Healthy meal prep and cooking up delicious fall meals always makes for a gourd time. 😉 That’s why I love adding winter squash to my fall recipe roundup, including pumpkin!
And moms, I’m here to tell you… Cute little pumpkins aren’t just for PSLs and decorating. They also have a zillion health benefits, and they’re super tasty when prepared and added to your favorite meals. Not sure where to start? Top off your own PSL and keep reading!
Outfit & Kitchen Details:
What is a Winter Squash?
Unlike summer squash (zucchini, for example), winter squash is picked in the fall. So why isn’t it called fall squash? Great question! It keeps so well that when picked at the right time, it’s a great way to enjoy fresh produce during the winter. Many of these winter squashes you can buy at a farmer’s market and farm stand and store them in a cool dry place with a humidity of about 50%, so places like a basement will work great! Here are some examples of winter squash, many of which you’re probably already eating:
- Spaghetti Squash
Health Benefits of Squash
Eating squash is a great way to add some extra health benefits into your life including more vitamins and nutrients. Winter squash is jam-packed with high levels of alpha and beta carotene (both of which are precursors of Vitamin A and prevent several types of cancers), vitamin C, fiber, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, and winter squash can also help regulate our blood sugar levels.
Food as medicine, right?! Think about how important it is to put good things into your body!
Knowing and understanding what all of that means makes this veggie an even more important option to add to your weekly meal prep to help improve your health. When our body starts to consume beta carotene, it automatically converts it to vitamin A, which plays a huge role in boosting our immune system along with vitamin C. Squash is also full of vitamin B6, which helps our body absorb vitamin B12 and also aides in converting the food we eat into energy sources. Whew! Bet you didn’t know you’d get a full on nutrition + physiology lesson today, did you?!
Vegetables as Carbs
So what about when you’re tracking your macros and paying attention to your daily carb intake? Carb cycling or not, it’s definitely important when working on a body transformation goal to be aware of how much of each macronutrient you’re consuming, right? And here I am telling you to pile your plates high with squash!
I’m sure you’re probably wondering if add those carbs from vegables will that hurt your transformation goals?
Ok, but you’re probably scratching your head asking, “WHY!?” Well, there are two main categories of carbs: Simple and Complex
- Simple carbs are made up of the not-so-great-for-you stuff. Things like highly processed sugar, cakes, cookies, some breads, etc. Fruits are also a simple carb because of the type of sugar they contain, but because they also contain so many vitamins, nutrients, and fiber that they’re a far healthier choice. When you eat simple sugars, your blood sugar levels will naturally spike and stimulate your body to release insulin. This results in craving MORE simple sugars, which we all know about and have probably been on that vicious cycle before!
- Complex Carbs are your healthier options like legumes, root vegetables, and whole grain breads, cereals, and pastas. Complex carbs are usually higher in fiber, which slows down digestion and the release of sugar. Opposite of simple sugars which cause that fast spike in blood sugar levels, complex carbs keep your blood sugar levels steady and help keep you feeling energized longer.
Complex, healthy carbs are typically high in fiber, which slows food digestion and the release of sugars. This keeps your blood sugar and energy levels steady (and longer lasting) so your calorie-burning furnace stays hot and burns more calories! And that is awesome!
Because vegetables are so packed with fiber, your body will spend far more time and energy digesting them than it ever will storing them as fat, making veggies a great option to eat every day and even with every meal.
How to Cook With Winter Squash? Top Recipes
When it comes to winter squash, the sky is the limit. For anything that asks for canned pumpkin, nine times out of ten you can substitute a roasted pumpkin. Plus, you’ll leave all that extra junk in the can behind. Delicatas have a great sweet and savory flavor. They are thin-skinned, so when you roast them, you can even eat the skin. I love them as boats (Think any way you would stuff a zucchini and do it with a delicata. I love this recipe). If you want to add them as a side, you can also just roast them this way. Spaghetti squash is a major player when it comes to winter squash, just roast it up (Here’s an easy peasy way to do it) and use it in any dish you would use pasta. Move over zoodles, we’re got a new favorite in the house.
Last, but not least, depending on the recipe, you can substitute acorn and butternut for anything where you’d use pumpkin. Not to mention, I heard you can also make a mean butternut squash cornbread. Yum!
Other Tips + Tricks
You can cut up butternut or acorn squash and add it to any sheet pan recipe! Need some inspiration? Check out this post. Another tip? As I mentioned earlier, instead of buying pumpkin puree at the store, I like to do is roast a pumpkin instead of buying canned pumpkin. It’s so easy to do during meal prep! All you have to do is half the pumpkin, scoop out the seeds, pierce the flesh a couple of times with a fork, put it flesh side down on a baking pan, and bake it for 50 minutes at 350. Bam. You’re done! Extra bonus: you can also buy some winter squashes pre-cut in the produce aisle.
Oh my gourd, that was a mouthful, but jam-packed with great tips, tricks, and deliciousness. Now I’m hungry! What’s your favorite recipe using squash? I’d love to give it a try!