Healthy Thanksgiving: Turkey Day Leftovers

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Thanksgiving is often a day of overindulgence in your holiday favorites, leaving you with a full stomach and a refrigerator full of leftovers.  It may feel like too much, but try to waste as little food as possible. There are many creative ways to use thanksgiving leftovers in new recipes, so you don’t have to throw it out!

Turkey is a healthy option on its own, and you can easily make a simple meal by adding fruit and vegetables as a side. Turkey meat is a great addition to soup, and you can use the bones of the turkey, after you’ve removed all the meat, to create the stock for the soup. Other ways to spice up leftovers include:

  • Turkey Sandwich – create a well-rounded meal with whole grain, whole wheat bread, turkey, and cranberries paired with a side of vegetables.
  • Turkey Pot Pie Soup – use leftover turkey for meat and stock, and potatoes as a warm meal on a cold day.
  • Homemade Cranberry Sauce – making cranberry sauce at home is easy and it allows you to minimize added sugar. Add cranberry sauce to any meals for added flavor.

Moderate the amount of salt, sugars/carbs, fat, etc. in the recipes you make with the holiday leftovers.

Throughout the holiday season, it’s also important to incorporate exercise, even something as simple as going for a walk. Especially after a big meal, walking gives you the opportunity to get some fresh air, and gets your metabolism moving to help digest your food. Try to walk for thirty to sixty minutes. Our area is fortunate as the team of registered dietitians and diabetes educators at Cone Health’s Nutrition and Diabetes Services is dedicated to educating families in the community on making nutritional choices and promoting healthy lifestyles.

Recipe for Turkey Pot Pie Soup


  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups turkey stock
  • 4 cups fat free milk
  • 2 large celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 8 oz sliced cremini mushrooms
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 8 oz frozen peas and carrots
  • 1 tsp Turkey Better n Boullion (or more to taste)
  • 2 medium (12 oz total) potatoes, peeled and cubed small
  • 16 oz cooked turkey breast, diced small or shredded


Create a slurry by combining 1/2 cup of the cold broth with flour in a medium bowl and whisk until well blended. Set aside.

Pour remaining broth and milk into a large pot and slowly bring to a boil. Add celery, onion, mushrooms, parsley, fresh pepper, frozen vegetables, salt and return to a boil. Partially cover and simmer on low until vegetables are soft, about 20 minutes. Remove lid, add potatoes and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add turkey, and slowly whisk in slurry, stirring well as you add. Cook another 2-3 minutes until soup thickens, adjust salt and pepper to taste and serve.

 Makes about 10 1/3 cups.

Spokesperson Background:

Donna Plyler is a registered dietitian and the diabetes program coordinator at Cone Health Internal Medicine Center. Plyler received a Bachelor of Science in biology from Guilford College in 1984 and a Master of Science in nutrition in 1993. She was also certified as a diabetes educator in 1996.