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Cook Once, Eat Twice: How to Create Healthy, Balanced Meals with Turkey Leftovers

By Shannon Crocker MSc RD, Vibrant Nutrition Communications


Does the thought of cooking a healthy, balanced meal on weeknights give you a wee bit of stress sometimes?

You’re not alone!

One of the biggest challenges people tell me they face in preparing healthy meals is lack of time.

To help you with that, I’m sharing a time-saving tip that helps me manage mealtime mayhem. Hopefully you’ll find it helps you too! And that is: planning to repurpose leftovers.

This “cook once, eat twice” plan is a game changer when it comes to weekday meal prep.

If you’re not familiar with the term, basically it means that you cook one meal and then repurpose the leftovers for another meal. If you’re not a leftover lover, no worries, you don’t eat the same meal twice!

Here’s three benefits that will get you excited to cook once, eat twice with leftover turkey:

  1. You can create nutritious meals and snacks.

Turkey is a nutrient-rich protein that you can use as the star ingredient to create a healthy, balanced meal. It’s lean, packed with protein and every bite gives you nutrients you need for good health (like vitamin B12 for a healthy brain!).

  • Versatility Bonus: There are so many different cuts of turkey available. Ask your butcher or grocery store for the cut you’d like. Leftovers are ideal for salads, sandwiches, soups, pizzas, power bowls…you name it!


  1. You’ll save time and reduce kitchen stress.

Having leftover turkey in the fridge means you can easily have supper on the table in under 30 minutes. Check out this video for this Quick and Easy Turkey Pantry Salad – I’m pretty sure I could make this one in 15 minutes! Challenge accepted!

  • Healthy Meal Bonus: the Quick and Easy Turkey Pantry Salad pairs turkey with white beans, chickpeas and veggies. Beyond yumminess, the zinc and iron in the turkey helps you to absorb those same two minerals found in the plants on your plate.


  1. You can save money.

Wasted food is wasted money. When you have a plan for leftovers, it helps ensure that you actually use them. Plus, with leftover turkey and other wholesome ingredients, you can make a healthy meal quickly so you can skip expensive take out or ready-to-go supermarket suppers.

  • Whole Turkey Bonus: Roast a whole turkey for dinner on Sunday and depending on the size of your family, you’ll have enough leftovers to create a few meals for the week!



How to Cook Once, Eat Twice with Turkey

So how does it work?

Let’s take a look at an example of how using the cook once, eat twice method with leftover turkey can help you to create two simple healthy, balanced meals (that also save you time and money).

Let’s start with sandwiches. They’re one of the simplest suppers!

When you have leftover turkey, sandwiches are the obvious choice. In this example, we’ll actually start with the sandwiches and then repurpose the turkey from there.

Day 1: Vietnamese Turkey Sandwiches

Marinade and cook double the turkey called for in the recipe.

  • Time Saver Tip: You can marinade the turkey the night before for best flavor, plus it saves time when you’re making your sandwiches.

Buy a big bag (or two smaller bags) of the packaged broccoli slaw called for in the sandwich recipe; make a simple salad with the slaw, slivered apples, red pepper, red onion, cilantro, lime juice and mayonnaise. Enjoy it alongside the sandwich on your plate.

Day 2: Turkey and Veggie Power Bowl

Use the extra cooked Vietnamese marinated turkey to make a power bowl salad.

Slice the turkey, put it in individual bowls and then fill the bowl with veggies like snow peas, shredded purple cabbage, carrots, cucumber and green onions. Add in rice noodles (they cook so quickly!) or brown rice (make extra for another meal!). Top with a store bought peanut sauce for a delicious, nutritious meal-in-a-bowl.

This plan would work with any turkey sandwich recipe. Here are three more to try:

Grilled Scallopini Sandwich with Pickled Vegetables

Moroccan Spice Rubbed Turkey Sandwiches

Blackened Turkey Scallopini Sandwiches

Next time you’re cooking with turkey, plan for extra and repurpose it to create another healthy, balanced meal.

Bon Appetit!