A variety of winter squash sit in baskets.
Winter squash refers to a variety of different squash that preserve well throughout the fall and into winter. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Many of us think of comfort food, rich flavors and family meals during the wintry days of the Midwest.

For others, the cold months conjure up images of crazy-looking gourds that are difficult to cook and hard to cut.

Which camp do you fall into?

If you’re in the winter squash squadron, you’re in good company. This category of glorious gourds is something I look forward to each fall and winter.

Butternut, acorn, pumpkin and spaghetti are my “go-to” squash choices, although I have been known to mix things up at the dinner table with delicata, kabocha, sweet dumpling and hubbard.

Roast, soup, salad

Make no mistake, this is one versatile vegetable. Use it for creamy soups, satisfying salads, superstar breakfasts or simple side dishes. I grew up enjoying all the squash that entered our kitchen, often adding a pat of butter and a pinch of brown sugar or a splash of pure maple syrup.

My mom served spaghetti squash with her famous meat sauce that, even though I’m not big on meat, I still cannot get enough of to this day.

Nowadays I’m a bit more adventurous in the kitchen. I add squash to casseroles, pancakes, chili, lasagna, dips and desserts.

Great gourd   

While the carb-haters out there may shun winter squash as a starchy vegetable, it packs a major nutrient punch.

A single cup of roasted butternut squash—my absolute favorite—has no fat. It offers 7 grams of fiber and only 4 grams of natural sugars.

It also has double your daily vitamin A needs, not to mention vitamins B6, C and E, as well as key minerals such as manganese, potassium (nearly 200 milligrams more than a banana) and magnesium.

Learn to love it

It may look funky, but this vegetable is quite simple: wash, cut and cook.

That’s Squash 101 in a nutshell. I promise.

If you have an innate fear of wielding a butcher knife, you may want to consider opting for the pre-chopped version available at your local supermarket freezer or canned goods section.

Your body will thank you for making squash a nutrition-packed (and tasty) staple of your diet.