Turn holiday dinner leftovers into healthy meals

December 23, 2011 4:58:20 PM PST
The holidays mean family, friends and food. It's also the time of year that you can really pack on the pounds. But it's not just the big holiday meal that's the problem.

Every year, most of us gain a pound during the holidays, but here's something that may make you feel better: it's not the big Christmas dinner that makes us gain weight -- it's the leftovers!

"It's when you repeat that meal over and over and over for three or four days out that you really start to see those 1,000-1,500-calorie meals add up and you're gonna start to see the weight gain," MD Anderson Cancer Center dietitian Mary Ellen Herndon said.

So when we eat our holiday meal two, three or four times, you could be eating 4,000 to 6,000 calories! MD Anderson experts say you can eat your leftovers, but you need to do it differently.

MD Anderson's French chef Philippe Boucaumont shows us how to make turkey chili, loaded with spices, and vegetables. It's a healthy option for leftovers.

Here's another tip: It's not just what's in the food but the size of the portion that matters.

"Why in Europe the women are so skinny and you eat cream and butter? We eat everything in Europe but small quantities, and I think this is the secret," Boucaumont said.

One more tip: Freeze the leftovers in small bags.

"Portion things into half-cup servings so that you know how much you'll be eating if you're going to enjoy the leftovers," Herndon said.

Five minutes after he began, Boucaumont's turkey chili is ready.

So what they're saying is you can still have your leftovers and eat them too if you just eat them in a different way, and this year you won't have to gain that extra pound.

Here are more tips from MD Anderson on healthy portions: for gravy or cranberry sauce, have a portion the size of a golf ball; for turkey, a serving the size of a deck of cards; and for pie, get a slice no larger than the size of a light bulb.


Healthy turkey chili By Philippe Boucaumont

This low fat turkey chili is an ideal family supper. It's hearty, healthy and easy to prepare. Serve with a dollop of fat-free yogurt or sour cream on top.

Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 stick of celery, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 pound 99% fat-free ground turkey
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 14 1/2-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce, no salt added
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 4 tbsp fat-free sour cream or yogurt
  • 4 tbsp fresh chopped cilantro (optional)


Heat oil in a large Dutch oven. Add onion, celery, chopped pepper and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes or until onions are translucent. Crumble the turkey into the pan, breaking it apart with a wooden spoon. Cook for about 5 minutes or until no longer pink. Stir in chili powder, cumin, coriander and oregano. Add in tomatoes and tomato sauce, and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add beans, mix well and cook on low heat for a further 5-10 minutes.

Ladle into bowls. Add a dollop of fat-free sour cream or yogurt on top, plus some fresh chopped cilantro if you have it. Serves 4.

Per Serving: Calories 298, Calories from Fat 51, Total Fat 5.7g (sat 0.6g), Cholesterol 35mg, Sodium 440mg, Carbohydrate 32.9g, Fiber 10.2g, Protein 28.8g

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