Healthy Thanksgiving Makeover: Leftovers (+ Storage How-To)

Healthy Thanksgiving Makeover: Leftovers (+ Storage How-To)

It's easy to overstock your pantry and refrigerator this time of year. The last thing you want to happen when you’re preparing Thanksgiving dinner is to run out of an ingredient. Since stores are usually closed or have limited hours on this holiday, you really stock up when you make that big shopping trip! But don't worry about wasting food this season — or eating too much unhealthy junk. Here are some tasty, healthy ways to use all those fruits and veggies overloading your pantry and fridge. And if you do have any traditional Thanksgiving leftovers, check out our tips for safely storing and reheating those dishes.

Thanksgiving leftovers

Beet Spaghettini with Pistachio Thyme Pesto 

*Serves 2–4 people

The beet "pasta" is always a fun surprise. We love the way this looks. Beets are rich in the phytonutrient belatin, which supports detoxification and is rich in antioxidants. Although the nutritional benefit is slightly different for yellow beets, they would also be a lovely presentation. Pistachios are buttery and delicious but walnuts make a great substitution.

Beet Spaghettini


  • 2–3 medium beets, peeled and processed through thin a spiral slicer attachment on a mandolin (should yield 8 cups)
  • Juice of 1⁄2 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Pinch of sea salt

Directions: Toss beets with lemon juice, oil, and salt. Allow to marinate while making pesto.

Pistachio Thyme Pesto


  • 2 cups spinach
  • 4–5 tablespoons thyme
  • 1⁄4 cup olive oil
  • 1⁄2 cup pistachios
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon sea salt
  • Pepper, to taste

Directions: Pulse all ingredients in food processor and blend until well combined but still slightly chunky.

Assembly: Toss noodles with pesto. Garnish with chopped pistachios and a sprig of fresh thyme before serving.


Thanksgiving leftovers 3

Rainbow Chopped Salad

*Serves 4-6 people 

This recipe is by no means exact. This idea can be applied to almost any variety of fruits, vegetables, seaweed, herbs, nuts, and seeds, which makes it the perfect recipe for all of those leftover Thanksgiving tidbits. Think of it as the ultimate bowl of nutrient-dense goodness. Just toss with a simple vinaigrette and you have an amazing meal.


  • 1 large head romaine lettuce, cored and chopped
  • 1 head red cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 1 handful parsley, stemmed and finely chopped
  • 1⁄4 cup cilantro leaves, stemmed and finely chopped
  • 1 apple, cored and chopped in cubes
  • 1 Asian pear, cored and chopped in cubes
  • 1⁄4 cup wakame or hijiki soaked for 15 minutes, rinsed, and drained
  • 1 sheet nori, cut into thin strips
  • 2 tablespoons dulse flakes
  • 1⁄2 head cauliflower, chopped into small florets 1 cup hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds (optional)
  • 1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced into cubes 1⁄2 cup dried apricots, finely diced
  • 1⁄4 cup sunflower seeds (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or hazelnut oil
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon sea salt
  • Pepper, to taste

Directions: Toss all ingredients together. Allow to marinate for at least 15 minutes before serving.


Thanksgiving leftovers 2

Shaved Celery Root Linguini, Mushrooms, Truffle Pumpkin Seeds, and Sage

*Serves 2-4 people

This dish is elegant, complex, and delicious. Celery root makes a great substitution for al dente pasta without all the white flour. We recommend tossing the mushrooms in immediately before serving because they will stain the color of the noodles.

Celery Root


  • 1 large celery root, peeled and shaved with julienne attachment on mandolin
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Directions: Toss all ingredients until well combined. Allow to marinate for 10 minutes. Drain before tossing with remaining ingredients.



  • 3 cups cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons tamari or nama shoyu
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions: Toss together all ingredients and allow to marinate for a few minutes.

Truffle Pumpkin Seeds


  • 1 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon truffle oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Directions: Toss together all ingredients.


  • 1 tablespoon minced sage
  • 1 tablespoon minced parsley

Assembly: Toss celery root, mushrooms, and pumpkin seeds together. Allow to marinate for 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with extra pumpkin seeds and minced herbs. Drizzle with additional truffle oil before serving.

Storage Tips

Sometimes Thanksgiving turkey and sides are better the next day. You can save your leftovers in the fridge for a few days and no more than four months in the freezer. To ensure your leftovers are safe to eat and stored properly, follow these helpful tips:

  • Cut turkey off the bone before you refrigerate it.
  • Put all sides in different containers. These items might have different expiration dates.
  • Refrigerate cooked side dishes within two hours of serving to ensure they'll be safe to eat later.
  • If you have too many leftovers to eat within a few days, put some turkey and a little of each side in individual containers and stick them in the freezer for quick meals later.
  • Thaw leftovers in the refrigerator or microwave.
  • Cover leftovers when reheating them — this will help maintain moisture.

For information about how long each Thanksgiving side dish lasts, visit StillTasty's Thanksgiving page. 

How do you prepare Thanksgiving leftovers? Tell us in the comments.  

Recipes by Meredith Baird. Meredith is a certified raw food chef and instructor. She is also the creative director at the Matthew Kenney Academy where chefs and health foodies can learn the art of making raw food. 


We aim to provide you with the most honest and credible information possible. This article was reviewed for accuracy by The Honest Team and was written based on trusted sources that are linked at the bottom of the article.