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Healthy Thanksgiving: Leftover Do’s and Don’ts

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Thanksgiving is often a day of indulgence in your holiday favorites, leaving you with a full stomach and a refrigerator full of leftovers.  It may feel like too much, but saving leftovers can be a good way to minimize overeating on Thanksgiving Day, and can be a way to save money on future meals. There are many creative ways to use Thanksgiving leftovers in new recipes, so you don’t have to throw it out!

When saving food, it’s important to store it in a safe way that minimizes the risk of it going bad before you eat it. To help store your food properly, follow some of these steps:

  • Store within 2 hours of cooking at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below
  • Use clean, air-tight containers
  • Break up larger quantities into small portions
  • Considering dating the food to help you keep track of how long it’s good for.

Food stored in air-tight containers in the refrigerator are good to eat for the next three to four days. Freezing food can help it last longer, about 3-6 months in typical containers or up to a year or more in vacuum sealed bags. Reheat leftovers to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Making fresh meals out of the leftovers is also a good way to keep things interesting. A good way to spice up turkey this year is making a turkey, cranberry and brie sandwich. There are many new ideas about repurposing Thanksgiving leftovers online, or you can make it up as you go! 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.

Turkey, Cranberry and Brie Sandwich Recipe:

  • 2 slices sprouted whole grain bread
  • ½ oz. brie cheese, thinly sliced
  • 2 oz. sliced roasted turkey breast
  • 1 Tbsp cranberry sauce, no sugar added
  • ½ tsp. finely chopped fresh thyme
  • ½ tsp. olive oil


  1. Top one slice of bread with cheese, turkey, cranberry sauce, thyme, and second slice of bread. Set aside.
  2. Heat oil in the medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
  3. Add sandwich; cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden brown. Flip, cook for 3 to 4 more minutes or until cheese has melted.

Spokesperson Background:

Beverly Paddock is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at Cone Health Nutrition and Diabetes Management Center. Paddock received a Bachelor of Science from the University of Georgia in 1979. She became a registered dietician through a work-study program in Florida in 1982, and became a certified diabetes educator in 1983.

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