Winter squash are abundant this time of year, but many athletes do not include this vegetable group due to the time it takes to prepare. Some athletes fear its carbohydrate content and while true that winter squash are starchy, they are a healthier starch option and a good source of fiber, antioxidants, and potassium (all important for athletes!). Many recipes call for halving winter squash, scooping out the seeds, and then baking in the oven until soft which can take an hour or more. If you have a microwave, you can significantly decrease this time by one of these methods:
- Leave the squash whole. Poke several holes in the outer surface and microwave on high for 4-5 minutes, then turn it over and repeat. Microwave until tender.
- Halve the squash and scoop out the seeds. Place cut side down in large microwavable dish (you may want to do just one half at a time). Microwave for 10-12 minutes then check it for tenderness.
- Steam the squash - halve and scoop out the seeds. Place in a bowl with about 1/2 inch of water. Microwave 8-10 minutes and then check for tenderness. You can also microwave until the squash starts to get soft, then let it cool for a few minutes. After cooling, you can peel or cut off the skin, cut the squash into smaller pieces or cubes and then finish microwaving for a few more minutes (with or without the steaming method).
Depending on the variety of winter squash and the work you want to put in up front (such as cutting off the skin and cubing), microwaving and prep time will vary but this will still be quicker than the oven. Be careful when removing from the microwave because the squash will be quite hot. Let it cool for a few minutes before you put a knife to it. Experiment with different seasonings or keep it simple with a drizzle of olive oil and some fresh cracked pepper!
Dina Griffin, MS, RD, CSSD