Nutrition Corner: Swap summer squash for pasta and don’t feel guilty about second servings

Nutrition Corner Mary R. Ehret

I was in a restaurant last week and saw a table tent card that promoted eating vegetables — you could imagine how excited I got! This particular restaurant was a chain and was promoting vegetables as the new pasta.

Spaghetti squash, a winter squash, has been known to replace pasta. Now summer squash are being used just the same way. Just top with a red sauce and it’s a low calorie meal that you don’t need to feel guilty when you go for seconds. Summer squash are great low energy dense foods, but are high in fiber and vitamin C. They are a low energy dense food because their calories are only one-fifth of its weight. One half of a medium squash, 3.5 ounces, is only 20 calories.

Zucchini and yellow summer squashes are a great addition to any meals, including breakfast. When shopping at a farmers market, road side stand or produce aisle in a store, look for those which have delicate yellow, pebbly skins. Zucchini should be only 8 to 10 inches in length – any larger indicates a mature squash. Be particular when selecting summer squashes. Choose squash that have glossy skins and are tender and free from blemishes.

Once you get them home, store summer squash in a plastic bag in the crisper of the refrigerator. They will keep for about a week. Wash summer squash right before using. Gently scrub the surface of the squash well under running water. They do not need to be peeled or seeded. If you peel the squash, you may lose valuable nutrients.

To use summer squash in place of pasta, you need to purchase either a spiral slicer or julienne peeler. Some julienne peelers are as low as $7.99 and spiral slicers can be as high as $39.99. It’s important when buying a spiral slicer to check into the width that they cut the squash into, as some are adjustable and some are not. Also, note the size of the squash that will fit into the slicer.

Summer squash can be either raw or cooked. Raw on a veggie tray or thinly sliced in a sandwich like lettuce. Here are two recipes using two different types of summer squash — zucchini and chayote. Enjoy!

Veggie Stuffed Pita

2 zucchini, sliced thin or spiraled

4 carrots, grated or spiraled

2 cups broccoli florets

12 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded

½ teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon onion powder

2 Tablespoons canola oil

12 mini-pitas

Wash vegetables. Slice, grate or use a spiralizer. Peel carrots and cut off the ends. Heat oil in a skillet. Add the spices and vegetables. Sauté vegetables for 5 minutes. When tender, remove from heat. Spoon vegetables into the pita. Top with 1 oz. of cheese.

Chayote Salad

1 chayote squash, fresh

4 cups spinach, fresh

1 can (16 oz.) garbanzo beans, canned and rinsed (or made from dried)

1/2 cup red onion, chopped

1/2 cup carrot, chopped

2 Tbsp. fat-free vinaigrette salad dressing

1 1/2 oz. Monterey Jack cheese (reduced fat, shredded)

Cut chayote into large chunks. Cook chayote in a small amount of boiling water for about 15 minutes, or until tender. Rinse pieces in cold water, peel, and remove seeds. Cut chayote into 1/2-inch chunks. In a large salad bowl, toss together spinach, chayote, garbanzo beans and cheese. Top with vinaigrette and serve.

Nutrition Corner Mary R. Ehret Corner Mary R. Ehret

Mary Ehret is the Penn State Extension Nutrition Links Supervisor in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Carbon, Sullivan and Bradford Counties. Reach her at 570-825-1701 or at

Mary Ehret is the Penn State Extension Nutrition Links Supervisor in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Carbon, Sullivan and Bradford Counties. Reach her at 570-825-1701 or at

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