Eat Healthy: Add Butternut Squash to Your Diet

Published by FitWatch
With the summer months fading into the distance, it's time to change up our eating habits without adding on the pounds.

The drop in temperature means fall is a great time to focus on foods you can roast in the oven or turn into a hearty soup. What you'll find in my kitchen at this time of the year is different types of winter squash.

Did I really just say the "W" word? My apologies.

Head to your grocery store or favorite farmer's market and you'll find different varieties of winter squash, such as acorn squash, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, buttercup squash and sugar pumpkin. Winter squash will usually have a tougher outer skin and are more dense than summer squash. (Zucchini is an example of a summer squash.)

My favorite winter squash? Butternut squash! It has a very light, sweet yet nutty flavor and is jam-packed with nutrients. Let me tell you all about it...including my favorite butternut squash recipe created by Madonna's caterer. At only 40 calories per 1/2 cup serving, butternut squash is low in calories but high in nutrients like Vitamin A and Vitamin C. Don't let the tan skin fool you: the innards are a rich, vibrant orange-yellow. You can't help but think "fall colors" when you slice it open.

Check out the nutritional info: Nutritional Info for 1/2 cup of Butternut Squash

When buying a winter squash -- butternut or otherwise -- look for a thick rind that's hard all around, without any mold or squishiness to it. There should be a nice heft to it. Like I said, winter squash are pretty dense.

How to Cut a Butternut Squash
Now that you've bought a squash, what do you do with it? If you're not using it right away, store it -- uncut -- in the refrigerator or a cool room in a loosely-tied plastic bag. It can be stored for a couple of months.

You need to be very careful when cutting a butternut squash. That tough outer skin makes things a bit tricky when a recipe calls for a peeled squash.

Watch this video for tips on cutting a butternut squash.

I add in one extra step that the video doesn't show. I cut the "neck" of the squash off of the body to handle the pieces more easily.

In a nutshell:
  1. Carefully slice off the bottom of the squash.
  2. Cut the "neck" off the squash (in other words separate the skinny part from the more round bottom).
  3. Slice the neck in half, length-wise. It doesn't slice easily. You'll need to wedge the knife in there and carefully wiggle it down. Seriously, watch the video to see how it's done.
  4. Slice the round bottom in half, length-wise. Scoop out the seeds and any fibrous, stringy parts.

Quick & Easy Roasted Butternut Squash Recipe
Don't have time to peel and cut a butternut squash? Check the produce section of your grocery store for peeled, pre-cut squash.

- 2 cups pre-cut butternut squash
- 2 tsps olive oil
- 3/4 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1/8 tsp salt.

Don't have all those spices? A bit of salt and a pinch of cayenne will a pinch. I'll even sprinkle in a bit of cinnamon and cayenne together. But at the very least, coat the squash with a bit of oil and season to taste.

  • Preheat oven to 400F.
  • Place the pre-cut squash into a roasting pan with enough room for the squash. The squash shouldn't be crowded together.
  • Mix the olive oil and spices together, then pour over the squash. Mix well to coat the squash.
  • Roast until the squash is tender (about 25 minutes).

You can add in some slice onions or other veggies. Just don't crowd the roasting pan.

How to Cook Butternut Squash
There are a few ways to cook butternut squash -- but it'll depend on what your recipe calls for.

Roasting is easy. You can slice up your squash -- skin included, according to that video up above! -- or cut it into cubes for roasting.

Quick aside: I haven't tried eating butternut squash skin but I have eaten a roasted sugar pumpkin over at Hurley's Restaurant in Yountville, CA. It was part of their Sugar Pumpkin Risotto. It was a bit weird eating 'pumpkin skin' at first, but it was delicious.

The tricky part is peeling the skin for soup recipes. I'll use a vegetable peeler on raw squash, if I'm in the mood for it. You can microwave the squash to soften it up and then scoop the flesh out, away from the skin.

These are general cooking instructions for roasting, boiling and microwaving. Below that I'll include my favorite recipes.

Roasting Instructions
Poke holes into a a halved or quartered squash and place it onto a roasting pan, skin side up. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until tender when poked with a fork.

With cubed squash, lightly drizzle with olive oil and a few spices and roast for about 25 minutes at 400 degrees. (See recipe in sidebar.)

Boiling Instructions
Add peeled squash to boiling water and cook until tender.

It's kind of like boiling potatoes: the bigger the pieces, the longer it'll take to cook. A squash that's been quartered only can take up to 25 minutes to cook.

Microwave Instructions
To microwave squash, place the whole quarters or halves, cut side down, in a microwaveable dish. Pour in a 1/4 cup of water and cover tightly. Microwave on high for about 6 to 8 minutes, or until the flesh is tender.

My Favorite Butternut Squash Soup Recipe
My favorite butternut squash soup is simply called, Winter Vegetable Medley. This yummy soup comes from and was created by Madonna's caterer, Lulu Powers.

You'll find the recipe here: Winter Vegetable Medley

To cut back on calories, skip the bread, goat cheese and chive part of the recipe. The soup is so good it can stand on its own without the bread.

If you're watching your sugar intake, be aware that the recipe contains sugar in the form of maple syrup. But at under a tablespoon per serving, you could do worse with sugar in a recipe.

You Want Recipes? Here Are Even More Recipes
Here's a list of highly rated butternut squash recipes from
  1. Simple Roasted Butternut Squash
  2. Butternut Squash Cajun Fries
  3. Curried Butternut Squash Soup
  4. Butternut Squash Risotto
  5. Butternut Squash and Turkey Chili

You can find more butternut squash recipes over at

As you can see from that recipe list, winter squash is pretty versatile. You can use it in soups and stews; mash it up like potatoes, add it to risotto or just roast it on its own. Because it's low in calories, it's a great way to feel full when pairing it with a serving of lean protein.

Don't limit yourself to butternut squash. Explore the world of winter squash by buying different varieties of winte squash, such as acorn squash, sugar pumpkins, Hubbard or cheese pumkins.

Do you eat winter squash? What's your favorite kind?

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