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Don’t let all that delicious food go to waste. Here are some ideas to make your leftovers shine.

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After all the planning, prepping and cooking, you’re bound to have leftovers once the last bite of food has made it into the mouths of your guests on Thanksgiving Day. To some people, those leftovers are the best part of the holiday meal. But to others, faced with days on end of eating turkey and cranberry sauce, it may not be an enticing prospect to see a fridge full of food.

The secret to loving leftovers instead of hating them is knowing how to transform those delicious tidbits into new and exciting meals for the coming days. If you don’t want to eat them right away, you can often freeze to enjoy at a later time.

Here are 10 healthy ways to love your leftovers (that aren’t sandwiches):

      1. Soup – One of the best ways to concoct a new meal out of leftovers in your fridge is to turn it into soup. Just dice up the turkey and add to a pot of steamy broth. You can also add anything else you find in your fridge, like green beans, carrots, acorn squash or wild rice.
      2. Salad – To make the ultimate leftover salad, top a bowl of leafy greens with turkey, roasted veggies and any ingredients you may have, such as nuts, cheese or pomegranate seeds.
      3. Pizza – Do you have extra salad, olives, cranberries, herbs or charcuterie meats, veggies and cheeses? Add them on top of a whole wheat pizza crust or flatbread for a quick weeknight meal.
      4. Spring Rolls – For an attractive but light bite, roll shredded turkey in rice paper wrappers with some finely diced veggies like carrots, cucumber and sprouts. Serve with soy sauce for dipping.
      5. Chili – Looking a healthy but hearty meal? Cook up a batch of your favorite chili and mix in a can of pureed pumpkin to add a slightly sweet and earthy flavor.
      6. Pot Pie – Nothing screams “perfect thanksgiving leftovers” like a turkey pot pie. To make the dish healthier, use only a single crust on top and add some extra veggies to the mix.
      7. Overnight Oats – Have extra cranberry sauce? Add a spoonful or two to your overnight oats for a sweet, tangy breakfast. If you have extra nuts or seeds, they make a great topping, too.
      8. Quesadillas – Top a whole wheat tortilla with diced turkey and veggies, herbs and cheese. Add a bit of cranberry sauce or pureed pumpkin for sweetness. Top with a second tortilla and cook in a skillet for a few minutes on each side until the cheese melts.
      9. Tacos – You may not think of tacos when you think of thanksgiving leftovers, but you should! Simply shred leftover turkey and season with your favorite Mexican spices. Add to whole wheat tortillas with chopped red onion, shredded cabbage, cilantro, salsa and queso fresco.
      10. Mac and Cheese – One easy way to make mac and cheese healthier is to add some butternut squash to the recipe. If you have any leftover squash, it makes for the perfect creamy base for this better-for-you comfort dish.

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Date Last Reviewed: September 13, 2022

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Jane Schwartz, RDN, CLT

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