Healthy Thanksgiving Leftovers Ideas

Thanksgiving can leave you with an abundance of tasty leftovers, but indulging in rich, buttery dishes for a week isn’t great for your health. Fortunately, all of that good food doesn’t have to go to waste — there are plenty of ideas for working Thanksgiving leftovers into a balanced, healthy diet.

Use leftover turkey for a protein boost.

Turkey is a lean source of protein, and having some already seasoned, cooked, and ready to go can be a huge time saver. Add turkey to soups, pile it on salads, or even mix it into breakfast dishes like scrambled eggs or omelettes to help extend recipes, make them more filling, and increase their protein content. Load leftover turkey and sautéed kale onto a baked sweet potato for a filling lunch or dinner that’s loaded with fiber, vitamin A, potassium, and protein.

Repurpose mashed potatoes.

Have mashed sweet or white potatoes left? Add them to a vegetable soup to thicken it and add creaminess without needing any extra butter or cream. Mix in some broccoli or roasted vegetables, top with low fat cheese, green onions, and leftover turkey or turkey bacon, then bake until bubbling for a delicious, healthier take on twice-baked potatoes. You can also make quick, tasty homemade hash browns with this recipe from Allrecipes. You’ll need:

  • 2 C mashed potatoes
  • 1 beaten egg (If you want to reduce the cholesterol content, substitute an equivalent amount of egg whites for the beaten egg)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 T olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine potatoes, egg, onions, and seasonings in a bowl. Heat olive oil in a medium pan over medium heat. Add scoops of the potato mixture to the pan, and flatten with a turner. Cook until the bottom is brown and crispy, then flip and repeat on the other side. Each hashbrown has 176 calories, 8.6g fat, 21.1g carbohydrates, 3.9g protein, and 49mg cholesterol. Enjoy with scrambled egg whites, or an egg white and turkey omelette.

Elevate your sandwich game.

Sandwiches and wraps are a great way to use up leftovers, but you can get more flavor mileage by combining things in unique and unexpected ways. Try spreading cranberry sauce on a slice of toasted whole grain bread, then add raw greens, turkey, and a dollop of stuffing or green bean casserole. Creamed greens make a great spread for a tartine, especially topped with a poached egg. You’ll get to enjoy all of the Thanksgiving flavors you love, along with the vitamins, minerals, and fiber from the greens and whole grains.

Turn leftover vegetables into soup.

The best way to pack more flavor into a soup is to pre-cook the ingredients. There’s nothing more boring than boiled vegetables, but starting a soup with sautéed, roasted, or even creamed veggies can make a world of difference. If your Thanksgiving leftovers include roasted veggies, baked yams, or creamed corn, you already have a great base for making a variety of winter soups. Try turning creamed corn into a sweet and savory corn chowder, or roasted veggies into a hearty stew.

Even if your Thanksgiving spread was rich, you can still have your leftovers without feeling loaded up with carbs and butter. The trick to enjoying them healthfully is to combine them in new, unexpected ways — leftover creamed spinach and a poached egg on some crusty wholegrain bread, or leftover turkey mixed into an egg white omelette, for example. With a little time and creativity, you can put all of those leftovers to good use, and stick to a healthy, balanced diet at the same time.