Thanksgiving leftovers can be terrifying. Half of a turkey carcass sits in the refrigerator, bowls of roasted carrots or sweet potatoes and containers of corn and cranberry sauce hold the refrigerator shelves hostage. We all know the obligatory turkey sandwiches and casseroles will only be tolerated for so long and then the family will stage a rebellion. Why not start the leftover menu with something different?

Power bowls help control portions

Power bowls or Buddha bowls are a trendy way to use these leftovers and depending on how they are layered, they can be a healthy meal or just as calorie-laden as the original feast. For a healthy bowl, the first thing to consider is to actually use a bowl, not a plate. Dinner plates have been increasing in size since the 1960's and the instinctive thing people do is fill the plate completely. Portions are larger on larger plates and if you use a bowl, the portion is automatically smaller. Use a bowl that you'd use for morning cereal, not the bowl that the Thanksgiving mashed potatoes were served in!

Whole grains are the main ingredient in a healthy power bowl

The main ingredient in these bowls is some type of whole grain. Most people think that buying a loaf of whole grain bread is good enough, and many people don't even do that. A large percentage of children do not have a single serving of a whole grain in a week and the term “whole grain goodness” does not actually mean the product contains a serving of whole grain per portion. There are sneaky advertising and labeling tactics that cloud the actual ingredient list and unless you can actually see your whole grains in the bowl, don't count on the food actually being whole grain. Whole grains like quinoa, flax seed, barley, oats, buckwheat, brown rice and millet are so good for us. They give us a feeling of fullness, regulate they way our bodies process sugar, help prevent heart disease and promote a healthy colon. Processed grains do none of this, or help in a very limited way. We've processed ourselves right out of a healthy lifestyle. Commercial breakfast cereal has very little actual nutritive value unless it is injected back in after it is processed, as do most commercial breads. Take matters into your own hands this holiday season and create a new tradition.

Select a couple of whole grains at the supermarket. You'll find them where the dry beans and rice are offered. I'm using quinoa, barley and brown rice and most groceries will offer those along with a selection of other grains. There are a number of rice selections that will work as well. Plain old white rice is boring and there are more nutritious options. Cook according to package directions and store in the refrigerator. For an adult sized serving scoop the total of about a cup of the grains you've cooked and place in your bowl. The grains can be served warm or cold, depending on your preference, however, I'd suggest starting with the warm grains until your family gets used to the idea.

turkey and thanksgiving vegetabloes

Construct a power bowl

Our ancestors knew of the need for grain and depending on where they lived, the grain could be barley, oats, buckwheat, quinoa, rice, corn, kamut or any number of seed-based foods. They used these grains whole, so the entire seed was incorporated in their breads, stews or porridge. When you create your power bowls, remember that the grain is supposed to be the main ingredient. Add just a bit of your leftover turkey, a spoonful of corn or carrot, maybe a few leaves of spinach from the leftover salad or some fresh kale if you have it. Add a spoonful of gravy to flavor, or even a bit of cranberry sauce or a squeeze of lemon and a dash of olive oil. The key to a healthy power bowl is to let the grain shine and only use the other ingredients as flavor. Power bowls overfilled with too much meat or calorie-rich sides are the same as piling your plate full of the exact leftovers from the Thanksgiving meal. Remember that the leftovers have already been seasoned, so taste before you add salt or pepper. Moderation is best and if you have your grains cooked ahead of time, there's extra time to enjoy with your family. You can even add fresh fruits and vegetables to the bowls. I've added fresh Vidalia onion and pomegranate arils to my leftovers. If you choose to opt for a vegetarian meal, you can add a few kidney beans or black beans to give your bowls a complete panel of amino acids, although quinoa is a perfect protein by itself, many other grains need the legumes to be complete.

Be a creative cook

What you add is up to you and your family's tastes. Just remember that mac and cheese, scalloped potatoes and other calorie and fat heavy foods will undo the good you started with. Adding a soft-boiled egg is popular, just remember to cut back on the meat if you do this. I added half of a deviled egg half (or a quarter of an egg) to one of the bowls. The filling in the egg makes a tasty dressing in itself and just a little is needed to flavor the bowl. Avocado is also popular and the fats it contains are good fats, however, they are fats just the same, so spread the avocado out between several bowls. Omit the gravy and use a lighter dressing. People who do gluten-free, should check the grains they want to use. Not all of these ancient grains are gluten-free, however quinoa, brown rice, oats, buckwheat and amaranth are. Just do your homework if this type of diet is important to you. The idea is to repurpose the heavy holiday leftovers into something that fuels the body and is different from the usual fare we normally serve. Stir a little cranberry sauce into dijon mustard for a tasty topping or sandwich spread. Use lemon juice, flavored vinegars and pickled veggies or sauerkraut in your power bowls. Any of these ingredients are wonderful and healthy, just remember that the grains are the stars of the show and don't use anything that will overpower them