“Doc, I just don’t eat leftover foods” is a comment I sometimes get from patients during my weight management counseling.
I always encourage them to reconsider.
With grocery prices soaring and food waste being so common, we know that using leftover food is a good strategy that helps your pocketbook and the planet.
But you may not realize that it can also help you better manage weight and promote improved health.
One of the best strategies for eating more healthfully when dining out is not finishing the oversized portions you are served and taking food home instead.
Using leftovers when cooking at home can be a great time-saver for preparing healthy meals.
Here are some highlights of how to reimagine using leftover food as an important strategy for better health:
1-Use Leftovers to Help with Portion Control
Because restaurant portion sizes are sometimes fixed to be 2-8 times the federally-recommended serving sizes, we are all being overserved and usually end up overeating.
This is true no matter your age, gender, health profile or fitness level.
The next time you dine outside of your home, make a plan to split an entrée or take half home.
2-Use Leftovers as Salad Toppers
Instead of eating your leftover meal just as you had previously (you know it won’t taste as good!), I encourage you to recreate it.
In our home, we keep bags of dark greens such as arugula and spinach – and within minutes we have a healthy meal on the table using restaurant leftovers.
Whether it’s leftover chicken, fish, seafood, vegetable pasta, stir fry dishes, falafel or even thin pizza cut up in small bites like croutons, you can top a salad to create a tasty, healthful meal.
If you’re a meat lover but feel too stuffed when finishing oversized portions served at restaurants, take half home and use sliced meat as another salad topper.
Don’t forget to add some additional favorite salad toppings such as cut-up colorful fresh vegetables and fruits, avocado or nuts, while also topping with a flavored olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
3-Batch Cook to Save Time
When planning meals for the week, we make extras of certain foods that we know can be repurposed to create different meals.
For example, roasted vegetables can be a side dish to grilled salmon and later in the week be used in a tofu stir fry, a grain bowl or as a topping for a vegetable pizza.
We always make extra barbecued chicken which later in the week can be cut up into an entrée salad or used in a chickpea pasta dish.
If you’re grilling turkey or veggie burgers, make extra. We discovered that cut up burgers make great salad toppers.
Leftovers certainly help us eat healthier meals throughout the week.
I hope this strategy can help you also.
For more healthy meal planning ideas, check out my self-help book, Six Factors to Fit: Weight Loss that Works for You!
Robert Kushner, MD