Holiday Leftovers? Turn Them into Bariatric-Friendly Meals

Article By: Maria Tucker, MPH, RDN, LDN, CDCES

Maria Tucker is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator with over 20 years of experience assisting patients with diabetes, obesity, and nutrition-related conditions. Maria is also the Founder of, a site dedicated to healthy recipes and kitchen shortcuts.

It’s inevitable... Your fridge is filled to the brim with leftovers from the holiday gatherings. What do you do with these leftovers? Not all leftovers taste good when re-heated... Well, you can turn these leftovers into delicious new meals with these simple twists!

1) Turkey

  • Turn leftover cooked turkey into a healthy and delicious pasta dish by shredding and layering it with cooked pasta, condensed low fat cream of mushroom soup, chopped parsley, chopped mushrooms, and shredded mozzarella cheese in a baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until bubbly and cheese is lightly browned. Top with chopped crispy turkey bacon and fresh green onion for garnish.
  • Substitute diced cooked turkey for sausage and make a breakfast burrito with scrambled eggs, cheese, and chopped sweet onion and red bell peppers.
  • Warm up your day with turkey bean soup using diced cooked turkey, a can of great northern beans, low fat chicken broth, diced onions, and chopped garlic.

2) Mashed potatoes

  • Create a yummy side dish by forming mashed potato into patties, covering them with Panko crumbs, and pan-frying in a non-stick pan brushed with grape seed oil until crispy and golden brown. Adding unflavored protein powder to the mashed potatoes before forming into patties will make it a high protein side! Serve with garlic ranch aioli made with low fat or fat-free mayo combined with ranch dry seasoning packet, grated fresh garlic, and dried oregano. For a zesty tangy dip, substitute Zesty Italian for the ranch seasoning packet.
  • Make a healthy version of Shepherd’s Pie by sautéing chopped garlic, onion, carrots, and thyme and adding lean ground beef or turkey, low fat chicken broth, and green peas once sautéed veggies are softened. Sprinkle meat mixture with a little flour to thicken. Pour into a baking dish and top meat and veggie mixture with mashed potatoes. Bake in a 400 degree pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes until top is golden brown. Mashed cauliflower or sweet potatoes can be used in place of mashed potatoes.
  • Cacio e Pepe or potato gnocchi is easy to make and is a great substitute for pasta. Make it with leftover mashed potatoes by combining the mashed potatoes with egg, unflavored protein powder, whole wheat flour, salt, and pepper until it forms a soft dough. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces and roll each piece into a 3⁄4 inch diameter, ~12-inch long rope. Cut each rope into 1 inch pieces. Press the tines of a fork on the cut potato dough pieces to form a design. Cook in boiling salted water until they float on top. Place gnocchi on a dish lined with paper towel to dry them. Toss the gnocchi in melted light butter and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese. The gnocchi can be served as-is or tossed in pasta sauce before topping with the cheese.

3) Vegetables and fruits

  • Leftover veggies on a vegetable tray can be re-purposed and transformed into new delicious sides as well. Carrot sticks can be chopped and used in soups or sliced into thin strips to add to salads. Fresh zucchini sticks, bell pepper strips, and green beans can be cut up and sautéed with onion, garlic, herbs, and chicken or turkey strips seasoned with salt and pepper for a quick stir fry.
  • Cut up fruit (such as apples and pears) can be made into a compote and used to top Greek yogurt along with chopped nuts. Sliced oranges can be used to infuse water for a citrusy twist. Berries can be made into a healthy berry crisp by mixing the berries with a little protein oatmeal from a packet and brown sugar substitute, then placing the berries in a lightly buttered baking dish. Mix the rest of the protein oatmeal packet with fat-free milk and erythritol brown sugar substitute, forming a thick batter. Add in chopped nuts. Pour the oatmeal mixture on top of the berries. Bake ink a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until top is a crisp golden brown, berries have released their juice and have become bubbly and thickened. Serve warm with sugar-free non-dairy whipped topping.

When faced with leftovers, use some creative ways to turn them into fresh, bariatric-friendly, and delicious dishes to enjoy. Freeze leftovers in small single-serve containers for future use, but do label and date them before putting away in your freezer. Leftovers can stay in the freezer up to 3-6 months. Avoid thawing and re-freezing food.

If you want to keep leftovers in your fridge, transfer them in single-serve containers, label and date the containers, and keep them in the fridge only for 2-3 days. Throw away uneaten leftovers past the three-day point. Now you can enjoy more out of your leftovers with these ideas for a “leftover makeover”!

BariMelts provides general recommendations, not to be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor.

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