Not only are winter squash aesthetically appealing with their bright orange and yellow hues, but they are also nutritional powerhouses. The winter squash family, which includes varieties like acorn, butternut, delicata and spaghetti squash are rich in beta carotene, a precursor to vitamins A and C, two key nutrients that support immunity, eye and skin health. Winter squash is also a great source of vitamin E, B vitamins, magnesium, potassium and several antioxidants that fight inflammation.
In addition to being low in calories, carbs and fat, squash is low in sugar, especially compared to sweet potatoes. One cup (200g) of butternut squash contains 82 calories and 3 grams of sugar compared to 1 cup (200g) of sweet potatoes, which has 114 calories and 6 grams of sugar. Since squash is high in fiber and low on the glycemic index, it’s great for stabilizing blood sugar as part of a balanced meal.
Squash also has a long shelf life (which is ideal for these quarantine times) and is versatile and easy to prepare. If you need some inspiration for winter squash recipes, try these cooking tips:
Sauteed squash can be a great breakfast side, or it can be added to morning staples like pancakes, quiche, egg cups, oatmeal, or even used as a toast topping. Many Americans fall short of consuming the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables and reaching daily fiber recommendations — and adding squash to breakfast helps with both of these.
Layer your favorite squash with lasagna noodles to enjoy an extra serving or two of veggies while creating a sweet and savory flavor. Spaghetti squash lasagna is a great gluten-free, low-carbohydrate option, too.
3. PASTA (AND SAUCE)
Combine regular pasta with spaghetti squash to reduce the overall carbohydrate content. You can also add more vitamins and minerals to a bowl of pasta by pureeing squash into a sauce. Or try baking your favorite winter squash into a casserole for a cozy, healthy, comfort-food dish.
Whether you choose to roast your favorite variety of squash or roast the seeds themselves, squash roasted in the oven provides a caramelized, crispy exterior and soft interior. A simple combination of olive oil, salt and pepper does the trick and works for all squash. Roasted seeds are a great salad topper or a healthy, protein-packed snack option.
If you’re getting tired of your usual salad toppings, cubed butternut squash, roasted acorn and delicata squash are all delicious additions to increase the nutrient content and add a sweet flavor. Try this recipe, which pairs butternut squash with other seasonal ingredients like beets and pears with a maple-orange dressing.
6. SHEET PAN MEALS
One-pan meals are a hit for their ease of preparation and minimal cleanup time. Just combine your favorite protein, veggies and squash and bake everything together. We love this sheet pan roasted pork, butternut squash and kale recipe or try this sheet pan dish with chicken, butternut squash and Brussels sprouts.
7. SOUPS AND CHILIS
Butternut squash soup is a common favorite thanks to its rich, creamy texture, and all you need to do is puree butternut squash, and combine it with some spices and low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock. Or, you can add cubed squash to your favorite chili recipe to make it even heartier.
Stuffed spaghetti squash is a cozy and filling meal and can incorporate your favorite ingredients, from cheese to veggies to grains or nuts and seeds. Both acorn and butternut squash are great options to use as a base. Try acorn squash filled with cranberry, quinoa and goat cheese or plant-based stuffed delicata squash.
Discover hundreds of healthy recipes — from high protein to low carb — via “Recipe Discovery” in the MyFitnessPal app.