Mighty Good Meatballs

Adapted from Norene’s Healthy Kitchen (Whitecap) by Norene Gilletz

They’ll never guess that the sauce for these scrumptious meatballs is made with diet cola and barbecue sauce. These do double duty as a main dish or appetizer.


1 lb (500 g) extra-lean ground beef (or lean ground veal, chicken, or turkey)
1 large egg (or 2 egg whites)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic (about 1 tsp minced)
1/4 cup rolled oats or matzo meal
2 tablespoons barbecue sauce
3 to 4 tablespoons water

1/2 green pepper, seeded and sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 cup barbecue sauce
3/4 cup diet cola


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients for the meatballs and mix lightly. Wet your hands and shape the mixture into 1-inch balls. Arrange in a single layer in the prepared baking dish. 

In another bowl, combine the peppers, onion, mushrooms, barbecue sauce, and cola; mix well. Pour the sauce mixture over and around the meatballs.

Bake, uncovered, for about 1 hour or until the sauce is bubbly and the meatballs are cooked through.


Yield: About 40 meatballs (4 servings as a main dish, 8 to 10 servings as hors d’oeuvres.)

Keeps for up to 2 days in the refrigerator; reheats well. Freezes well for up to 3 months.

Chef’s Secrets:
•  No Barbecue Sauce? If you don’t have barbecue sauce, use ketchup and add 2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce to the sauce mixture.

•  Pick a Pop: Instead of diet cola, use ginger ale, 7Up, or other lemon-lime carbonated beverage. If made with regular pop instead of sugar-free, one serving will contain 316 calories and 19.7 g carbohydrate.

•  Double without Trouble: If doubling the recipe, make the meatballs in a large pot on top of the stove over medium-high heat. Prepare the sauce mixture and heat until bubbly. Add the meatballs to the sauce and reduce heat to low. Simmer, partially covered, for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.