Healthy Leftover Ideas

Not sure what to do with that all that turkey? Try one of these flavourful and healthy leftover ideas.

Part of the fun of holiday dinners is eating up those leftovers, and turkey is a versatile meat to use in a variety of dishes.
If you’re looking for some lighter alternatives to heavy casseroles, try one of these healthy choices.

Sandwiches with pizzazz

Turkey sandwiches are the tried-and-true favourite, but they’re not a balanced meal. Instead of piling on the stuffing and gravy to add flavour, take your cues from the local sandwich shop instead. For a do-it-yourself turkey sub, pita or wrap night, offer a variety of toppings like:

– Cheese: cheddar is always a favourite, but for a bit of a kick try grated parmesan or old cheese instead. Havarti works particularly well with turkey, and there are a variety of flavours available including dill and hot pepper.

– Sliced olives and pickles (especially if you’ve got leftovers from holiday appetizers).

– Roasted red peppers and hot peppers (straight from the jar will work).

– Bacon bits (crumbled and used sparingly).

– Cold vegetables such as peppers, cucumber, mushrooms, tomatoes, broccoli and shredded lettuce. Sprouts also add some crunch and are packed with vitamins.

– Hot vegetables — as an alternative, try a simple stir fry of peppers, onions, zucchini, celery, carrots and stewed tomatoes and add your favourite flavouring or seasoning.

– Salad dressing (raid your fridge — it doesn’t have to be fancy).

– Herb butter (mix your favourite herb blends with a little butter or margarine and spread on toasted buns).

– Salsa or chutney.

The key is to pile up on the vegetables and use the meats and cheese as accents rather than the main attraction. Opt for whole grain options, and use low-fat salad dressings or lemon juice to dress.

If you’re not feeling ambitious, try adding turkey and roasted peppers to a grilled cheese sandwich, or get out that panini grill.

Turkey chili

Skip the step of browning and adding ground beef and chop up the turkey you have on hand. The vegetables and beans will add fibre and nutrients for a chunky and quick chili.

Leftover Turkey Chili Recipe


1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1 can (28 oz. size) tomato puree
1 can (15 1/2 oz. size) kidney beans, undrained
2 cups chopped, cooked turkey


– Heat oil in skillet over medium heat; add next 6 ingredients and cook until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add tomato puree and beans; stir in turkey. Simmer 5 minutes longer.

– Serve with toppings such as grated cheddar cheese, olives, salsa and hot sauce.

Makes six servings. (Source: CDKitchen)

For some other variations, try:

Hearty Turkey Chili from the Mayo Clinic

Pomegranate Turkey Chili from

Turkey Feta Salad

This “throw together” meal also uses up vegetables and nuts from your holiday feasts. The ingredient portions are approximate, but they’re easy to adapt to your preferences and how many you are feeding.

Mixed greens (use leafy dark green vegetables like spinach for added vitamins)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (pecans, cashews, almonds or mixed nuts)
1 coloured pepper, chopped (try yellow or orange for some colour)
1/2 to 3/4 cup cucumber, sliced
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
2 cups cooked turkey
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Optional: Add in some chopped broccoli (stem and all), asparagus or other vegetables you have on hand. You can also add other dried fruits like raisins and papayas, or fresh fruits like grapes. Using raw, unsalted nuts and seeds is preferable to roasted, and you can toast them yourself in the toaster oven.

Toss ingredients together and serve with a fruit-flavoured salad dressing like raspberry vinaigrette. To use up some leftover cranberry sauce, try the dressing from Ocean Spray’s Turkey Salad with Cranberry Feta Cheese Dressing.

Other tempting options

Looking for some other ideas? Try:

– Tossing some turkey in a stir fry and serve over brown rice or whole wheat or kamut pasta.

– Add turkey cubes and chunky vegetables to homemade tomato sauce.

– Add turkey to cold pasta salad or a couscous (use a ranch or Caesar dressing for a quick fix).

– Toast up some Turkey Pita Wedges.

– Use turkey as a pizza topping or make a Grilled Thai Turkey Pizza.

There are thousands of turkey recipes out there on the internet, but here are some sources to get you started:

– Turkey grower’s websites like the Ontario Turkey Board or BC Turkey Growers. Look for the “leftover” category in the recipes section.

– has an impressive list of Leftover Turkey Recipes.

– To find out the nutritional information for any recipe, try the Recipe Calculator on Spark

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