The autumn season not only ushers in cooler temperatures but also many fruits and vegetables unique to the season. One of the most popular fall vegetables is the spaghetti squash. Spaghetti squash resembles spaghetti noodles when cooked and is a variety of winter squash with a mild flavor similar to pasta. Spaghetti squash typically measures from 8 to 14 inches and weighs from 2 to 3 pounds; the outside skin is a deep yellow color with the inside flesh a more pale yellow.

While spaghetti squash does not taste exactly like pasta, when covered in tomato sauce or any hearty sauce, the mild flavor and firmness makes this vegetable an excellent base for many dishes, including Italian and Thai favorites. Spaghetti squash can also be added to soups and stews or eaten plain; one cup contains about 30 calories and 7 grams of total carbohydrates versus 200 calories and 43 grams of carbohydrates in traditional spaghetti pasta noodles.

Spaghetti squash is loaded with nutrients, which makes this vegetable a worthy addition to a healthy diet. This squash contains the B vitamins riboflavin, niacin, B5, B6 and thiamin and folate. The B vitamins are required for optimal cell function and folate assists in the development of new cells in the body; additionally, spaghetti squash contains potassium which ensures proper muscle and nerve function. This squash also has manganese, calcium, iron, phosphorus, vitamin A, vitamin c, beta carotene and zinc, to name a few additional nutrients. Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids are also present, which offer anti-inflammatory and cardiovascular benefits.

To cook spaghetti squash, first preheat your oven to 375 degrees and coat a baking dish with nonstick spray or oil. Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and remove all of the seeds, season squash with salt and pepper if desired. Place squash, flesh side down, into the baking dish and cook until tender-typically about 30 to 40 minutes. Once cooked, remove from the oven and let the squash rest until cool to handle. Scrape the inside flesh with a fork to make long, spaghetti-like strands and top with your favorite sauce or eat with a touch of butter and salt. Enjoy!

Carey Stites is a certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor and a Registered Dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition. Carey is currently the Registered Dietitian working with Wellstone in Harker Heights. Contact her at carey.stites@smchh.org.

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