Healthy Holiday Leftovers

During this season of non-stop entertaining, leftovers are inevitable. Maybe you’re excited about them, finally, a break from cooking! At least on day one. But perhaps you’re tired of leftovers or not a big fan of holiday meals in the first place. It can be tempting to throw them out! Consider the repercussions, first. Wasted food speaks to the many ways our culture fails at resourcefulness. Did you know that Americans toss an estimated $165 billion worth of food per year? Properly disposing of food waste via compost is critical as well, with over 160 pounds of wasted food currently clogging up landfills. As most of us are disconnected from the end destination of our waste, we forget that these small decisions, on our part, have big implications. 

Back to the holidays! Making use of leftovers is a great way to be resourceful and generally move towards a low/zero waste lifestyle.  We get it, you may be tired of holiday indulgence and tempted to toss out that stuffing (unless it’s keto). Making creative use of your leftovers by incorporating them into other has the potential to transform them into healthier, lower-calorie dishes. Perhaps some of these ideas will also inspire you to make use of leftovers year round!

Whether you have an excess of turkey, wine, or sides, read on for several creative ideas on how to make use of your leftovers. 

Turkey (or chicken!) soup ~ Perhaps the most classic of holiday leftover dishes, use your turkey carcass to make a bowl of delicious, wholesome turkey soup. You can do the same with a chicken carcass. These options are also lower-carb and generally healthier than opting for sandwiches. Click here for a paleo-friendly turkey soup recipe.

Stuffing breakfast scramble  ~ A breakfast skillet is a great way to make use of stuffing. You may be able to incorporate some other leftovers here, think potatoes, green beans, etc. Add some stuffing to a hot pan and let it crisp up. Then, toss in some other leftovers, such as mashed potatoes, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, or even greens. Let these cook a bit, and toss in eggs near the end. Voila! A delicious breakfast that proves stuffing isn’t just for the birds. 

Cook with leftover wine  ~ Tempted to toss party wine that has gotten a bit funky? Keep it and cook with it! Wine is a great addition to many recipes, and you can think of it a bit like vinegar. White wine is delicious in many fish and chicken dishes, and red wine can be incorporated into many red meat dishes, stews, and soups. Another great option for red wine is to use it in a reduction for steak. If you pan fry steak, simply keep the juices from cooking in the pan after cooking, then add butter, some red wine, and let it reduce. 

A power bowl with leftover veggies… and really whatever else ~ Are you left with a garden variety of leftovers? Consider reincorporating them into a nutritious brown rice or grain bowl. Cook some rice and add leftover veggies and whatever protein you may have. Get creative and consider making a sauce or simply add some olive oil.  You can interpret this “recipe” in many ways, but we love this version via The Pioneer Woman. Similar to a breakfast skillet, you can reappropriate many different leftovers into this recipe. It’s easy to take to-go for lunch, taboot! 

Add nuts to salads and breakfast parfaits ~ Did you overdo it on pecan pie? Add leftover nuts (or even bits of the pie itself) to a breakfast parfait with Greek yogurt. Leftover nuts are also a great addition to a salad or grain bowl.

These are merely a few ideas of how to make use of common holiday leftovers. We’d love to hear how you’ve gotten creative with leftovers in the past!