Nutrition Articles

Turkey Transformations

5 healthy ways to make the most your holiday leftovers

By Ryan Mattingly

turkey cheddar
It’s an annual practice as dependable as day-after-Thanksgiving retail sales. After turkey day has come and gone, we now must decide what to do with the 60-odd pounds of leftover fowl that now crowds our refrigerators. Sure, there is always the post-Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing sandwich gobbled in front of your favorite college football game. Fine. But what will you do in December, when the same holiday turkey turmoil repeats itself?

While the holidays may be great, it’s also the time that most of us pack on unwanted celebration pounds. At the same time, that turkey in the fridge isn’t going to get rid of itself. Though we would never tell you to pass up a good opportunity to live a little at this special time of year, it’s also important that you know about some flavorful (and healthier) alternatives to this yearly calorie-filled bonanza.

This month we’ll show you how to turn plain old Tom Turkey into 5 great new dishes that will satisfy your palate and your meal plan. If you’re still craving the traditional turkey sandwich, you’ll love the Spicy Turkey Cheddar Melt, with a huge dose of protein and spicy jalapenos to add a little fire to an old standard. For something a little lighter, try the Turkey Pear and Apple Salad, a sweet and refreshing lunch idea. But you didn’t think we’d forget breakfast did you? The Yam and Turkey Breakfast Cakes will start your day off right with a balanced blend of protein, vitamins and minerals.

Spicy Turkey Cheddar Melt


A flavorful alternative to your average turkey sandwich, the Spicy Turkey Cheddar Melt is a great meal to serve to friends watching the "big game." With plenty of protein and topped with non-fat cheddar cheese, you can enjoy a training meal that everyone will like.

Serves 4
    1 cup cranberry sauce
    1 tablespoon jalapeno peppers; seeded, minced
    1 teaspoon honey mustard
    24 ounces leftover turkey; sliced
    2 ciabatta rolls, or Kaiser Rolls
    8 slices non-fat cheddar cheese
    1 small onion; sliced thinly

In a small mixing bowl, combine the cranberry sauce, peppers and mustard.
Set aside (may be done several days in advance). Toast the rolls. Preheat
oven broiler. Spread a portion of the cranberry spread on each of the
rolls, top with sliced onion, turkey and top with cheddar. Place under
broiler, on a sheet pan or broiler pan, in oven and broil until cheese is
melted to desired doneness.

Nutritional value per serving
Calories: 443
Fat: 4 grams
Protein: 54 grams
Carbs: 48 grams


Turkey Miso Mushroom Soup


What could be better on a chilly day than a hearty and healthy soup? A dose of peanut butter is added to this already protein-packed soup, and shitake mushrooms are a low-calorie way to get fiber, vitamins and other vegetable proteins.

Serves 4
    1/2 ounce dried shitake mushrooms
    12 ounces (about 3 cups) leftover turkey; diced into ½-inch pieces
    1 cup green onions; chopped
    4 cups water
    2 teaspoons creamy peanut butter
    1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
    3 tablespoons miso paste

Soak the dried mushrooms in hot water for about 1/2 hour. Drain, squeeze
out excess water, remove stems and slice. In a medium sized sauce pan or soup pot, combine the turkey, onion, and water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir in peanut butter and chilis. Stir in miso paste and blend completely. Serve.

Note: Miso paste is available in most supermarkets in the natural food section. If the paste is not available, you may substitute instant miso soup mix. Follow directions and add the amount suggested for 32 oz water.

Nutritional value per serving
Calories: 231
Fat: 5 grams
Protein: 39 grams
Carbs: 5 grams


Turkey Rice and Bean Burrito


When you think of the holidays, you may not automatically think of a burrito. Well, think again. Pinto beans and red bell pepper provide plenty of fiber and minerals. If you’re finally getting tired of leftovers, this meal may be just the thing to get you out of that rut.

Serves 4
    1 teaspoon olive oil
    1 cup green onion; chopped
    1 medium red bell pepper; seeded, chopped
    8 ounces green chilis, canned (usually 2 cans)
    1 can (15 ounces) pinto beans; drained
    1 box (6.8 ounces) Spanish rice mix
    16 ounces leftover turkey; diced
    4 medium flour tortillas
    4 slices non-fat cheddar cheese

Wrap the tortillas in foil and place in oven on low setting to warm. Prepare Spanish rice according to package directions, but, using only 1 teaspoon olive oil for cooking (ignoring their recommended amount of cooking fat). Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet, over medium heat, cook the onion and bell pepper in the oil for 5 minutes until pepper begins to soften. Stir in the green chilis, pintos and turkey. Cook another 5 minutes or until mixture is hot. Stir in prepared rice and remove from heat.

Assemble burritos by placing a portion of the turkey mixture down the middle of each tortilla, Roll up, tucking ends and sides in to seal burrito. Place on a baking sheet, top each with a slice of cheese and return to oven for a few minutes to melt cheese. Serve with shredded lettuce, salsa, non-fat sour cream (optional).

Nutritional value per serving
Calories: 376
Fat: 4 grams
Protein: 31 grams
Carbs: 50 grams


Turkey, Pear and Apple Salad


For a lighter leftover option, this sweet salad should hit the spot. Fruits such as apples and pears are great sources of fiber and vitamins, and taste fantastic together. Topping the salad with cashews or other nuts adds texture and needed minerals.

Serves 4
    12 ounces (about 3 cups) leftover turkey; diced into ½-inch pieces
    1 medium golden delicious apple; cored, chopped
    1 medium pear; peeled, cored and chopped
    1 cup celery; diced
    3/4 cup cranberry sauce
    1/4 cup nonfat sour cream
    1/4 cup nonfat mayonnaise
    12 cups romaine lettuce; shredded

In a large mixing bowl, combine the turkey, apple, pear and celery. Set aside. In a small mixing bowl, combine the cranberry sauce, sour cream and mayo. Add to the turkey mixture and fold in completely. Prepare salad plates with a portion of the shredded romaine topped with the turkey salad. Try adding a few chopped cashews or other nut for a variation.

Nutritional value per seving
Calories: 287
Fat: 4 grams
Protein: 40 grams
Carbs: 20 grams


Yam and Turkey Breakfast Cakes


Your morning just got a little more interesting with this dish. Most of us have never considered the prospect of having turkey for breakfast, but when mixed with mashed yams (which happen to be loaded with potassium, vitamin C and folic minerals), you’ll wonder why you didn’t think of this years ago.

Serves 4
    4 cups yams, cooked; mashed
    1 cup green onion; chopped
    1 medium apple; peeled, cored and chopped
    2 teaspoons Butter; divided
    16 ounces leftover turkey; shredded into ¼-inch pieces
    1 dash Salt
    1 dash black pepper

Combine the mashed yams and turkey in a large mixing bowl. Set aside. Melt 1 teaspoon of butter in a large nonstick skillet. Stir in the green onion and apple. Cook for 5 minutes until the apple begins to soften. Add to the turkey yam mixture, season with salt and pepper and fold to combine. Don’t clean the skillet, set aside. Form mixture into about 8 3-inch patties. Melt remaining butter in reserved skillet over medium heat. Add yam patties and cook about 5 minutes per side until lightly browned and heated through. Serve with nonfat sour cream and/or cranberry apple sauce (optional). You can make the cran-apple sauce yourself by simply mixing some leftover cranberry sauce with some apple sauce.

Nutritional value per serving
Calories: 382
Fat: 6 grams
Protein: 36 grams
Carbs: 45 grams