How to Eat (Semi) Healthfully at IKEA

Exciting family dining newsflash, everyone! IKEA will be offering veggie non-meatballs starting today! Kid brothers to the classic, the new balls will be comprised of “tasty chunks of vegetables and a good protein level to support a main meal.” Sounds sort of good! Maybe even healthy too and since they are in ball form, attractive to the kiddos? These veggie balls (GRÖNSAKSBULLAR – try pronouncing that!) have got me thinking, what’s the healthy food at IKEA anyway?

I should admit that before researching this I thought recipes developed in a brisk and robust northern European country, where the flat-packed boxes are so clean and flab-free, would naturally be so as well. Or maybe that was just denial because it’s so wonderfully cheap and kind of fun. But I’ve read the (somewhat) frightening fine print, and there is no use running. Better to be informed than to eat a day’s salt in one sitting.

Here’s some food knowledge for you, not enough to make you too full, just some bites to chew-on, organized into first into adult’s and then kid’s, yum and yuck lists. Enjoy!

Adult yum:

  • Meatballs are ok! (wheew) They are surprisingly at the lower end of the calorie count, with 530 cal. for the 10 meatball dinner and 690 for the 15 (ugh) meatball dinner. Both are super high in sodium, both totaling in at more than ½ your total for the day, but sadly pretty much everything at IKEA is too salty. Salad bar anyone? Thankfully they don’t salt their raw veggies.
  • Pasta with marinara and meatballs, small salad and garlic toast is also a good choice. 650 cal., and 1000 mg sodium
  • Better if not boring is plain pasta with marinara at 330 cal. and 210 sodium. And it’s organic to boot!
  • Salmon is often a good choice, and IKEA says it is going to start only using fish caught sustainably. The salmon, potatoes and veggie dinner is a dainty 390 cal., but again too much salt, 1220 mg.
  • I don’t think our IKEA serves crepes, but if it did, I’d get that. More fun than plain pasta for sure, and filled with yummy things like organic mushroom and cheese. 270 cal., 680 sodium.

Adult yuck:

  • Babyback ribs are not ok! The full babyback rib meal is a whopping 1650 calories! Though if you wanted to be like my grandmother who swore she only ate one meal a day, this one would give you all the calories and salt you needed.
  • The herb roasted chicken might seem a good choice, but at 2,350mg sodium it has more than your day’s allotment. Makes me thirsty just thinking about it.
  • Say “Boo!” to the chicken tenders! 900 calories and 2,040 mg sodium.
  • The hot dog combo meal has 1,010 cal and 1,860 mg sodium. No!

Kids’ yum:

  • Mac’n’cheese! Let them dig in. With both the lowest calorie and sodium counts, 390 cal. and 420 mg sodium, this is the one time that mac and cheese is by far the healthiest thing on the menu.
  • Organic pasta meal. As boring as it is for the adults, but sadly, so many kids like boring. 390 cal. and 420 mg sodium.
  • Frozen Yogurt! But you can tell your kids it’s vanilla ice cream and if they don’t know how to read yet, they truly won’t know the difference. It’s super yummy and only 130 calories.

Kids’ yuck:


  • Chicken tenders are tempting, but try to resist! They have 450 calories, and 1,010 mg sodium. Way too much of both for a little kid.
  • Meatballs. I feel like I keep repeating myself, but again, too much salt! Only 280 cal., but 1.010 mg of sodium. Blech.

And the new veggie balls!? Not sure yet. I couldn’t find their nutritional information, but I’m hoping for a yum. The IKEA website says they are aiming high in the direction of health and sustainability so we may get lucky. Just go easy with that salt shaker, IKEA and we won’t need to drink so much of your lingonberry juice!

What are you favorite eats at IKEA?