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Beat the Post Holiday Dinner Daze with a Leftovers Salad

By Jessica Cording, MS, RD, CDN
November 09, 2016
HolidayThanksgivingMain DishesSalads

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I grew up celebrating holidays with my large extended family. Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorites. Since it comes at the start of the holiday season, festive fatigue has yet to set in, and it certainly helps that it’s always right before my birthday, which makes it possible to celebrate in person with my loved ones, something that seems to get harder to coordinate as the years go by. The food is also a high point. I am all about the fall flavors on the Thanksgiving dinner table. Turkey, root veggies, apple, pumpkin—yes, please!  

Each year, a different family takes turns hosting, and everybody contributes dishes to complete the meal. As the resident dietitian, I usually bring a big salad and a vegetable side or two to add some color and extra nutrients to the table. Having some lighter options to add to the plate also helps balance things out and reduces the likelihood of a post-meal food coma. Naturally we always make too much food, so everyone gets sent home with leftovers.

My personal Thanksgiving favorite? Definitely the turkey. I also love roasted Brussel sprouts and root vegetables like beets, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash. Kabocha is another gourd variety that’s a crowd-pleaser, even for people who don’t think they like squash.

I think I love Thanksgiving leftovers even more than Thanksgiving dinner. Though turkey soup is one of my ultimate cold weather comfort foods, my absolute favorite Black Friday lunch is a big salad with leftovers from the day before tossed in. Whether you’re trying to get back on track with healthy eating after overindulging or you’re fueling up to hit the stores, it’s the perfect mix of protein, vegetables, and complex carbs. Added bonus: the leafy greens provide digestion-regulating fiber and bloat-soothing potassium to help you start feeling more like yourself if you’re prone to day-after “why did I eat all the things” regret.

Though a little oil and vinegar will do just fine, this recipe is especially delicious with a creamy, sweet yogurt dressing that’s a great way to use up leftover cranberry sauce. Feel free to add extra cranberry sauce to this if you like.  If you’re eating with a crowd, reheat the meat and veggies and set up a little salad bar on a table or the kitchen counter so people can customize. For a meatless turkey alternative, try red lentils or chickpeas for some tasty plant-based protein.

Here’s my go-to Thanksgiving salad combination, but feel free to customize with whatever you have on hand. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

For the Dressing:

  • ¼ cup plain yogurt (I used the Stonyfield 100% Grassfed Whole Milk yogurt)
  • 2 tablespoons Cranberry sauce
  • Water as needed to thin it out

For the Salad:

  • 5 cups dark greens like baby kale or spinach
  • 6 ounces cooked turkey
  • 2 cups roasted brussels sprouts
  • 1 cup roasted butternut squash
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl or cup, whisk together yogurt and cranberry sauce, adding a teaspoon of water at a time until dressing is desired consistency.
  2. Place greens, turkey, brussels sprouts, butternut squash, and pumpkin seeds in a large bowl. Add dressing and toss well to coat.
  3. Divide dressed salad between 2 plates.
  4. If desired, garnish with more cranberry sauce on top.

(Serves 2)

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