Warm Up with Winter Squash

Nutritionist Tips: Warm Up with Winter Squash

Winter squash is a powerhouse vegetable—high in nutrients, low in calories, inexpensive, easy to cook, a great shelf life and is highly satisfying. Basically, if winter squash were a football player, it would be the MVP of the veggie patch.

Squash is a good source of fiber, potassium, Vitamins A, B, and C, and other antioxidants. And, despite its rather high carb content, it has a low glycemic load, which means it helps stabilize your body’s blood sugar level.

Common varieties include acorn squash, butternut squash, sugar pumpkin, delicata squash, and spaghetti squash. You get the most out of this vegetable by cooking the insides and roasting the seeds which make a healthy snack option.

Preparing Winter Squash:

  • Roasted: cut peeled squash into 1-inch cubes, toss with a little oil and seasoning/spices, spread out onto a baking sheet, roast at 400 degrees until tender (stir cubes every 15 minutes)
  • Baked in oven: see recipe below for description of technique
  • Diced and added to soups, stews or casseroles
  • Steamed: cut peeled squash into bite-size cubes, cook in steamer for 15 minutes

Mashed: Prepare it the same way you would a potato: boil it without the skin until tender. You can mash cooked squash for a colorful alternative to mashed potatoes.

Herbs and spices that pair well with winter squash include sage, rosemary, garlic, ginger, curry, chili powder, cayenne, cumin, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Be playful, experiment with these.

Not sure how to make it into a meal? Try this simple spaghetti squash recipe to add a taste of the Mediterranean to your next sit-down meal.

Mediterranean-style Spaghetti Squash

  • 1 spaghetti squash (about 3 lbs)
  • Extra virgin olive oil (4-5 Tbsp total)
  • Garlic (5 cloves chopped)
  • ½ large red onion, diced
  • 1 or 2 red bell peppers, sliced
  • 1 or 2 zucchini, sliced
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh basil or Italian parsley, chopped

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the squash lengthwise and remove the seeds. Place the squash halves cut-side down in a roasting pan. Add 1 inch of water to the pan. Cover pan tightly with foil. Bake at 375 degrees until very tender (about 1 hour).

About 10 minutes before it’s done and the squash is still baking, heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add the red onion and bell pepper and sauté for a few minutes. Next, add the garlic and zucchini to the pan and sauté for a few more minutes until the vegetables are just tender.

When the spaghetti squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh into a large bowl, using a fork to separate it into strands. Season with salt and pepper and stir in 3 tablespoons of olive oil.

Empty the sautéed vegetables and fresh herbs into the bowl with the spaghetti squash and mix together. Serve with parmesan cheese grated over the top and garnished with fresh herbs.

 


Author: Lisa Henderson, MS, RDN
Health Coach

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