking

2. Opt for whole-grain binders.
Typical meatball recipes call for breadcrumbs or rice. Use whole-grain versions (i.e., whole-wheat breadcrumbs and brown rice) to add fiber and nutrients.

3. Use plenty of herbs and spices.
There is truth to the saying, "Fat equals flavor." So when you're cutting the fat from a favorite recipe, add dried or fresh herbs and spices to bump up the flavor.

  • 4. Change up how you serve them.
  • A healthier meatball is great, but not if it's served over a pile of white rice. So opt for better sides, such as polenta, brown rice or whole-wheat pasta. And if you're making a meatball sub, choose whole-grain bread.
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  • 5. Don't overmix.
  • Be careful to mix the ingredients until they're just combined, otherwise you'll end up with overly tough meatballs that you'd rather use as paperweights.
  • Related:10 Bad Cooking Habits You Should Break
  • 6. Cook smarter.
  • No need to cook meatballs in loads of extra oil. If you want to cook them in a skillet, use just a tablespoon of oil in a nonstick pan. Most meatballs can also be baked on a baking sheet lined with foil for easy cleanup.
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