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Are Frozen Meatballs Bad for You? (Here Are the Facts)

Are Frozen Meatballs Bad for You? (Here Are the Facts)

Frozen meatballs are a fast and easy way to whip up a comforting dinner. 

There is no meal as universally loved as warm meatballs in tomato sauce, and it’s popular among kids and grown-ups alike.

But what about the health concerns? Are frozen meatballs part of a healthy diet, or are they bad for you? 

While eating frozen meatballs occasionally is fine, it is best to eat them relatively sparingly. Depending on the brand, frozen meatballs can contain high amounts of sodium, saturated fats, and cholesterol, which are all bad for health. 

Read on and find out more about the nutritional value of frozen meatballs, if they’re considered processed food, and how they compare to homemade meatballs.

Are Frozen Meatballs Healthy? 

Frozen meatballs are fast, tasty, and so versatile. They are the way to go whenever you want a quick and savory meal, but what do they bring to your diet? Can something that tasty actually be good for you as well?

Generally speaking, meatballs can be a fine addition to many healthy diets, but it is all about which meatballs you choose! 

So many brands and types of frozen meatballs are available that you can fine-tune your choice to match your dietary needs better. 

The most common frozen meatballs are usually made of beef and/or pork, but some excellent lean options with more health benefits are 

available as well. 

Some of the leaner options include turkey meatballs, chicken meatballs, and veggie meatballs. 

Nutritionally speaking, original frozen meatballs are a mixed bag; they have a mix of beef with other meats along with breadcrumbs and, often, some sort of binder. 

Most brands will also have added seasonings, including salt. This blend makes meatballs reasonably high in fat, cholesterol, and sodium. 

However, they also have a good amount of potassium, calcium, fiber, and iron.

Every brand differs, but here is a breakdown of one serving (4 medium meatballs) of the average mixed meat meatball’s nutrition facts:

  • Calories – 250 to 350
  • Total fat – 20 to 30%
  • Saturated fat – 30 to 40%
  • Trans Fat – 0 to 1 gram
  • Cholesterol – 15 to 25%
  • Sodium – 20 to 35%
  • Total Carbohydrate – 2 to 3%
  • Dietary Fiber – 5 to 10%
  • Total Sugars – 1 to 3 grams
  • Added Sugars – 0 to 1 gram
  • Protein – 12 to 16 grams
  • Calcium – 3 to 7%
  • Iron – 6 to 10%
  • Potassium – 4 to 7%

The fairly high content of both saturated fats, cholesterol, and sodium in many frozen meatball brands makes them a pretty unhealthy food choice if eaten on a regular basis.

In general, if you actively exercise and eat right, these rich bites can be enjoyed as an occasional treat, but not much more! 

Additionally, leaner plant-based or chicken meatballs are a great lighter alternative when compared to conventional frozen meatballs.  

The best thing to do is always to read the labels and find a brand that suits your diet and needs! 

Are Frozen Meatballs Considered Processed Food?

a bag of frozern meatballs in the freezer

To answer the question, we have to define “processed food.” This often misunderstood term actually means any food that has changed form through any form of preparation. 

So when the meat goes from raw to ground, and then to cooked, as it does to make frozen meatballs, this makes frozen meatballs a processed food. 

However, that does not mean they’re automatically bad for you. It just means that the food has changed from its raw form into the meatballs you store in your freezer.

Say that the frozen meatballs have been processed and prepared with low-fat, low-sugar, and low-sodium ingredients. Then they can actually be quite healthy, even though they are processed food. 

Again, it all depends on the brand and ingredients used in the meatballs you decide to buy. 

Are Homemade Meatballs Healthier than Store-Bought Frozen Meatballs?

a bunch of freshly rolled homemade meatballs
By Håkan Dahlstrom – Swedish Meatballs, CC BY 2.0

Frozen meatballs are a delicious fallback for when you are short on time but want a comforting meal. 

They are fine when eaten in moderation, especially if you opt for a lean style of frozen meatball like chicken or turkey. But are they better and healthier than homemade meatballs?

When it comes to eating healthy, homemade is almost always the best choice over frozen factory-made foods, and frozen meatballs are no exception to this rule! 

When you make something from scratch, you control everything that goes into it. 

That means you can alter the nutritional content of your food to match your needs and choose to use healthier, more qualitative ingredients to make your meatballs. 

My verdict: From a health perspective, homemade meatballs will almost always beat frozen store-bought ones! And with the right recipe, they’ll always taste much better.

Are Homemade Meatballs Healthier than Store-Bought Fresh Meatballs?

Many grocery stores make fresh meatballs every day and package them for you. Some stores will sell meatballs cooked without sauce, so all you need to do is sear them and add your favorite sauce. 

Look for this style of meatball at your grocery store’s deli or hot kitchen counter.

Some major meatball brands also make a refrigerated version of these tasty bites. However, these often have very short shelf lives and can contain extra additives. 

You can usually find this quick form of meatballs near your grocery store’s butcher section. 

My verdict: Overall, store-bought meatballs are a very convenient way to have your favorite meatball dish without putting in all the effort or time, but just like with frozen meatballs, homemade really can’t be beaten! 

But to be fair, if you’re short on time but craving a comforting meal that contains meatballs, fresh store-bought ones are a close second. 

What is the Best Frozen Meatball Brand?

There are many great options out there in the world of frozen meatballs. And while there aren’t many, a few brands produce meatballs that taste good and have a positive nutritional value. 

Here are a few meatball brands that are considered to be the best:

Best Beef Meatballs 

Open Nature Angus Beef Meatballs – All beef flavor with less cholesterol and calories! Definitely top of the game!

Best Poultry Meatballs 

Kidfresh Chicken Meatballs – Tasty chicken meatballs with hidden vegetables in every bite.

Best veggie Meatballs 

Morningstar Veggie Meatballs – Delicious vegan meatballs with all the flavors and texture you crave from regular meatballs, plus plenty of protein and nutrients.

Are There Healthier Frozen Meatballs?

When shopping for frozen meatballs, look for labels that say:

  • antibiotic-free
  • natural
  • preservative-free

Organic and GMO-free foods tend to be purer and healthier. 

Be sure to check for common allergens as well; most brands include wheat and eggs.

How Often Should You Eat Frozen Meatballs? 

a plate of spaghetti and meatballs in tomato sauce
By Alpha – Spicy Meatballs and Spaghetti, CC BY-SA 2.0

Life and diet are about balance! Finding your balance should always be the focus, whether it’s what you do or how you eat. 

Frozen meatballs can be a way to add balance to your life because they are fast enough to fit into any lifestyle. But that does not mean you should eat them all the time. 

Due to their cholesterol-rich and high-in-sodium makeup, frozen meatballs should be enjoyed only as an occasional meal. 

Choose a reliable brand of frozen meatballs and enjoy them about once or twice a month at most.

PRO TIP: Pair your frozen meatball meal with fresh vegetables or wholegrain foods to make it healthier. 

Remember that healthy activity levels are another key to balancing your dietary choices. 

When you make these healthy lifestyle choices, your frozen meatballs will taste much better, and you won’t feel guilty eating them every now and then!

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