Pump Up Your Winter Meals With These Nutrition-Packed Foods
As a registered dietitian, I always try to teach my clients the importance of including in-season fruits and vegetables in our diets. By doing so, we offer our bodies a variety of flavors and nutrients that they need, stay within our budgets, and help the environment. My pick of in-season vegetables this month is winter squash, perfect to celebrate the season, and harvest.
The winter harvest of squash brings us vitamins and nutrients cram-packed in luxurious flavors: Acorn, Butternut, Spaghetti, Banana, Delicata, Turk’s turban, Hubbard, Pumpkin, Kabocha … and more. It’s time to steam, roast, puree, and bake – decadence and nutrients. What’s not to love?
Dietary Fiber: Eating winter squash is an easy, delicious way to increase soluble fiber in our diets. A heart-healthy choice!
Antioxidants: Winter squash is jammed with carotenoid antioxidants. In fact, in the world, no other single food provides more carotenoid antioxidants than winter squash. These powerful antioxidants protect the body from aging, protecting cells from damage by free radicals. Winter squash packs a powerful, healthy punch, while keeping us younger inside-out.
Linoleic and Oleic Acids make up 75% of the fat content found in winter squash seeds – offering us polyunsaturated omega-6 and monounsaturated fatty acids, similar to those found in olive oil.
Potassium: Potassium can help you prevent bone loss by reducing the acidity in our bodies preventing calcium from being lost in urine. It also helps to lower your blood pressure and risk of stroke.
Buy winter squash with a matted finish. When they’re glossy, it indicates they were picked too soon. Avoid squashes with bruises or any openings in the skin which can allow bacteria to enter the fleshy part of the vegetable. Before cooking wash the skin well with a vegetable brush or hands to remove harmful bacteria. Along with their nutritional benefits winter squash are versatile and easy to prepare!
Bake them in the oven until it’s easy to pierce through the skin. Scoop out the seeds (and save for roasting or discard), puree the flesh and use in soups, pasta sauces or as a filling to put back in the skin and reheat in the oven, or eat it as is using your favorite seasonings and a little butter or oil to blend the flavors.
Steam them in cubes with fresh rosemary, thyme, or sage. Sprinkle with feta cheese for a decadent treat.
Steam them and drizzle them with a little brown sugar for an extra-sweet treat.
Make a hearty fall stew with red lentils and butternut squash.
Roast winter squash on its own with a little olive oil. The sugars in squash will carmelize during the roasting making the outside brown and sweet, yum! Or roast it with kale and garlic, and sprinkle with parmesan cheese for a savory version.
Winter squash can be your staple veggie during these cold months – something to tempt the palate, warm the body, and fill you with much-needed nutrients.
For some delicious recipes using winter squash, click below:
- Pumpkin Oatmeal
- Pumpkin Pancakes
- Butternut Squash with Pumpkin Seeds & Cranberries
- Freekeh and Butternut Squash