Published on October 01, 2018

Wonderful Winter Squash!

By Teresa Farrell, Registered and Licensed Dietician at Essentia Health.

Teresa Farrell, RD, LD

With fall upon us, now is a great time to add sweet rich flavored winter squash to your meals and snacks. There are many different varieties of winter squash, some of the more common ones in our area include acorn, butternut and hubbard. Winter squash is different than summer squash as it is more mature, has a thick skin and is often orange in color, unlike zucchini and yellow summer squash. The orange color is an outward sign of its nutrient content. In fact, winter squash provides numerous health benefits that may help reduce the risk of heart and respiratory disease, cancer, diabetes and arthritis.

These nutritional components include:

  • high levels of beta-carotene, which converts to Vitamin A
  • good source of Vitamin C
  • good source of fiber
  • antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds
  • polysaccharides that help regulate blood sugar

Tips for choosing a good squash:

  • heavy for its size
  • thick, hard skin
  • no cracks or soft spots

Winter squash are easy to store and prepare. Storage tips:

  • uncut winter squash will generally keep for 3-6 months when stored in a cool, dry place
  • after winter squash is cut it will last about a week in the refrigerator

Microwaved, baked and roasted are some common preparation methods. Be sure to rinse the squash under running water before it is peeled or cut.

  • microwave: take half of a squash (skin may be left on), wrap it in plastic wrap and microwave for about 5 minutes or until tender. This will create steam so be very careful when removing the plastic wrap. The seeds and skin can easily be removed after it is cooked and cooled
  • bake: place squash halves or pieces on a baking sheet without peeling, place in a 400-degree oven for 40-50 minutes or until tender
  • roast: place halves or pieces on a baking sheet with the flesh side down or roast skinned chunks by themselves or with other vegetables by coating them with a little olive oil and some seasonings. Place in a 400-degree oven for 40-50 minutes or until tender

Other suggestions:

  • add grated, canned or leftover cooked squash to muffins and breads
  • puree winter squash as a base for a thick, hearty soup.
  • sprinkle a little brown sugar on your squash
  • use halved, cooked squash and stuff with other ingredients like rice, corn or beans
  • make fries out of butternut squash
  • drizzle olive oil and add a little pepper or other low sodium seasoning on cooked squash and eat as a side dish
  • Save the seeds that you scoop out of your squash! Seeds are a healthy and delicious snack and can be prepared the same way as pumpkin seeds. Squash seeds need to be separated from the pulp before baking. They should then be allowed to dry. Place them in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil and bake at 160-170 degrees for about 15-20 minutes or until tender. The seeds can be drizzled with olive oil and seasoned before baking.

Enjoy the seeds:

  • as a snack
  • added to a salad
  • added to trail mix

In addition to whole fresh squash, pre-cut squash (in the produce aisle) and frozen is available as well.

Winter Squash Soup

Servings: 4


2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 ½ pounds winter squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into chunks

1 tablespoon honey

5 cups low sodium chicken stock Salt and pepper to taste

Optional: fresh parsley, chopped for garnish


  1. Melt butter and oil in a large saucepan. Add onions and celery, gently cook until very soft-about 15 minutes
  2. Add the squash, cook, stirring for 5 minutes
  3. Add honey and chicken stock, bring to a simmer and cook until the squash is tender
  4. Remove from heat, using a blender or food processor pulse until smooth (adding more stock or water if soup is too thick)
  5. Season to taste with salt and pepper
  6. Reheat before serving
  7. Add parsley to garnish if desired

Nutrition Facts:

Calories: 270

Protein: 7

Carbohydrates: 40

Total fat: 10 grams

Saturated fat: 5 grams

Fiber: 7

Sodium 310 milligrams

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