Leftover Food Benefits

Leftover Food Benefits

Are you throwing away your leftovers? You could be missing out on a more balanced breakfast and other benefits. Senior citizens are certainly taking advantage of utilizing leftovers.

In fact, scores of seniors are embracing the novel effort at the nonprofit Osceola Council on Aging — one of only four agencies in the nation chosen to participate in the project, which is expected to save money and resources while protecting the environment.

Created by the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger, the “What a Waste” protocol is designed not only to cut down on the amount of food tossed out at the council’s five community meal sites but also to recycle the food that goes uneaten — turning it into compost for gardens and capturing the resulting methane gas for energy. (Source https://www.orlandosentinel.com/health/os-seniors-food-waste-20151201-story.html)

Let’s break down the benefits of leftovers below.

Benefits of Leftovers

  • ●        Leftovers are the best for breakfast.

Leftovers don’t often appear on American plates during breakfast. Instead, we grab a box of cereal, pancakes, waffles and other sugar-rich food. You could say we’ve been conditioned to eat breakfast this way.

But, there really is no reason you shouldn’t eat that spaghetti and meatballs from last night’s dinner. Or, make a sandwich from those leftover cold cuts. Eating savory dishes like these for breakfast actually helps you feel fuller longer, which means you’ll less likely grab a snack. Plus, they help balance your blood sugar and provide energy for you to start the day.

In short, leftovers for breakfast can be an easy and convenient way to eat a balanced diet and get more nutrients, such as protein, carbs and healthy fats, into our body. So, go ahead and enjoy them!

  • ●        Leftovers ward off late-morning food cravings.

You know those hunger pangs you feel late in the morning? Yeah, it’s because you ate a carbohydrate-rich breakfast. If you eat a lower-carb breakfast, the levels of leptin and ghrelin in your body are significantly lower, according to a study from the Harvard Medical School. (Ghrelin and leptin are hormones that fuel hunger and food intake.)

Sugar-rich foods not only make us gain weight and contribute to depression and anxiety, they can also trap us in an intense craving cycle. Food craving is our body’s way of telling us that it needs fuel, and the fuel it needs is a balanced intake of lean protein, healthy fats, and high-fiber carbs eaten throughout the day.

  • ●        Leftovers help you save on money and time.

Let’s face it! Who has time to prepare a home-cooked meal in the morning? It’s easier to grab a muffin on the way out.

But, when you have leftovers in the fridge, you can whip up a yummy and healthy breakfast in no time.

Or, just heat it up and eat it. That works too.

  • ●        Leftover meals help reduce food waste.

We throw away so much leftover food every day, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates about 42.8 million tons (or about 68 percent) of wasted food in 2018 ended up in combustion facilities or landfills.

If we can create a meal out of leftovers, we don’t have to buy more food. This, in turn, helps reduce the food waste that goes to landfills, and their methane emissions. If less food waste goes to landfills, the energy and resources involved in growing, manufacturing, transporting, storing and selling food will also be conserved, preventing unnecessary pollution. Overall, reusing leftovers lowers your carbon footprint.

Speaking of which…

Tips for Repurposing Leftovers

Let’s just say that using leftovers for a meal like breakfast takes some creativity. At the very least, it’s all about substitution.

For instance, instead of simply reheating leftover chicken from last night, why not use it to whip up a savory oatmeal bowl for breakfast? That is, instead of adding sugar or fruits, top your oatmeal with shredded chicken and some veggies—whatever you have on hand. Or, add leftover chicken, mushroom and cream sauce to pasta and viola, a quick and easy meal.

If you’re new to the leftover meal movement, here are some more tips to help you.

  • Shop in your fridge. Before heading out to the grocery store, check your refrigerator for any leftovers and old ingredients you can still use to cook your next meal. For instance, make croutons out of stale bread or turn vegetable scraps into stock. Other ways you can make use of leftovers include stir fries, casseroles, sauces and smoothies.
  • Eat leftovers within 3 to 4 days. Beyond this period, you’re at risk of food poisoning. Freeze leftovers immediately if you think you won’t be able to eat them within three to four days. Frozen leftovers can last a long time but lose their flavor and texture after three to four months. It’s recommended to store leftovers in airtight containers and write down the date. But, if in doubt, throw it out.
  • Avoid greasy, fried foods since they’re rich in calories.
  • A spicy breakfast is actually healthy for you. Spicy foods—if you can handle them—may curb cravings for salty food and lower blood pressure or hypertension.
  • Schedule a leftover meal each week. Plan to cook a meal using leftovers at least once every week. You could use leftovers from when you eat out at restaurants.
  • Training is key. The stomach is a versatile organ, and what we mean by that is that it can stretch to accommodate heavier portions in the morning. It will take some time to get used to this new breakfast though, so keep that in mind.
  • Reheat leftovers in a stove, conventional oven or microwave. Use a food thermometer to check if the internal temperature is 165 F (74 C). Especially check the internal temperature of the deepest or thickest part of the dish you’re cooking. 
  • Don’t use slow cookers. They don’t heat food quick enough, which means your leftovers stay in the “danger zone” (i.e., between 40 and 140 F (4 and 60 C)) for too long, giving bacteria a chance to multiply quickly.
  • It’s okay to freeze leftovers more than once. Sometimes you have so much leftover that you can’t finish all of it in just one meal. You could take a portion to cook for your meal and then refreeze the rest without reheating it. Remember to reheat thawed leftovers immediately.
  • Microwave leftovers safely. This means, cover leftovers with a lid or vented plastic wrap when microwaving. Then, stir and rotate the food halfway through cooking and let it stand for a few minutes. Make sure to check the internal temperature before serving.

Eat More Leftovers

So, the next time you’re thinking of putting leftover food in the bin, think again. You can get more out of your leftovers and reap the benefits.