Leftovers: When To Eat Them, When To Throw Them Out

Friday, December 15, 2006 - 9:16am

By Michele Silence, MA

Leftovers can save you money. Better yet, they are quick to prepare and require minimal effort. Unfortunately, they can ruin your diet, and they can be unhealthy. When should you skip leftovers? Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you indulge.

How old are the leftovers?

Many people don’t realize it but it only takes a few days for leftover food to go bad. Not so bad that you’ll get food poisoning, but bad enough to make you feel ill or give you stomach problems. Bacteria can grow in any food that needs refrigerating when left at room temperature for longer than two hours. So, if you need to heat something up or cool it off, you only have a two-hour window to get it hot or cold and then eat it. When bringing food home from eating out, keep it no longer than two days before throwing it out. Bacteria starts growing right away and the more growth, the easier it is to get sick.

Eating leftovers: are you hungry or just bored?

Leftovers often get eaten because they taste good and they’re convenient—not because of hunger. If you reach for some leftovers, be sure you know how many calories you’re putting in your body. If you aren’t sure play it safe. Never eat more than a few mouthfuls. Save the rest for another day or share them with someone else.

Can you control the temptation of eating those leftovers?

If you know you can’t resist cheesecake, don’t leave an entire cake in your refrigerator. If your weakness is lasagna, give the leftovers to your grandmother. Don’t keep food under your nose that tempts you. It will call your name until you eat it.

Are there healthier options than the leftovers in your fridge?

Regardless of what leftovers you have, if you don’t want to gain weight you should fill-up on fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables have the nutrients you need to stay healthy and fit over the holidays. And they have far fewer calories than meat and starches. If you have a whole plate of exquisite cuisine from an elegant dinner, search out the fruits and veggies and eat them first, then eat the entrée.

Leftovers can be high in calories and very tempting

Leftover cookies, pastries and elegant dinners can lead to the consumption of hundreds of extra calories. By eliminating this practice alone, you will gradually lose weight. A mere 250 calories a day saved from eating out can rid you of 2 pounds of fat each month. So, eat home more often, save money and lose weight.