Butternut Squash Basics November 9, 2009

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"Vegetables are part of a healthy diet and tend to be under eaten in the United States," believes Julie Paff, RD, LD, who teaches diet and diabetes self-management strategies to persons with diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance. She and other Seton Family of Hospitals health professionals host regularly scheduled free seminars at multiple Seton facilities to help people learn more about pre-diabetes and diabetes in addition to teaching classes on diabetes nutrition, weight management and healthy eating.

Seton Good Health Commons is sponsoring a free Diabetes seminar on November 12 from 6 to 8 pm at the Goodhealth Commons in Round Rock. If you are interested in attending, please call 512/324-4803 to reserve a seat. Space is limited. Topic is Diabetes.More than Blood Sugar.

She enjoys learning about the history of food and sharing her expertise on recommended vegetable choices, along with recipes. This month, her veggie target is butternut squash, a flavorful winter vegetable readily available, usually inexpensive and somewhat unfamiliar to many Central Texas cooks. Here are her comments:

Butternut Squash History

High vegetable intake is associated with lower cardiovascular risk, lower blood pressure, higher success with weight management and improved blood sugar control. If you'd like to add this healthy choice to your family's dinner plates this month, you probably should know some interesting facts.

Butternut squash's ancestors have been eaten for 10,000 years, although this particular variety is one of the newest in its food group, debuting in grocery stores in 1944. The meat is dense and sweet and a bright orange color inside. Butternut squash's predecessors originated in Mexico or Guatemala. Originally, the seeds were eaten and the flesh of the squash was not. The following are fun facts about butternut squash:

  • GREAT source of vitamin A and also contains vitamin C, fiber, potassium, manganese and folate. The soluble fiber in this starchy vegetable makes it a better choice than traditional white potatoes for persons with diabetes or pre-diabetes. One cup of cooked butternut squash counts as 18 grams of carbohydrate or one carb choice. This hearty winter squash can round out your plate as a healthy carb choice in place of rice or pasta.

  • Usually available August through March, thought typically butternuts are at peak quality and availability in October and November, so try it now.

  • Rich in beta-carotene, known for antioxidant and anti-inflammatory health benefits and may be protective against heart disease in persons with diabetes. Also a source of beta cryptoxanthin, another form of beta carotine which is associated with lung health.

  • Typically a butternut squash weighs two to five pounds and serves up to four people easily.

  • Butternut squash is in the same family as melons and cucumbers.

  • Although most people discard the skin and seeds of butternut squash, the seeds are edible and quite tasty, especially if roasted and lightly salted like pumpkin seeds.

  • Florida, California, Georgia and New Jersey are major commercial producers of butternut squash in the United States and they are a popular offering locally at farmer's markets and area farms.

Butternut Squash Recipes

Winter Butternut Squash and Sweet Pepper Soup

Serves 4


1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 medium leek, white part only, chopped
1 large orange bell pepper, seeded and diced
4 cups peeled, diced butternut squash
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon paprika
3 cups fat free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup orange juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds, crushed (for garnish)
1/8 teaspoon Spanish paprika, smoked or dulce (sweet), optional, for garnish


  • Heat oil in heavy, large saucepan over medium-high heat. Saut leeks until translucent, 4 minutes.

  • Add bell pepper, squash and pinch of salt, stirring to coat with oil. Reduce heat, cover and cook vegetables gently to release juices, 10 minutes.

  • Stir in garlic and paprika for 30 seconds, until fragrant.

  • Add broth, increase heat and bring liquid to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer soup until vegetables are soft, about 20 minutes. Uncover, and let soup cool for 10 minutes.

  • Transfer soup to blender, cover and whirl soup to a velvet puree. Blend in orange juice and season to taste with salt and pepper.

  • To serve, divide soup among four soup bowls. Place pumpkin seeds in a dry skillet over medium-high heat and cook, shaking and swirling the pan, until seeds are plump and mostly golden. Crush seeds and add to soup as garnish. Sprinkle paprika. Serve immediately.

Nutrition per serving: 250 calories, 10 grams total fat (1.5 grams saturated fat), 37 grams carbohydrate, 9 grams protein, 7 grams dietary fiber, 430 mg sodium.

Broccoli and Butternut Squash

Serves 4


1 Tablespoon light sesame oil
1 large leek, washed and sliced thin (use only the white part)
2 cups peeled, diced butternut squash
1/2 cup vegetable stock
2 Tablespoons dry sherry
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups broccoli florets, cut into small florets and stems
2 to 3 teaspoon minced fresh dill
1/4 cup chopped roasted walnuts
Fresh ground pepper to taste


  • Set a wok over medium-high heat. Pour the oil around the rim and swirl it to coat the inside of the pan. Add the leek and stir-fry for about 1 minute. Add the squash and continue stir-frying for 2 to 3 minutes.

  • Add the stock, sherry, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring the liquid to a simmer. Cover the wok, lower the heat, and steam about 5 minutes or until the squash is almost tender and the liquid is reduced considerably.

  • Add the broccoli and dill to the wok. Cover and steam for 2 to 3 minutes longer, until the broccoli is tender but still bright green.

  • Add the walnuts. Season with pepper and more salt to taste. Serve immediately.

Nutrition per serving: 116 Calories, 5 gm protein, 12 gm fat, 18 gm carbohydrate, 4 gm dietary fiber, 377 mg sodium

Autumn Vegetable Medley with Rosemary and Nutmeg

Serves 6


1 (9-ounce) fennel bulb with stalks
2 cups peeled, 1/2-inch cubed butternut squash
1 1/2 cups 1-inch-thick slices parsnip
1 1/2 cups 1-inch-thick slices carrot
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Dash freshly grated nutmeg
Cooking spray
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (optional)


  • Preheat oven to 425.
  • Trim tough outer leaves from fennel. Cut fennel bulb in half lengthwise; discard core. Cut each half into three wedges.
  • Combine fennel, squash, and next 7 ingredients (through nutmeg) in a large shallow roasting pan coated with cooking spray.
  • Bake at for 35 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle vegetable mixture with cheese, if desired.

Nutrition per serving: 106 Calories, 2.6 gm total fat, 2 gm protein, 21 gm carbohydrate, 4 gm fiber, 237 mg sodium

Julie Paff, RD, LD
Seton Diabetes Education Center
5555 North Lamar Blvd., Building D, Suite 125
Austin, TX 78751

Phone: (512) 324-1891

Julie sees patients at Seton Medical Center Williamson, GoodHealth Commons and Seton Southwest Hospital. She has worked in nutrition education for 30 years, with a focus on diabetes and chronic disease management. She has a special interest in all aspects of diabetes management, heart disease, chronic disease management, with particular interest in Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and pre-diabetes.

Seton Diabetes Education Program

Seton Diabetes Education Program empowers individuals with diabetes to manage their disease over the course of a lifetime. Program participants can expect to learn skills and self-management strategies to manage blood sugar and reduce the risk of complications with the changing needs of disease management. Seton Diabetes Education wants to assure that all persons with diabetes or at risk of diabetes are aware of services to support health. Please contact us if you have questions or would like to learn more about the program at (512) 324-1891 or email diabeteseducation@seton.org.

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