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No Holiday Leftovers Left Behind

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cranberry turkey sandwich

Looking for new ways to enjoy holiday leftovers? Instead of reheating and eating leftover meat, potatoes, bread and vegetables, turn them into nutritious meals to help maintain a balanced diet this season. Enjoy a salad or entree and sides with these quick and easy ideas to bring leftovers to life, nutritiously. 

Cobb Salad: Chop up baked chicken, turkey or ham and place on top of a bed of salad greens. Add diced tomatoes, avocado, red onion, green beans and chives for additional color. Add a pinch of thinly sliced and chopped turkey bacon, low-fat shredded cheese and hard-boiled eggs to complement the vegetables. Serve with one to two tablespoons of red wine vinaigrette on the side.

Turkey Sliders: Use leftover whole wheat dinner rolls and add thinly sliced, cooked turkey on top. Choosing a whole wheat bread or roll in place of white adds additional vitamins, minerals and fiber. Add your desired sandwich toppings, such as a single low-fat cheese slice, onion, lettuce, tomato and a tablespoon of spread, like mustard or leftover cranberry sauce. For a hot sandwich option, warm the turkey sliders in the oven at 350ºF for 5-7 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

Mashed Potato Pancakes: Add 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour, one egg and 1/8 cup of low-fat shredded cheese (optional) to approximately two cups of leftover mashed potatoes. These additions are optional, but they help to prevent the mashed potato pancakes from falling apart. After forming the potatoes into pancakes, lightly fry the mashed potatoes in a tablespoon of heart-healthy olive oil or cooking spray in a skillet/pan on the stovetop over medium-high heat until they are golden and crispy. Serve as a side with your choice of vegetables and a lean protein, such as scrambled egg whites with spinach and tomato at breakfast.

Green Beans Almondine: Using a tablespoon of heart-healthy olive oil or margarine blend, toast slivered almonds on the stovetop over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Add leftover, cooked green beans to the pan to warm for an additional 2-3 minutes. Transfer when the green beans are warmed and the almond slivers appear toasted and golden brown in color. Sprinkle with lemon juice, salt, pepper and chopped parsley. Serve as a quick snack or pair with additional vegetables and lean protein for a well-balanced meal.

Homemade Croutons: Use leftover whole wheat or whole grain baguette or dinner rolls and cut into bitesize pieces. Add one tablespoon of olive oil for each cup of cubed bread and your choice of seasonings, such as salt, pepper and garlic powder. Bake the croutons in the oven at 375ºF for approximately 10 minutes or until crispy. Depending on how fresh the bread is, it may take more or less time for the croutons to crisp. Be sure to keep a close watch and serve over salads and soups when finished.

Balanced nutrition is always about enjoying the foods you eat while consuming adequate nutrients. For a more balanced diet during the holiday season, try any of the leftover recipe ideas above or ask a Cooper Clinic Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for their favorite recipes!

To schedule a one-on-one consultation or learn more about Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services, visit or call 972.560.2655.

Article provided by: Jessica Wiklund, MS, Nutrition Student and Dietetic Intern at Texas Woman’s University, and Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services.