So you're been watching your carb intake and starting to feel lighter already... until the dreaded pasta craving hits. Instead of depriving yourself, satisfy that craving with delicious and versatile spaghetti squash. Spaghetti squash is easy to prepare and its spaghetti-like flesh will trick your taste buds into thinking you are eating a high-carb meal.
Spaghetti squash is an oblong-shaped vegetable that is light yellow in color when ripe. It is located in the produce section of most grocery stores. Although it is harvested in the early fall, it is widely available throughout the year. Choose a spaghetti squash that is free of spots and bruises, has a shiny skin, and feels heavy for its size. After purchasing your perfect spaghetti squash, store it in a cool, dry place until you are ready to prepare it.
One cup of prepared spaghetti squash has 42 calories, no fat, a measly 10 grams of carbohydrate -- 2 grams of which are fiber, and 1 gram of protein. Spaghetti squash has a high water content making its vitamin and mineral profile lower compared to most winter squashes. Spaghetti squash does contain potassium, magnesium, calcium and vitamin A in small amounts.
Spaghetti squash can be prepared using either the oven or the microwave. But first, cut the squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. It can be baked in a 375 degree F oven with the halves facing down on a lightly greased baking sheet. Remove the squash from the oven when the flesh is tender, after about 45 minutes to 1 hour. If you are short on time, microwave the spaghetti squash by placing the squash halves in a microwave safe dish with 1/4 cup of water. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high for 20 to 25 minutes. Let the squash cool for about 15 minutes or until it is cool enough to handle. Use a fork to separate the flesh into strands that will look like spaghetti.
Spaghetti squash dishes can be prepared by using savory ingredients or sweet ingredients. For a pasta-like dish, simply mix spaghetti squash strands with marinara sauce, Alfredo sauce, sausage and peppers, meatballs, or garlic and olive oil. It can also be served as side to an entree or mixed into a casserole. To satisfy your sweet tooth, mix spaghetti squash strands with your favorite sweetener, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, dried fruit and nuts.
Hillary E. Berner is a registered dietitian and certified dietitian-nutritionist. She specializes in the areas of medical nutrition therapy, weight management, healthy cooking and behavioral health. Berner holds a Master of Science in nutrition and a Bachelor of Science in dietetics.