“Nutrition Newbie” is a series focused on basic nutrition information and tips.

Special Blog Post By: Alex Navarro, Second Harvest Food Bank Nutrition Educator (San Mateo County)

With the long summer days being soon behind us, we can’t ignore the subtle excitement about the autumn days ahead. Oh how we’ve missed the falling leaves from the trees and the slight chill in the air. Along with the beginning of sweater weather, pumpkin spice drinks, and warm socks, comes the turnaround of new seasonal produce – one type in particular – the winter squash.

  • Why the name winter squash?
  • Squash season is now upon us, starting at the end of September as the days get cooler, and running until the beginning of March. Though harvested in the fall, these hardy vegetables will keep through the cold winter months- hence the name winter squash. Even with the pumpkin dominating the grocery stores during the fall and Halloween, there are many more varieties of squash that are packed with nutrients, versatile flavor, and beautiful vivid colors. From adorning your front porch, to being a hit at your family’s dinner, you can’t go this fall season without taking home a winter squash from your local grocery store, farmers market, and our very own food bank pantries.

  • What are the nutritional benefits of winter squash?
  • Winter squash are packed with antioxidants and vitamins, and are mildly anti-inflammatory due to their high content of Vitamin A and Vitamin C. They are also a good source of dietary fiber, Vitamin E, Vitamin B6, Folate, Calcium and Magnesium, and a very good source of Potassium. Not to mention, low in fat and calories.

  • What are the different types of winter squash?
  • Some of the most known winter squash include pumpkin, spaghetti, acorn, butternut, and delicata. If hitting the farmers market during this time, you may find up to 12 varieties of this hardy vegetable. Winter squash come in many shapes and colors, and no two look exactly alike. The different varieties of winter squash may be substituted for each other in many squash recipes.

    As one of the more popular winter squash, we love butternut. It has a sweet and nutty taste similar to pumpkin, with deep orange fleshy pulp. Traditional favorite preparations for butternut squash include roasting cut, or cooking and then puréeing into a tasty soup.

    Spaghetti squash is also a crowd-pleaser winning its popularity due to its “spaghetti-like” appearance. You’ll understand how it got its name, once you take a fork to the inside after it’s cooked. By scraping the flesh, you’ll get “strings” that resemble noodles. This makes for a great healthy pasta alternative.

    Here at Second Harvest Food Bank, our warehouses are filled with an abundance of winter squash for months, ready to be distributed for our clients in the community to enjoy. For those not familiar with how to prepare squash, we have our team of Health Ambassador Volunteers out at our distribution sites sharing recipes and passing out nutrition information tip cards:

    Anyway you decide to prepare it (sweet or savory), we want you to fall in love with this fall favorite!

    Eatfresh.org provides tasty recipe ideas on a budget that can be translated in both Spanish and Chinese. Here are some of my favorites:
    Spicy apple-filled squash
    Pumpkin oatmeal

    Here’s an Epicurious guide to 12 varieties of winter squash and easy to follow recipes.

    ***Read past Nutrition Newbie posts!