Almost as good as Thanksgiving dinner itself are the leftovers. Casseroles, stuffing and potatoes somehow get better after sitting in the fridge overnight. What gets old fast, however is Thanksgiving's main event: the turkey.
Weight loss experts recommend skipping leftovers altogether because they're traditionally such indulgent and rich foods that should be saved only for special occasions--except for turkey. While inhaling a piece of pumpkin pie for breakfast is hardly a healthy way to start the day, don't feel guilty for one second about standing in the glow of the refrigerator light at midnight, eating a healthy helping of cold turkey. It's one leftover that should get a free pass.
A four ounce serving of turkey contains only about 150 calories, but packs a whopping 32 grams of protein, 65 percent of your daily recommendation, making it a great source of muscle building essential amino acids.
Turkey also contains selenium, which is essential for thyroid function and a strong immune system. A single serving of turkey has 36 percent of your daily allowance of Vitamin B3 or niacin, which helps process fats in the body and 27 percent of your recommended intake of B6, a vitamin that helps keep your blood sugar levels steady.
So take advantage of your sudden influx of this protein powerhouse by thinking outside the boring, cold turkey sammie and getting creative in the kitchen. Try these unique and healthy recipes that will use up all your leftovers but keep your family from whining, "Again?!"
1. Next Day Turkey Burgers
Since turkey is leaner than beef, it makes the perfect low-fat substitute for burgers that are just as juicy and delicious. Made with whole wheat cracker crumbs, these burgers from Fave Healthy Recipes are high in fiber, low in fat and calories, and big on flavor. Serve on a whole wheat bun, and top with sautéed onions and a smear of left over low-sugar cranberry sauce.
2. Curried Turkey and Cauliflower Stew
Perfect for adding a little spice to a cold winter's day, this curried stew has exotic flavors but still screams comfort food. Created by Rocco Dispiritio for the contestants on the Biggest Loser ranch, this stew is hearty, healthy, low in sodium, and only 256 calories per savory serving. The recipe calls for raw turkey, but you can toss your already cooked turkey in at the very end and heat through.
3. Turkey Apple Pita
I know I said no sammies, but this one is too good to pass up. From the great minds at Fitness Magazine, this pita packs a lot of nutrition and even more flavor into one pouch. The combo of fresh spinach, sweet apple and turkey can't be beat, and the whole wheat pita offers enough fiber to keep you full long after your lunch break. Serve with the rest of the apple on the side and you have a well-rounded lunch your coworkers will be jealous of.
4. Turkey and Leek Shepherd's Pie
Learn to love leeks by trying them out in Eating Well's take on a Shepherd's Pie. Covered in mashed potatoes (another great use of leftovers) this turkey version of the Irish classic can be adapted to your family's tastes. One reader recommends topping it with sweet potatoes instead of white for a sweeter flavor and even more fiber and Vitamin A.
5. Turkey and Corn Enchiladas
Super fast and easy, these throw-together enchiladas from Real Simple are, well, really simple. Skip the flour tortillas and opt for a whole grain variety to boost the nutrition in this recipe even more. Add beans for even more fill-you-up fiber.
6. Asian Turkey Cabbage Cups
If you're watching your carbs, cabbage cups are your best friend. Bread is often just a vehicle for filling, but with this recipe from Cooking Light, the filling stands out so well on its own, you don't need it. A twist on larb, a Thai/Laotian salad of meat flavored with lime juice, herbs, and chiles, these little roll-ups deliver huge flavor. Top with nuts for a little crunch and this light meal will quickly become one of your family's favorites.
Kelly Turner is a Seattle-based ACE-certified personal trainer and professional fitness writer. She began writing after becoming frustrated with the confusing and conflicting fitness information in the media and the quick-fix, gimmick-centered focus of the fitness industry itself. Her no-nonsense, practical advice has been featured on DietsInReview.com, FitnessMagazine.com, Yahoo! Shine, and she has a regular fitness column in The Seattle Times. Kelly has her own blog at www.kellyturnerfitness.com or follow her on Twitter @KellyTurnerFit.