Winter squash refers to the variety of squash that grows primarily in the fall and winter months. They consist of acorn squash, buttercup squash, butternut squash, carnival squash, delicata squash, hubbard squash, spaghetti squash, and pumpkin.
Winter squash belong to the genus Curcurbita and, unlike summer squash, are a more mature vegetable whose rind is generally not consumed.
Although there are many subcategories of winter squash, we will review the nutritional values of the most common varieties. These are acorn, butternut,band spaghetti squash.
A 1 cup serving contains:
- Acorn squash: 56 calories, 15 grams of complex carbohydrates, and 1 gram of protein
- Butternut squash: 63 calories, 16 grams of complex carbohydrates, and 1 gram of protein
- Spaghetti squash: 31 calories, 7 grams of complex carbohydrates, and 1 gram of protein
All winter squash are a generally low-calorie food, with primary calories coming from complex carbohydrates. Winter squash are a good source of calcium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, iron, and b vitamins.
Athlete Benefits of Winter Squash
The best diet for an athlete is the one that works. That may be vegan, raw, paleo, ketogenic, or any other variety of approaches out there. There is no one-size-fits-all, because there is not a standard athlete.
Athletes vary in multiple ways. Consider the athletes desired sport. Even within a single sport such as obstacle racing, there are multiple varieties of athletes. Some are skilled at the short course, requiring speed but typically lasting less than 60 minutes. Others are performing on the Ultra Beast level, which requires the ability to run for longer periods of time, often up to 6 hours, with over 60 agility and strength-based obstacles.
The same can be found all throughout the sports field. Varying length skill sets lasting a variety of lengths. It is because of these factors that the appropriate diet, of course, will vary.
Regardless of the sport, every athlete will require carbohydrates. Whether you are thriving on a low carbohydrate diet of 50 grams or less per day to promote fat metabolism or you are cycling your carbohydrates up above 130 grams for anaerobic performance, you will want to incorporate complex carbohydrates from a variety of sources.
Winter squash varieties offer a nutritious complex carbohydrate source. The plant fiber in winter squash help promote good gut bacteria while the b vitamins assist in converting food to fuel. This combination means your digestive system can help you get the most fuel out of your meal. These factors make winter squash the perfect, warm, pre-workout dinner before those cold season training sessions.
Simple Winter Squash Recipes
Sunday Brunch Acorn Squash
Ingredients (Makes 2 servings)
- 1 acorn squash
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- 1 Tbsp maple syrup
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cover the inside of a casserole dish with aluminum foil for easy clean up. Place acorn squash in the microwave for 1 minute. (This will soften the squash enough to make cutting it in half easier).
- Cut acorn squash on half carefully, being sure to use a sharp knife that will easily pierce the tough rind. Scoop out seeds and discard.
- Brush coconut oil over all sides of the acorn squash (You may find it easier to microwave the coconut oil for a few seconds to soften it). Place squash open-side up in casserole dish. Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg, then drizzle with honey. Pour about ½ cup of water in the bottom on the dish. Cover with another piece of foil.
- Cook for 40 minutes. Remove foil from the top of the squash and continue cooking for an additional 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Enjoy warm.
Acorn Squash and Eggs Breakfast
- 1 large acorn squash
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Pink Himalayan Sea Salt to taste
- ¼ tsp crushed red pepper
- 2 large eggs
- 1 medium avocado cut into chunks
- 2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
- 1 tbsp nutritional yeast for cheesy flavor
- Preheat oven to 425°. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean up.
Trim about 1/2 inch from each end of squash; discard. Slice remaining midsection of squash crosswise into 4 (3/4-inch-thick) rounds. Remove seeds and membrane with a spoon.
- Brush both sides of squash with oil, and place on baking sheet. Season with salt and crushed red pepper.
- Bake at 425° for 15 minutes or until squash is just fork tender.
- Remove baking sheet from oven. Crack an egg into the center of each acorn half. Return to oven, reduce oven temperature to 350° and bake for 12 minutes or until eggs are cooked. Transfer to plates using a wide spatula; sprinkle with one or all of the additional toppings. Enjoy warm.
Butternut Squash Salad
Ingredients (Makes 2-4 servings)
- 1 butternut squash
- 1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped (suggest Vidalia onion for its sweetness)
- 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1 bunch kale, tough stalks removed, cut into half-inch slices
- 3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 cup arugula
- 1/2 cup goat or feta cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking pan with aluminum foil for easy clean up.
- Prepare the squash by peeling, seeding, and cutting into 1 inch chunks. Toss squash and onion with 1.5 Tbsp olive oil, transfer to foil lined baking pan. Roast for 35-40 minutes, turning occasionally. The squash will start to caramelize. If you want a sweeter taste, add additional minutes to roasting until you reach the desired level of caramelization.
- While the squash cooks, pour balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan and lightly simmer on very low heat until it is reduced by about half.
- Saute kale in ½ Tbsp olive oil until slightly wilted, about one or two minutes, tossing regularly.
- Transfer kale to your salad bowl and allow to cool.
- When squash is ready, allow to cool 5-10 minutes. Then transfer to salad bowl. Top with arugula and cheese and toss well. The warmth of the squash will wilt the arugula nicely. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Avocado and Acorn Squash Baked Fries
- 1 acorn squash
- 1 avocado, under-ripe
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp flour of your choice
- 1 teaspoon each paprika, basil, oregano, and garlic powder
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Cut acorn squash in half, lengthwise. Use a spoon to remove the seeds. Cut the acorn squash between the ridges or about ¼-1/2 inch slices. Place in a large mixing bowl. Cut avocado into 1 inch lengths (shaped like thick cut french fries) and place in bowl with acorn squash.
- Pour olive oil in bowl and stir gently to coat.
- In a shallow pan, combine the seasonings. Taking a couple pieces of squash and avocado at a time, dip into seasonings, turning to coat, and then transfer to parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat this step until all pieces are coated.
- Place in oven and bake for 30 minutes or until coating is golden brown. Enjoy warm, or cool them and use as salad toppers
Cleaned up Cheese Dip
- 1 tsp coconut oil
- ¾ cup diced red onion
- 1½ tbsp flour of your choice (almond, chickpea, wheat)
- ¼ cup low sodium vegetable stock
- 1 (10-oz) package frozen butternut squash puree, thawed
- 1 tbsp minced chipotle chile in adobo sauce, plus 2 teaspoons adobo sauce
- ¾ cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
- ¾ cup shredded 4-cheese Mexican-blend cheese, divided
- 3 tbsp sliced green onions
- 2 tbsp thinly sliced jalapeño pepper
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves (optional)
- Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat (We recommend using a cast iron skillet because it can be transferred directly to the oven for step 3, saving on dishes. Additionally, your food will absorb some of the iron from the skillet, increasing the nutritional benefits). Add red onion; cook 5 minutes or until softened. Add flour; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add stock, squash, chipotle, and adobo sauce; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; add half of both cheeses and cook until cheese is melted.
- Preheat broiler to high. If you are not using a cast iron skillet, you will need to transfer the recipe to an oven-safe casserole dish now.
- Sprinkle remaining cheeses over top. Broil 2 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and lightly browned. Top with green onions, jalapeño, and cilantro (if using).
Tip: Serve with your favorite pita chips or celery sticks.
Spaghetti Squash in Minutes
- 1 spaghetti Squash
- Use a large sharp knife to cut the top inch off of the spaghetti squash, removing the remaining visible stem. This will make the next step easier.
- Cut the squash in half lengthwise.
- Scoop out seeds with a spoon.
- Set the squash cut-side-down in baking dish and add enough water to cover the bottom of the dish by about ½ inch. Microwave uncovered on high for 10 to 20 minutes until the color deepens and you can easily insert a knife into the flesh. Time varies based on squash size.
- Allow to cool for 5 minutes then transfer, using a spatula, out of the dish. Turn over and allow to cool an additional 5 minutes, cut side facing up. The goal with this cooling practice is simply so you don’t burn yourself. Once cool enough to handle safely, use a fork to gently scrape the filling out of the squash and into a bowl. You’ll quickly see why it is called spaghetti squash.
- Look for a spaghetti squash that is small enough to fit into a microwave safe dish when cut in half. You also have the option to cook only one half at a time.
- Top with your favorite spaghetti sauce, pesto sauce, or butter and herbs
Butternut Squash Smoothie
Ingredients (Makes 2 servings)
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
- ½ cup water
- 2 tbsp nut butter
- ¾ cup frozen butternut squash (in the frozen aisle)
- ½ of a medium banana, very ripe
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ cup frozen berries of your choice (raspberries are a nice complement)
- 1 tbsp chia seeds + 1 scoop Athletic Greens (optional) http://athleticgreens.com/spartan
Place all ingredients in a blender and blend for 60 seconds. Add additional water until you reach your desired consistency.
- This recipe calls for the use of frozen butternut squash from the freezer aisle. If you wish to use fresh butternut squash simply follow the directions for acorn squash but sub in butternut. The cinnamon, nutmeg, and maple syrup will add to the smoothie flavors. You will just need to let the squash cool well before preparing smoothie.
- This smoothie can easily become a soup. Simply prepare according to directions, then pour into a saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally until heated through.
- Looking for more protein? Swap out the banana for your choice of: 1 scoop vanilla protein powder or Powerful Vanilla Bean Greek yogurt https://powerful.co/yogurt
Berries (suggest raspberry)
Cilantro, fresh (optional)
Onion (yellow or vidalia)
Chipotle chile in adobo sauce
Red pepper, crushed
Vegetable stock, low sodium
Almond milk, unsweetened (or your favorite milk)
Frozen butternut squash
Cheese, goat or feta
Cheese, part-skim mozzarella and 4 cheese blend