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ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, Make Holiday Leftovers Nutritious - A Thanksgiving Guide

Make Holiday Leftovers Nutritious

Reading Time: 4 minutes 12 seconds


DATE: 2023-11-21

The holidays are glorious when it comes to food. And, many of us take the opportunity to cheat big time on our diets and healthy eating habits.

Splurging for a day or a meal, like the main event on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day, is approved by most trainers and health experts, but what about all the leftovers? They can really lead to weight gain if you don't use them wisely.

It's not too hard for clients to get back on track after one day of indulgence, but when faced with several days' worth of leftover goodies, it's nearly impossible. Help your clients take control. Check out these tips and ideas for making holiday leftovers not just tasty, but also nutritious as you and your clients make your way back to healthy eating.

Potatoes and Other Carbs

Most holiday meals will definitely topple your carb limit if you let them. If you're on a sensible, balanced eating plan, though, you can continue to enjoy the mashed potatoes, stuffing, and sweet potatoes in limited, healthful ways after the big meal.

  • Make a veggie-packed shepherd's pie. This tasty casserole is a mix of meat and vegetables baked with mashed potatoes on top. Fill the inside with healthy foods and use just a thin covering of leftover potatoes.

  • Turn extra stuffing into individual frittatas for portion control. Mix stuffing and eggs and bake in a muffin tin.

  • Make savory pancakes for dinner with leftover mashed potatoes. Add eggs, lots of vegetables, and a little cheese to make a nutritious and well-rounded potato pancake.

  • Getting rid of leftover carbs can be tricky if you're watching your calorie intake and avoiding weight gain, so save using your starchy leftovers for tough workout days. You'll burn them right up.

Keep mind that carbs can be a tricky situation and even though clients are trying their hardest during the holidays, they may still have trouble losing weight. The ISSA experts weigh in on what could be going wrong.

Leftover Turkey and Ham

The meats are the stars of holiday dinners, and turkey and ham are the most popular. These can be great sources of protein, but it's also possible to overdo it, especially with preservative- and salt-laden ham.

Healthy Turkey Meals

Here are some great ideas for using leftover turkey in the days following the big meal:

  • Use slices of lean white meat in place of bread for a low-carb sandwich.

  • Another low-carb option for turkey sandwiches is to use pieces of leftover turkey in a lettuce wrap with plenty of vegetables.

  • Throw the leftover parts of the turkey that are difficult into a soup pot with water and vegetables. Let it simmer to make a broth you can freeze and use for months in homemade soups. Be sure to strain before you freeze.

  • Make soup with the turkey broth and add some of your leftover vegetables, like roasted carrots and other vegetables.

  • Add shredded turkey leftovers to stuffed, baked vegetables. Mix it up with a whole grain, some beans and vegetables, and maybe a little cheese to stuff a pepper or zucchini for a healthy, baked dinner.

The Fatty, Salty Ham

Turkey is already pretty nutritious and suitable for a healthy diet and lifestyle. As a lean meat, turkey can be incorporated pretty easily into your healthy meals after the holiday, just encourage clients not to deep fry it. Ham, on the other hand, is pretty fatty and salty, so it should be used sparingly.

To use ham leftovers healthfully, use smaller amounts with other, healthier foods. For example, add a little bit of ham to a vegetable soup recipe. You won't need to add much fat or salt to the soup, as it will be provided by the ham. Avoid any recipes that would require frying the ham or using oil or additional salt. Instead, add a handful of cubes to a salad or a healthy grain and vegetable bowl.

Make Holiday Leftovers Nutritious by Cutting Sugar

Many of your holiday leftovers will be loaded with sugar and calories. The key to making these into healthy leftovers is to thin them out with other ingredients that have less sugar. Use them as your sweetener, sparingly.

  • Use a tablespoon of cranberry sauce in your oatmeal or in a whole grain pancake recipe.

  • Add a little bit of extra pumpkin pie filling to a smoothie recipe.

  • Mix some of that sinfully sugary sweet potato casserole into pancake or waffle batter with nuts and no additional sweetener.

  • Make whole grain muffins with extra sweet potatoes or squash and spread with a little bit of cranberry sauce.

  • Eat a dollop of cranberry sauce on slices of cheese for a mid-afternoon snack.

Sugar can really sabotage a diet, any time of year. Check out what experts at the ISSA have to say about the most successful way to eat for weight loss.

Don't Forget to Workout after Those Holiday Leftovers

To really take holiday health and fitness up a notch, don't let your clients make the season an excuse not to workout. This can be a big factor in holiday weight gain, nearly as much as all the extra food. It's a busy time of the year too, but make fitness a priority and write it into your schedule and your clients'.

Even if you can't get away from family obligations on the big day, you can still get in some physical activity. Challenge clients to think outside the box. Volunteer to take the kids outside to burn off some steam; organize a flag football game in the yard; or instead of napping after the holiday meal, take everyone on a walk around the neighborhood.

Knowing how to make holiday leftovers nutritious can make the difference between a one-day diet blow out and one that stretches for multiple days. Use these tips and come up with some creative ideas of your own, and if all else fails, share those leftovers with others so you're not eating them all.

If you want to learn more about nutrition and fitness, check out the ISSA's comprehensive course for certified nutritionist.

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