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Jacqueline Gomes, RD, MBA

Registered Dietitian

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Make it Through Thanksgiving (and the Leftovers) Without Feeling Stuffed

11/19/2014 12:00PM | 7691 views

Waking up post-Thanksgiving Day can mean feeling bloated, heavy and just plain sluggish. After all, on average we consume 4,500 calories from this one meal alone! Between the appetizers, alcohol, main dish and desserts galore, my guess is you’re wondering how you will prevent holiday weight gain.

Your first line of defense is to get back on the sensible eating bandwagon right away; here’s how:

 Thanksgiving meal detox

  • Drink Water: Lots of it, to the tune of one gallon. If you prefer a flavorful alternative, choose vitaminwater zero which is available in a variety of delicious flavors for zero calories! Tip: Makes a great mixer for your holiday table!
  • Exercise: Don’t delay; don’t think about it, just do it. Exercise is completely underrated during the holidays. It’s the best way to control your weight along with portion control on “non-holiday” days.  Physical activity is also a great way to control stress and anxiety during the holiday season.
  • Focus on fresh: Focus on foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins like turkey, chicken, eggs, shrimp, fish and whole grains. Eat like this on a regular basis and you’ll find that days like Thanksgiving may have no effect on your weight at all.
  • Control your portions: The best way to control excess weight is to control your portions on “non-holiday” days. Remember to plan meals weekly and purchase smaller portions of your favorite foods and beverages. For instance, the Coca-Cola Mini can is a 7.5-oz can that also comes in flavors like Diet Coke and Coke Zero. Or try the new reduced calorie cola Coca-Cola Life in an 8-oz glass bottle.  

So…what to do with those leftovers? Here are 5 tips…

Knowing what to do with leftovers can be just as daunting as planning the holiday meal. Rather than feel overwhelmed, view it as an opportunity to take some time off from laboring in the kitchen. Pre-cooked meats and vegetables make meal prep much simpler, so take advantage and get creative with your leftovers.

  1. Create a mish-mash salad topper. No need to worry about chopping vegetables and cooking proteins to make a salad. Simply mix all of your ready-made foods together and top it on greens. It’s that easy. Tip: Use little dressing to save on calories. The oils from the pre-cooked vegetables and meats should be enough to add flavor to the salad.
  2. Make Turkey Tostadas, Tacos or Burritos. Replace the leftover sandwich with a hearty Mexican meal. Use whole-wheat tortillas or taco shells and fill with chopped turkey and mixed vegetables, place in a baking dish and top with salsa then bake until heated through.
  3. Use your vegetables in pasta or a stir-fry. Simmer casserole remains in tomato sauce and serve over whole-wheat pasta or mix vegetables with brown rice and add a small amount of soy sauce. Both are tasty comfort dishes, perfect for a cold winter day.
  4. Serve indulgent leftovers with a healthier side: I always end up with left over empanadade carne that my grandmother makes. It’s a very special treat for me. I eat my leftover empanada with a veggie-packed salad or vegetable soup.
  5. When in doubt, cook soup. Whenever I have a ton of leftover vegetables and meats, I throw everything into a large pot with chicken stock and prepare a hearty winter soup or stew. If you really want to clean up shop, make a lot of soup and freeze it for later use. You will be stocked for the entire season.

Thanksgiving Leftovers – Turkey Soup

My families’ leftovers typically consist of turkey, mixed vegetables and baked sweet potatoes. This soup is an easy, nourishing and delicious way to incorporate a variety of leftover ingredients while staying light on calories!


  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced into small pieces
  • 2 tsp. chopped rosemary leaves
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup chopped, left over mixed vegetables
  • 1 cup diced, left over sweet potatoes
  • 5 cups turkey or chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups diced, leftover turkey
  • 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • Fresh ground black pepper & salt to taste
  • Dash of cayenne (optional)


  1.  Heat olive oil in bottom of dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and chopped rosemary leaves and sauté about 5 minutes.
  2. Add garlic and mixed vegetables; continue to sauté for an additional 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add sweet potatoes, turkey stock, bay leaves and diced tomato. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Let simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Add the chopped turkey, season with salt and pepper to taste, add cayenne if desired.
  4. Continue to simmer for approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Serve hot with diced avocado or crusty whole grain bread. 


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