Why Winter Squash Needs To Be On Your Menu This Fall

by Lisa McCune, MS, MPH, RDN, LDN

Last Updated: October 9, 2020

Fall is here, and one thing COVID-19 hasn’t changed is that we see pumpkins everywhere! They are in the grocery store, at local markets, and on your neighbor’s front porch. Pumpkin is likely the most familiar squash, but there are other flavorful and nutritious varieties to enjoy this fall, including acorn squash, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, kabocha squash, and delicata squash.

It’s a misnomer but winter squashes are fruits that are harvested in the fall months and available in different shapes, sizes, and colors. They have tougher skins than their summer counterparts, which gives them a long shelf life of 1-3 months when stored in a cool, dry place. Their tough skin does present a challenge when preparing for cooking , but the skin can be softened by piercing the skin and microwaving the squash for 2-3 minutes before peeling. The seeds of winter squash can be roasted and enjoyed in addition to the flesh of the squash. The best squashes are heavy for their size with no cracks or spots.

Winter squashes are loaded with nutrients and are especially high in beta-carotene, vitamin C, and fiber. These nutrients may help reduce the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Squashes are also naturally low calorie, as 1 cup of cubed squash is about 40 calories. These squashes are very versatile and can be used interchangeably in any recipe calling for winter squash. Try using fresh, frozen, or prepared options.

Winter squash can be enjoyed baked, steamed, boiled and mashed as side dishes or featured as main courses. They also make delicious soups and chilis. Try using the naturally sweeter varieties such as acorn, buttercup, and butternut squash for a dessert. If you don’t like pumpkin pie, consider Butternut Squash Pie instead. Spaghetti squash or butternut squash noodles work great as a pasta alternative. Butternut squash also makes a great swap for cheese due to its color and texture. Here are some of our favorite ways to enjoy winter squash:

Stuffed squash
Acorn Squash, Cranberries and Wild Rice
Shepherd’s Pie Stuffed Acorn Squash
Green Tea-Infused Quinoa-Stuffed Delicata Squash
Mexican Spaghetti Squash

Mac and “cheese”
Shortcut Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
Butternut Squash and Chicken Mac and Cheese
Squash-Bacon Mac and Cheese

Pasta
Roasted Butternut Squash Pasta
Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs
Butternut Squash and Kale Lasagna

Soup and chili
Turkey and Butternut Squash Chili
Acorn Squash Soup with Anise and Carrots
Any Squash Soup with Apples and Potato

Sweet squash
Butternut Squash Cinnamon Rolls
Dessert Acorn Squash with Cranberries

Variety is the spice of life, so why not try adding variety to your diet this fall by experimenting with winter squash while at home? Winter squashes are versatile, nutritious, and of course, delicious. You may even find a new favorite winter squash. Look out pumpkin!

If you would like more personalized information about nutrition schedule a Telenutrition appointment with one of our Kroger Health Dietitians.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.


Lisa McCune, MS, MPH, RDN, LDN

Lisa McCune, MS, MPH, RDN, LDN

Teaching people about the positive things that food can do for the mind, body and spirit, and helping them understand that all foods can fit into a healthy diet is Lisa’s nutrition philosophy. She believes food should be exciting and fun! Lisa encourages celebration of non-scale victories, which focus on what good nutrition can do for your life beyond weight. She loves food, but also loves to break a sweat whether it’s cycling, walking her dog or doing CrossFit.