Classic leftover recipes made healthier

Love your leftovers while keeping the points low.
Published December 7, 2018

If you’ve ever overindulged at a holiday dinner and sworn to yourself, with the best of intentions, that as of now you’ll be eating lighter, you might be familiar with what happens next. The leftovers pile up and despite your determination, the next week is spent eating over the top turkey sandwiches and classic comfort foods like bubble and squeak. Get inspired by these lightened-up ideas for using up all those leftovers without sacrificing flavour or feelings of fullness.


Tackling the turkey sandwich


Turkey sandwiches aren’t inherently bad for you, they just require a little thinking outside of the box when it comes to upping their nutritional value. Instead of piling on the traditional cheese, stuffing, gravy, and mayo reconsider other flavours that might complement both white and dark turkey meat. Likewise, use your imagination to go beyond bread and think about alternative ways to keep all of the ingredients in one place.


  • Turkey lettuce wraps: Shred turkey using two forks or your fingers and quickly sauté with some soy sauce or tamari, dark sesame oil, a drizzle of honey, and chili garlic paste. Add the shredded turkey to a stiff leaf of iceberg or romaine lettuce and top with shredded carrots, chopped radish, pickled jalapeno peppers, and a dollop of plain low-fat yogurt. Roll up the lettuce and enjoy!
  • Turkey salad on rye crisps: Make a simple turkey salad by cubing the poultry and mixing it with plain low-fat yogurt, a small dollop of mayonnaise, chopped celery, capers, finely diced pickles, Dijon mustard, and salt and freshly cracked pepper. Spread on a rye crisp cracker or two and garnish with optional fresh dill sprigs before eating.
  • Turkey tacos: Warm a stack of small corn tortillas wrapped in foil in a moderate oven as you prepare the turkey and other fillings. Shred or slice the turkey into thin pieces and heat up in a skillet with a small amount of olive oil and taco seasoning (add water or stock if required.) Fill each taco with chopped cabbage or pre-shredded coleslaw mix, turkey, black beans, and corn and finish with a small dollop each of salsa, plain low-fat yogurt or sour cream and guacamole.


Finding the lighter side of leftover sides and appetizers


Leftover side dishes provide their own set of challenges when you’re committed to eating a healthy diet. Luckily, there are many ways to use up all the miscellaneous side dishes you might be storing in the fridge. Always remember, if you have too much food and you’re worried about it spoiling you can always freeze it (or have a tiny get-together dedicated to getting through the leftover sides and appetizers.)


  • Cranberry sauce compote: Just because cranberry sauce is traditionally served with savoury foods doesn’t mean it can’t be used like any other fruit-based compote. Add cranberry sauce to a yogurt parfait and top with a small handful of granola, seeds or nuts and finish with pomegranate seeds and freshly grated orange zest.
  • Baked mashed potato pancakes: Mashed potato pancakes are a fabulous way to use up leftover mashed potatoes but they’re also notorious for their ability to soak up excess oil when pan-fried. Baking them in a 400° Fahrenheit oven for 10 minutes will ensure a crispy golden exterior and a creamy interior. Add an egg or two to cold mashed potatoes along with some salt and white pepper, chopped leftover veggies and thinly sliced green onions. Shape the potato mixture into thick disks and bake on a parchment paper-lined tray before eating while still piping hot.
  • Mashed sweet potato or turnip vegan quesadillas: Leftover mashed sweet potatoes or turnips are ideal for holding together vegan quesadillas in place of cheese. Spread the mashed vegetables over a scant half of a large tortilla and add any other leftover vegetables or greens you might still have on hand, beans or lentils, pickled onions, and spicy dried chili flakes. Fold the quesadilla and cook over medium-low heat in a large skillet until toasted and crisp on the outside and warm on the inside.