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Your Post-Thanksgiving Survival Guide

Ah, the joys of Thanksgiving. It’s 12 minutes of frenzied eating after a week of preparation, done with family and friends, followed by a no-shame afternoon nap, followed by leftovers. There’s no gifting pressure and no costumes to plan. Is it any wonder nearly 25 percent of Americans say Thanksgiving is their favorite holiday? The (possible) downside? Calories and leftover-turkey burnout.

Gobbling even a relatively moderate plate of Thanksgiving classics, plus a slice or two of pie, can add up to a remarkable 2000+ calories, more than the daily recommended allowance for all but the most active women and most men.

However, it's important to maintain some perspective. Thanksgiving is one day out of the year, so depriving yourself of holiday favorites seems just plain mean. Instead, enjoy what you will for the day, but perhaps prioritize your caloric intake based on what really matters to you. Not a sweets person? Don’t eat pie, and save those calories for more stuffing.

After the feast, deploy your second strategy: move it! Go for a stroll, swim some laps, take a yoga class or pump some iron. We’ve mapped out some calorie counts and calorie burns to help. Information is power, people, so use it!

Calorie counts for some of our faves

  • Turkey breast, 6 oz. – 195
  • Roll with butter – 210
  • Sweet potato casserole, ½ cup – 200
  • Stuffing, ½ cup – 180
  • Mashed potatoes, ½ cup – 120
  • Green bean casserole, ½ cup – 70
  • Gravy, ¼ cup – 45
  • Cranberry sauce, ¼ cup – 37 
  • Eggnog, ½ cup – 190
  • Apple pie – 1 slice – 450
  • Pumpkin pie – 316

Ideas for burning off extra calories, (after your nap of course)

  • Take a 35-minute walk – 150 calories
  • Ice skate for an hour – 200 calories
  • Swim 15 laps – 195 calories
  • Take an hour-long Vinyasa (vigorous) yoga class – 300 calories
  • Run a 5K – 350 calories
  • Lift weights for 35 minutes – 150 calories
  • Do 50 Burpees – 50 calories
  • Do 3 sets of 20 push-ups – 40 calories

How long are these leftovers safe, anyway?

When it comes to Thanksgiving leftovers, you’ve got three choices: eat them, make something else out of them or stash them for later. Turns out that green bean casserole will safely freeze until next Thanksgiving or longer, but your stuffing needs to be eaten within a month, even if you freeze it.

For more safety tips, check out this video starring Martha Stewart in a recent appearance on The TODAY Show.

Here are some guidelines to keep you noshing safely now and later. 

  • A whole cooked turkey: 3-4 days in the refrigerator or 2-3 months frozen.
  • Sliced turkey: Discard if it has been out at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Otherwise, 3-4 days in the refrigerator or 2-3 months frozen.
  • Gravy: Only a day or two in the refrigerator, but up to 3 months in the freezer.
  • Cranberry sauce: 10-14 days in the refrigerator or 1-2 months in the freezer.
  • Dressing or stuffing: 3-4 days refrigerated or one month in the freezer.
  • Pumpkin pie: 3-4 days in the refrigerator or 1-2 months in the freezer.
  • Green bean casserole, yams or mashed Potatoes: 3-5 days in the refrigerator or up to one year in the freezer

Other tips:

  • Refrigerate any leftovers within two hours, to prevent bacterial growth.
  • When you store leftovers in the refrigerator or freezer, put them in a shallow container, so they’ll cool faster. 
  • Don’t store the stuffing IN the bird. Take it out, put it in a shallow container, and refrigerate or freeze it.
  • As a general rule, don’t eat leftovers that have been in the fridge for more than a few days. If you need to store them longer, freeze them.
  • Remember, if anything smells strange, don't taste it. Just throw it away.

Recipe idea for leftovers

Turkey Tetrazzini

Ree Drummond Turkey Tetrazzini

Turkey sandwiches are delicious, but after one or two, it’s nice to mix it up a bit. Here is an excellent idea for leftovers. For even more post-Thanksgiving ideas, visit the website of Ree Drummond, AKA The Pioneer Woman, who is Oklahoma’s very own Food Network star!


  • 1-1/2 pound thin spaghetti, broken in half
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 pound quartered white mushrooms
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 4 cups turkey or chicken broth
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 3 cups cooked (leftover) turkey, shredded or diced
  • 1 cup finely chopped black olives
  • 1-1/2 cup frozen green peas
  • 4 slices bacon, fried and diced
  • 1 cup grated Monterey jack cheese
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Extra broth for thinning
  • 1 cup Panko bread crumbs


  1. Cook pasta until not quite done (al dente) according to package instructions (it will finish cooking in the oven.) Drain, rinse, and set aside.
  2. In a large pot, heat butter over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté for a couple of minutes. Add mushrooms and salt, then sauté for a couple more minutes. Pour in the wine and allow it to cook with the mushrooms for several minutes, or until the liquid reduces by half.
  3. Sprinkle in flour, then stir the mushrooms around for another minute. Pour in the broth and stir, cooking for another few minutes until the roux thickens.
  4. Reduce heat to medium low. Cut cream cheese into pieces and add it to the pot. Stir it to melt (don't be concerned if the cream cheese remains in little bits for a while; it'll melt eventually!) Add the leftover turkey, the olives, the peas, the bacon, and the cheeses. Stir to combine, adding salt and pepper as needed.
  5. Add the cooked spaghetti and stir it to combine. Splash in more broth as needed; you want the mixture to have a little extra moisture since it will cook off in the oven. If it's a little soupy, that's fine! Add up to 2 more cups of liquid if you think it needs it.
  6. Pour the mixture into a large baking dish and sprinkle the top with Panko crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes, or until the casserole is bubbly and the crumbs are golden brown.

Turn your holiday leftovers into soups or stock

soup from Thanksgiving leftovers

Right now, as you are in the hustle and bustle of the holidays, having a plan to make a stock with Thanksgiving leftovers and bones may be the last thing you want to think about. But the value of creating your own stock for soups to keep you fed through an Oklahoma winter is worth the small amount of time it takes to make. Homemade stocks are filled with flavor and rich in nutrients. To learn the recipe, check out our On Your Health blog post How to Make Soups and Stocks with Your Holiday Leftovers.

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