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Healthy Holiday Leftovers

Thanksgiving is upon us...have you been reading up on all the tips you can do to keep your Turkey Day healthy? A quick internet search will give you lots of tips – recipe substitutions to keep the fat and calorie content down and the nutrient-density up - from lower fat, whole grain stuffing to reduced sugar pecan pie! But remember, the holidays are a time to enjoy ourselves - a time to relax and cast off worries. The holidays are NOT the time to worry about every single calorie you consume! And if you think about it, one single meal isn't going to "make or break" your diet - so go ahead - enjoy that traditional (often, high calorie) meal on Thanksgiving Day!

But here's where you have to be careful: LEFTOVERS! Most often, we prepare way more food than is actually eaten on Thanksgiving Day. As previously mentioned, ONE calorie-laden meal may not affect your waistline, but if you are nibbling on leftovers for the next week, that one Thanksgiving meal can turn into 5 or more calorie- and fat-laden indulgences! Consider making your leftovers healthier the second time around using the following tips:

Host with the Most: The easiest way to deal with leftovers is to give them away! If you are hosting this year’s meal, make sure you are prepared with large plastic zipper freezer bags and/or disposable plastic containers and permanent markers (to label and date). Send those tempting leftovers home with your guests!

Veg Out: One way to make your leftovers healthier is to add plenty of vegetables to them – you’ll add a variety of vitamins, minerals, and filling fiber with very few calories.

· Turkey Tacos – Add cooked turkey pieces (skin removed), no-salt-added canned beans, lettuce, tomato and avocado to a corn tortilla – don’t forget a splash of lime juice and a dash of cumin for flavor.

· Turkey and Vegetable soup – You can easily use that leftover turkey carcass to make a flavorful stock for your soup (a quick internet search will show you how) or you can use canned/boxed chicken broth. Start by putting a little olive oil in your soup pot with some chopped onion and garlic. After cooking for a several minutes, add some chopped carrots, and celery and cook for 7-8 minutes. Add several cups of broth, a bay leaf or 2, and some sage to the pot and dice any leftover Thanksgiving vegetables you may have (Brussels sprouts, green beans, or sweet potatoes). Once the mixture begins to simmer, add the leftover diced veggies and leftover pieces of turkey. Allow the soup to come to a simmer again, and then turn off the heat and cover. An internet search will bring up many variations (with detailed recipes) of this nutritious soup.

Get Grainy with It: You can use your leftovers to incorporate whole grains into your daily eating plan too.

· Turkey Sandwich – who can resist this classic? To keep calories in check, use 100% whole grain sandwich thins (100 calorie flat “buns”). Skip the high fat mayo and cheese, but use mustard (if you like it) and/or a smidge of leftover cranberry sauce for flavor. Stack your sandwich high with baby spinach leaves, tomatoes and/or avocado slices.

· Turkey Wild Rice Soup – the soup above (or any variation of it) can be made with brown and wild rice (or whole wheat pasta).

· Whole Wheat Turkey Pizza – Spread tomato sauce on a premade whole wheat pizza crust; sprinkle with 2% shredded cheese and top with leftover pieces of turkey (instead of high fat, highly processed meat toppings like pepperoni) and bake according to the instructions on the pizza crust package. Adding extra veggies to your pie will make it more nutritious – think bell peppers, broccoli, spinach!

Best Breakfasts:

· Cranberry, Apple, Walnut Oatmeal – mix a chopped/cored apple into ½ cup quick oats with ¾ cup skim milk; microwave on high about 2 minutes. Stir in 2 tbsp leftover cranberry sauce and top with a few walnut pieces.

· Cinnamon Pumpkin Smoothie – Mix up the following in your blender: 1 cup pumpkin pie (crust removed), ½ cup plain fat free Greek yogurt, 1 tsp vanilla extract, and a few ice cubes.

· Top whole wheat pancakes or waffles with smear of leftover cranberry sauce in lieu of syrup.

So go ahead; enjoy yourself on Thanksgiving Day and eat what you want for that one, delicious meal, but don’t let that delicious meal continue on into the following week! If you want more ideas on how to make your holidays healthier or make the most of your leftovers (or have any other nutrition-related concerns), schedule an appointment with Fit Therapy’s registered dietitian nutritionist, Annie Bell, MS, RDN, LD.

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