Food: Gluttony without guilt at Thanksgiving?

The Mobile Chef touts moderation and offers up some leftover recipes

The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth By Jennie A. Brownscombe (1914)
Spiced green beans make a good and healthy Thanksgiving side dish. PHOTO BY TOM CASTRIGNO.

By Tom Castrigno

The table was beautifully set. It was so alluring that I lost all control. The sin of breaking one of my rules for healthy eating had been committed long ago. My intention to stop eating when I felt two thirds full was but a hazy memory.

Now, three plates into Thanksgiving dinner, I had achieved gluttony. I was prowling the buffet line for my next fix. Nobody wants to take the last bit of a dish and draw attention to their overeating. By its nature turkey day is all about abundance. The meal lends itself to excess; with two varieties of potatoes, rolls, and stuffing, a carbo overload is inevitable.

Let’s face it, the traditional Thanksgiving menu is not the healthiest meal of the year. Mashed potatoes are often made with lots of butter and cream. Yams lose their healthy reputation when cloaked in brown sugar and marshmallows. And stuffing with a base of white bread crumbs is dragged farther down the health scale when sausage is added. A ladle full of high-calorie gravy on top of it all can add insult to injury. There is debate whether the food coma that follows is from the tryptophan in the turkey or simply an overload of rich food.

So how do you indulge in the sensual pleasures of a great meal while maintaining your self-respect? Presuming it hasn’t been deep-fried, turkey is a great place to begin.

Cranberry relish is next on the list. Just make sure it was made from whole cranberries. The canned variety is often loaded with high fructose corn syrup.

Green beans are another good pick if prepared simply. Choose one type of potato and be sure to eat only a small amount. Choose either a roll or stuffing but not both. And finally at the dessert table, the equivalent of one slice of pie is plenty. If you feel compelled to try each of them, take smaller pieces. Make a decision before the meal about how much you will eat.

On the day after my transgression I vowed to make up for it. I decided a turkey curry would be just the thing. Indian cuisine with its variety of spices is renowned as healthful. Cooking the spices before adding them is a basic technique. Next, add the vegetables and cook them until they’re soft. Finally, add in the turkey. Serve over steamed rice with a sprinkle of fresh chopped cilantro on top.

Another way to enjoy leftover turkey is enchiladas. I prefer to make them casserole style. It’s easier to assemble, and uses fewer tortillas — which can be high in calories. My preference is for green enchilada sauce, but red works well too.

Dip the torillas in the sauce and lay them in a baking dish with chopped turkey on top. Repeat layers, adding in fresh chopped yellow onions and a small amount of shredded jack cheese to complete the casserole. Re-portioned into smaller containers, it freezes beautifully. Take one out a bedtime and thaw for an easy savory style breakfast the next morning.

Most years I am able to exercise discretion and be true to my vow to choose good eating habits as often as possible. When I realize I’ve fallen off the wagon, I just go with it. Resisting is futile and only leads to self judgment. Besides, I wouldn’t want to offend my host who poured their heart and soul into preparing a fantastic feast.

What are you favorite uses for turkey leftovers? I’d love to hear from you. Please use the comment box below to share your ideas.

Tom Castrigno lives in Frisco, CO where he is known as The Mobile Chef. Learn some of his secrets for healthy eating and find great recipes on his blog at



3 thoughts on “Food: Gluttony without guilt at Thanksgiving?

  1. Aside from the obligatory sandwich, I boil the carcass for a satisfying hearty soup that hits the spot on these cold days between now & Christmas. Thanks for the green beans/spices idea, I’ll use roasted red bell peppers & garlic. Happy Thanksgiving to you & yours Tom.

      1. Thanks Tom, again, The green beans were a hit, and now, you’ve shared another taste treat addition, re; the chopped kale & a few tortellini added to the Turkey soup. Yummy.

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