The next several days after those Thanksgiving meals can be chaotic. Usually, they involve great shopping deals, big football rivalries, and lots of leftovers. And while I love reliving the big Thanksgiving feast over and over again, I've also found that I'm pretty ready to get back on track with my healthy eating, too. I end up being conflicted between the two as a result, trying to balance appreciating holiday traditions (and food) and good health.
I know a lot of people deal with this issue. So this year, I'm trying a new approach: I'm marrying my desire for eating healthier with those Thanksgiving leftovers we all love.
Struggling to cook healthy? We'll help you prep.
Check out these 10 recipes for ideas on how to create healthy meals using your Thanksgiving leftovers.
Stuffing Muffin Cups
This rerun of Thanksgiving dinner is not only portable, but it's less than 200 calories per serving. Plus, each cup packs in 10g of protein and a perfect balance of flavors. Use rotisserie chicken if you run out of turkey.
Ham and Sweet Potato Hash
Talk about a great way to start the day! This skillet breakfast features ham, egg, and sweet potatoes, so you load up on protein and complex carbs that keep you from turning hangry in the checkout lines this weekend.
This recipe is available on the Cooking Light Diet meal plan! For more information on how to receive customizable meal plans for all your post-holiday meals, visit CookingLightDiet.com.
Cran-Apple Smoked Turkey Sliders
My favorite thing about Thanksgiving is the leftover turkey sandwiches I get to make the following few days. Sure, whole-grain is nutrient-rich, but using dinner or slider rolls doesn't make this sandwich unhealthy. Use this as a blueprint for your Black Friday sandwich-making from here on out.
Cauliflower Turkey Tetrazzini
Whole-grain pasta is tossed with a simple homemade Parmesan cream sauce, made even more flavorful with pureed cauliflower. This version is way lower in carbs and fat, yet still tastes like a traditional tetrazzini. And it gets bonus points from parents because there are no visible signs of cauliflower.
Thanksgiving Leftover Tostadas
Give those leftovers a Mexican spin by topping toasted tostada shells (or warmed corn tortillas) with a mashed sweet potato, turkey, cream, green onions, and Cotija cheese. If you're not a sweet potato fan, sub in mashed or refried black beans.
Green Bean Feta Salad
Got leftover green beans, asparagus, or other green veggies? Toss with a cooked whole-grain like bulgur, quinoa, or brown rice, and toss with an EVOO-based dressing. For an extra serving of veggies, serve over a bed of baby spinach.
Mexican Turkey Stew
Piling on so much tradition in one day always seems to make my taste buds crave more ethnic-inspired dishes. Which is why this roasted chile stew is the perfect post-Thanksgiving go-to. Substitute rotisserie chicken if you run out of turkey. Beer drinkers, take note: This recipe even comes with pairing recommendations.
Turkey Soup Provençal
The original recipe features ground turkey, but leftover Thanksgiving turkey works perfectly here, too. Chickpeas, tomatoes, and baby spinach pack fiber into this brothy soup to keep you full.
Spicy Turkey Lettuce Wraps
Don't knock canned cranberry sauce until you've added some chipotle chiles to it first. This Thanksgiving riff on Asian lettuce wraps was an absolute hit last year when I made them, not to mention a very welcome change of pace to the usual menu.
Roast Turkey-Prosciutto Pizza
A store-bought crust gets elevated to gourmet status when you combine quality cheese and prosciutto with grandma's leftover turkey. Toss extra arugula and other greens with an EVOO-based dressing to serve on the side.
Carolyn Williams, PhD, RD, is lead dietitian for the Cooking Light Diet and author of Meals That Heal: 100 Anti-Inflammatory Recipes in 30 Minutes or Less. A culinary nutrition expert known for her ability to simplify food and nutrition information, Carolyn received a 2017 James Beard Journalism award. Her work is regularly featured in or on respective websites for Cooking Light, RealSimple, Parents, Health, EatingWell, Allrecipes, MyFitnessPal, eMeals, Rally Health, and the American Heart Association. You can follow her on Instagram @realfoodreallife_rd or on carolynwilliamsrd.com.
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