What to do with leftovers?

Leftovers can be a great way to build a healthy meal fast!

Leftover food from last night’s dinner, especially if it’s one of your favorites, can bring the joy back around into your next breakfast, lunch, or dinner!   So how do you build a healthy meal fast with leftovers? First, examine what the leftover food is contributing as far as the macronutrients (for example, protein, carbohydrates and fat) and the micronutrients (such as calcium and phytonutrients from plant-based foods) and dietary fiber from fruits, vegetables and whole grains. A meal should have a protein, carbohydrates from whole grains or starchy vegetables, and fiber and phytonutrients (plant-based nutrients) from vegetables and/or fruit. Fast and healthy is the name of the game these days, so let’s get started!

We’ll use the example of leftover pizza. Pizza consists of the basic pizza crust or a version of it. Some like whole grain pizza crust, some like thin crust or the thick crust. This part of the pizza will contribute the carbohydrate portion of the meal and depending upon the contents of the crust, may supply dietary fiber or a more carbohydrates (for example in the thick crust vs thin crust) or whole grain carbohydrates (more filling due to the dietary fiber content). The cheese topping adds protein, fat and calcium to your meal and the tomato sauce is packed with a phytonutrient called lycopene. Lycopenes are great for your eyes and for prostate health in men. Now that we have examined which nutrients are present in our piece of leftover pizza, we can build a healthy meal around it!

On the go in the morning? Grab a slice of pizza and a cup of berries or a piece of fruit as you go out the door. Better yet, if your pizza was a vegetable pizza, you’ll have more phytonutrients high in antioxidants to enhance the healthiness of your meal along with a gram or two of dietary fiber to help fill you. Pizza topped with meat will add up to one ounce of protein to your meal, along with the cheese providing 1 to 2 ounces of protein for a total of 2-3 ounces of protein at breakfast which is a great way to wake up your brain and start your body’s engine for the day.

Need a quick lunch? Pack your piece of pizza along with a salad with a variety of vegetables added to it; or cut up a couple of cups of raw vegetables with hummus dip; or order a salad at work to have with your pizza. Bring a piece of fruit to snack on in the afternoon, when you start to feel hungry about 3 hours after lunch.

Don’t feel like cooking dinner? Steam up a couple of cups of your favorite vegetable or vegetable medley or heat up your favorite homemade or canned vegetable soup to have along with your piece of pizza. For added protein, you can add chicken, beef, shrimp or tofu to your soup or side of vegetables.

See it’s that simple! Building a meal with leftovers can be healthy, quick, easy and enjoyable all at the same time.