Let’s be honest, our big holiday dinners aren’t a one-time event – we end up with refrigerators full of leftovers for days. While it’s great to enjoy that food a little longer, sometimes we wish we hadn’t saved so much. For most of us, if it’s there, then we are going to eat it whether we really want to or not. So what should to do with those holiday leftovers?

What it really comes down to is balance.

Set Deadlines

Like I said, if it’s in your house, you’re probably going to eat it. And you absolutely SHOULD eat those delicious holiday foods. But it’s all about the balance. Gravy and pie 3-4 days in a row is getting to be a bit much and will be displacing healthier foods from your daily diet.

I recommend setting a deadline of 2 days. After those 2 days are up, sort through what you have and part ways with the foods you don’t want to overindulge in – like gravy, candied yams, green bean casserole, pies, white bread rolls, cranberry sauce, etc. Keep the good things – the veggies, the turkey, whole grains, you get it.

Moderation and Mindfulness

Just because you have the foods from the big holiday meal, doesn’t mean you have to replicate that big holiday meal every time you have some leftovers. Before you toss those unhealthy options out, you should absolutely enjoy some – but do so with moderation and mindfulness. What does that mean?

Start with smaller portions. Using a smaller plate is helpful for this. I also recommend dishing out your small portion and then putting everything back in the fridge even before you warm up what’s on your plate – this will help curb that temptation to pile more on your plate or go back for seconds.

Finally, eat that delicious, indulgent food slowly, chew it completely, really enjoy it. Eating slowly and mindfully allows you to get more enjoyment out of your food and you will feel more satisfied by it. Don’t forget that digestion begins in your mouth with the process of chewing and salivation and your stomach doesn’t register the food you put in it right away – eating slowly will help you absorb more nutrients from your food and help prevent overeating.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

If you have some less perishable holiday leftovers – maybe some candy that never got opened or alcohol that wasn’t drunk – and you want to use them at your next get together, remember the old refrain “out of sight, out of mind.”

It seems simple and almost silly, but it’s been proven that if you aren’t able to see those temptation foods, you will forget about them and they won’t tempt you. With this in mind, put those treats in the back of the cupboard with lots of healthful foods in front of them, or put them on a bottom shelf with healthful foods at eye level. You could also put them in an opaque container so you can’t see them. It’s been shown that having healthful foods fully visible and unhealthful foods not visible or out of reach prevents people from opting for the unhealthy foods and getting off track.

Now, what if throwing out food makes you uncomfortable? I get it. I also hate throwing away food and we all have heard that food waste is a big problem. In that case, what I have to say is this: if that food isn’t providing you with vital nutrients, nourishing you, and doing good things for your body and mind, then there isn’t much value in keeping it around. It has served its purpose and is no longer doing that. Thinking of it this way can make it feel less “icky” to toss it.

Following these three pieces of advice will help you enjoy the holiday fun without getting completely off track. Wishing you good health this holiday season!

One thought on “How to Handle the Holiday Leftovers

  1. I was also raised with the “finish your plate, people are starving” idea. I was living at a yoga center where our daily meals were buffet (dangerous!) when a friend said, “forcing yourself to finish that isn’t going to help a single soul in the world.” I was kind of flabbergasted because she was so obviously correct, but it was an assumption I had never paused to think about. When I let myself throw out food I wasn’t hungry for I eventually stopped loading on more food in the first place! Still struggle but it’s good to remember that deep-seated idea is probably still in there.

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