Low-Cal/Low-Carb Winter Spaghetti Squash!
If you’re into low glycemic foods and you haven’t yet played with spaghetti squash, you may be in for a fun treat.
Serving it up with meatballs with a spicy marinara, no one will be fooled; but it can make a delightfully versatile menu item either as a main course or side dish. As a pasta substitute the peculiar squash adds great nutrition with mild flavor, and cuts mega calories.
Spaghetti squash is so-named because, once cooked, the tender flesh inside separates into “ribbons” that look like spaghetti or angel hair. The squash typically harvests from early Autumn through winter and is available in many grocery stores year-round.
It’s a little bigger than most honeydews, but oblong in shape. Its color will be ivory, pale yellow or orange. The more orange, the sweeter and the more it’s packed with beta carotene.
Even though it tastes nothing like pasta, spaghetti squash does well with many of the same seasonings such as olive oil, parmesan and basil, or butter and garlic, and has a ton less calories and carbs.
Here’s what you’ll get by adding it to your meal plans:
- Low-Carb/Low-Cal: the American Diabetes Association pins ½ cup of the squash at about 20 calories and 5g net carbohydrates. Compare that to pasta, which delivers 110 calories and about 22 g carbohydrates, and you’ve got one good reason to make the switch at least occasionally.
- Low Glycemic Load: the estimated glycemic load is 2; very low and very good news for anyone watching their blood sugar and carb intake.
- Fiber: ½ cup will deliver 2-3 g of fiber.
- Vitamins/Antioxidants: the “pasta” fruit delivers antioxidant vitamins A and C, as well as vitamins B-6, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, pantothenic acid and vitamin K.
- Minerals: each strand packs trace minerals manganese, potassium, magnesium, calcium, copper, iron, phosphorus, sodium, zinc and selenium.
Left to itself, spaghetti squash offers a light and ever-so-slightly sweet taste. It’ll take just about any flavor you toss it with. Some top it with marinara; or you can add a healthy fat such as butter (organic from grass fed cattle), raw coconut oil, olive oil or avocado oil, Himalayan salt and seasonings to taste.
The other night I made Puerto Rican style habichuelas (beans) and the sauce accidentally spilled onto the faux spaghetti. It was awesome!
There are dozens and dozens of recipes available online to help you “spice” it up.
Here are some simple preparation instructions that you can start and play with.
Spaghetti squash can be baked, boiled or slow-cooked. Each method will bring out a slightly different flavor and texture.
If you bake the squash whole, be certain to make slits so that some of the heat can escape.
If you halve or quarter it, the squash will cook a little quicker. Remove the pulp and seeds from the center to separate it from the meat; but keep the seeds and bake them, too.
Either add the loosened pulp and seeds back to the center of the half; or toss the pulp but oil, season and bake the seeds as you would pumpkin seeds.
Bake the squash rind-side-up for 40-45 minutes at 375°F.
Actually, you only want to “boil” the squash for a minute or two. Cut it in half or quarters, cover it with water, bring to a boil. Then simmer on a medium-low heat for 15 minutes or until it reaches desired tenderness. If you like it al dente, 15-20 minutes MAX. If you like it softer go longer.
This one’s tough. (just kidding)
Poke several times with a paring knife or fork, put the whole fruit in the pot, add 2-3 cups of water, depending on size, set it to low, cover and go. After your 8-hour workday it should be ready. Remove from the crock pot. Let cool for 10-15 minutes before carefully cutting it open.
Once the squash is cooked, pull out the strings using a fork. Season, add some sautéed garlic with olive oil, maybe basil or parsley, and voila.