The Benefits of Winter Squash

11/19/2021 | Lauren Baker, RDN, LD

Eating seasonally is a great way to vary your fruits and vegetables, save money, and get the biggest nutritional “bang for your buck” out of produce. If you look outside however, you know there’s not much of anything growing this time of year. That’s where winter squash comes to the rescue.

Did you Know?

Although harvested in the fall, winter squash gets its name from its shelf life-- most winter squash can stay fresh for 2-3 months when stored in a cool, dry place! The orange and yellow flesh of winter squash is full of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. Most winter squash are considered starchy vegetables.

How do I get past the tough skin?

The tough skin can be an intimidating culinary feat but poking a few holes in your squash and zapping it in the microwave for 3-5 minutes softens the skin for an easier cut.

What do I look for at the store?

Choose a squash that is heavy for size without bruises or cracks. Squash with firm and matte skin are ripe and ready, but those with shiny or soft skins may be unripe or past their prime.

Check out our five favorite types of Winter Squash and recipes for each!

Butternut Squash

Loaded with vitamin A and fiber, butternut squash is a seasonal favorite. Not only is this squash great roasted, but now it can be found at your local grocery store in noodle form, frozen, pureed, and/or pre-skinned. Don’t be fooled by the bland tan outer skin because inside you’ll find beautiful orange inner flesh. Check out a butternut French fry swap from Super Healthy Kids here!

Spaghetti Squash

Found in the store as symmetrical, sunny-yellow, rounded vegetables, the spaghetti squash is named for its stringy, spaghetti-like flesh. Unlike most winter squash, spaghetti squash is a non-starchy vegetable meaning it is much lower in carbohydrate content. Once cooked, the flesh of spaghetti squash can be forked into “noodles” and used as a substitute in traditional noodle recipes. Gina Homolka offers a twist on traditional spaghetti with spaghetti squash boats here.

Acorn Squash

Appropriately named, the acorn squash is shaped as such and features green, orange, and yellow rinds with vibrant yellow flesh. Acorn squash typically weigh between 1-3 lbs. After slicing and scooping out the seeds, the nutty flavored flesh can be roasted in slices, chunks, or even used as a squash bowl. Check out this recipe from Super Healthy Kids for dazzling Acorn Squash Flowers.

Delicata Squash

Delicata squash may not be as high in vitamin A, but the skin is soft and perfectly edible which saves time in cooking prep. Delicata squash is oblong and yellow with green ridges and yellow-orange flesh. This squash makes a delicious addition to any dinner simply roasted with your favorite seasonings. Check out this basic Delicata roast recipe from Rachel Cooks.

Hubbard Squash

Hubbard squash flaunts a shell that can be dark green or blue-gray with sweet and mealy orange flesh. This winter squash is one of the largest in the pack, clocking in between 5 and 15lbs. Hubbard squash are best roasted and mashed. If too big to slice, take out some aggression on this seasonal veg by dropping it on the concrete outside, leaving you with more manageable pieces. Check out what All Recipes has to say about working with Hubbard squash clicking here.

Don’t forget the nutritional powerhouse that is the seeds! Toasted squash seeds are a great crunchy snack filled with protein and healthy fats! Rinse and dry your squash seeds, toss in 1-2 Tsp oil per cup of seeds, and roast in the oven at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Sprinkle on your favorite toppings and get crunchin’!

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