Fall Harvest Foods: What's in it for your Health and Waistline?

Fall is officially here.  Not only does fall bring cool breezes and changing leaves;, but it also brings a great variety of “winter” squash.  The most common types of winter squash are butternut, acorn and spaghetti squash.  These types of squash can be considered “power foods” with their plentiful health benefits.  They are a good source of vitamins A and C, B vitamins and potassium.  Due to such a high amount of antioxidant carotenoids, they may protect your body’s cells from damaging free radicals and have anti-inflammatory effects; therefore, they reduce your risk of lung cancer and developing arthritis.

Well, if these amazing health benefits are not enough to make you a believer, the calorie savings may.  Spaghetti sauce can easily be substituted for pasta in most dishes.  A 1-cup serving of cooked spaghetti squash has 42 calories, while 1 cup of cooked pasta has approximately 200 calories.  That’s a substantial calorie savings.  Spaghetti squash is best served with your favorite marina sauce or just with a hint of herbs and Parmesan cheese.  Acorn and butternut squash have a similar taste and consistency to a sweet potato, particularly the butternut variety.  They can be steamed and flavored with cinnamon and nutmeg.  Acorn and butternut squash contain approximately 80 calories per cup vs. 180 calories in 1-cup cooked sweet potato.  Again, this is a big calorie savings without any sacrifice of flavor.  A quick and easy way to prepare winter squash is to cut in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds and pulp and microwave in saran wrap.  This is great when you are in a time crunch.

            I highly recommend experimenting with these squash varieties to add some new textures, flavors and healthy benefits to your meal plan.  They are great for soups, casseroles, stuffed or just seasoned with your favorite herbs.  Just something else to love about Fall!  Enjoy!

Acorn Squash with Spinach Stuffing

3 small acorn squash                                    ½ tsp. salt, divided

1 yellow onion, chopped                        6 Tbsp. dry bread crumbs

½-1 cup vegetable broth                        1 package fresh spinach, chopped

3 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese

1 Tbsp unsalted butter or Brummel and Brown Magarine

  1. Cut squash in half; discard seeds. Place squash, cut side down, in an ungreased 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan. Fill pan with hot water to a depth of 1/2 in. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 40 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a skillet, saute onions in vegetable broth until tender. Add the spinach and 1/4 tsp. salt; cook and stir until spinach is wilted.  Add Parmesan cheese to cooked spinach. Stir.
    1. In a bowl, combine the bread crumbs and remaining salt. Drain water from baking pan. Turn squash cut side up. Stuff with spinach mixture; sprinkle crumb mixture over top. Dot with butter. Bake 15 minutes longer or until the squash is tender. Yield: 6 servings.

Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

Makes: 6 servings, about 1 1/4 cups each

Serving Size: about 1 1/4 cups


  • 1 1/2 pounds (1 small to medium) butternut or other winter squash
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle chile (see Tip)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives or chopped parsley
  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Cut squash in half and seed. Place the halves on a baking sheet, cut-side down. Bake until tender when pierced with a knife, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Scoop out flesh when cool enough to handle.
  • Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add celery, onion and carrot and stir to coat. Cover.  Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the squash flesh, cumin, chipotle to taste and cloves. Add broth and simmer, covered, until the vegetables are very tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
  • Puree the soup with an immersion blender or a regular blender (in batches) until smooth. (Use caution when pureeing hot liquids.) Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with a drizzle of yogurt and sprinkle of chives (or parsley).

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If we put as much time and energy into our long-term weight management goals as we do into “quick-fix, fad diets” we would all be successful!

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