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How to Give Leftovers New Life

How to Give Leftovers New Life

With COVID-19 lockdown restrictions affecting foodservice operations, many people are choosing to eat at home to avoid the headache and wait that comes with ordering out. While this is great for family dinners, it can create a problem with too much food being leftover and not enough space in the refrigerator. For those working from home, eating the same thing for two or three days to get rid of leftovers is unappealing, and it can adversely affect weight loss goals. Weight management programs like the HCG diet have strict meal plans, and having leftovers around can make following the guidelines more challenging. However, trying to abide by shelter-in-place orders may have you limiting your trips to the grocery store for new meal items. You can spend the night getting inspiration from re-runs of the Food Network show “Chopped” or you can take a look at these easy and healthy ways to use up leftovers.

Collaborate for a Low-carb Snack

You can take last night’s dinner scraps and turn them into a healthy snack. To use leftover veggies, hard boil some eggs and put the two together for a quick, low-carb snack.

Shake Up a Well-Rounded Breakfast

Green produce can be one of the fastest things to go bad in the fridge, but by incorporating them into more than dinner can help you get your money’s worth. For greens that are nearing the end of their shelf life, blend them up with some fruit that you have on hand and mix with unsweetened almond milk. To make a smoothie texture, freeze the fruit and veggie mix into ice cube trays. When you get ready to head out to work in the morning, blend your ice cubes, almond milk, and some protein powder into a nutritious breakfast on the go.

Create an Omelet

Eggs are a fantastic source of protein and are versatile enough to be used with a variety of foods. For an easy breakfast, lunch, or dinner, toss a leftover piece of steak or ham and veggies into a frying pan with some olive oil and scramble in some eggs for an easy but tasty omelet.

Whip Up a Casserole

Why repurpose one item when you can get rid of several in one dish? Get creative with spices and condiments, throwing them and your leftovers into a bowl for a creative new casserole. You can mix leftover lean meat, like chicken or turkey, with some nonfat Greek yogurt, a few tablespoons of flour, and leftover veggies into a bowl for a dinner surprise. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees and you will have healthy, lower carb option than takeout.

Make a Marinara

For families with picky eaters, it is easy to disguise vegetables or other healthy foods in a tasty sauce. Don’t spend the extra few cents on a quality meat sauce for your pasta. Make your own using leftover fish or chicken, which are much leaner options than ground beef. Use a can of sodium-free tomatoes, Italian herbs, extra virgin olive oil, and finely chopped or shredded leftover chicken to make a hearty, healthy marinara sauce. If you follow a vegan diet, you can substitute lentil for the meat.

Find the Flavor Without Salt

It is too easy to use salt to flavor your meals, potentially creating health concerns for those who have problems with blood pressure. Instead of the pinch of salt, use leftover onions, carrots, celery, or tomatoes to bring extra flavor for your dish. If you don’t care about the aftereffects (pungent breath), add fresh garlic to flavor your meals. Not only can these veggies create an amazing experience for your taste buds, but things like tomatoes and garlic also have some powerful health benefits.

Kick Up Your Pasta

Pasta isn’t always the healthiest of options since regular pasta is filled with carbs. However, if you have opted for whole grain pasta or a pasta substitute, you can turn leftover noodles into the base of a new meal. Substitute your cooked pasta for rice in a homemade stir fry, adding veggies, seasonings, and soy sauce to complete the meal. You could also toss some pasta in a pan will some beans or lean meat and your homemade marina for a fresh lunch option.

Stir Up a Soup

Soup is one of the easiest ways to use up leftovers of any kind. You can take pot roast leftovers or chopped chicken as a protein, throw it into a slow cooker with stock, add leftover veggies and spices, and let it simmer away. Soups are healthy but hearty, making it easy to fil your belly without feeling guilty.

Don’t let leftovers crowd up your fridge and create guilt over the waste. You can creatively use up last night’s dinner in a variety of healthy but tasty ways.


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About the author

Dr. Richard Smith, MD

7 min read