In praise of spaghetti squash

The biggest single thing that’s made being on a diet bearable is spaghetti squash. It is a dieter’s dream food.

A spaghetti squash is an unassuming-looking yellow vegetable, roughly watermelon-shaped, generally around five pounds. Inside, the flesh is made up of pale yellow strands, which from a distance look like spaghetti noodles. (Some people say it even tastes a bit like egg noodles.) You can use it the same way you’d use noodles: mix in some vegetables or chicken, top it with some sauce, or make a light vinaigrette and use it in a salad. But unlike real noodles, it is extremely low in calories: an 8-ounce serving, which can easily serve as the main course of a meal, is only 75 calories. Yep, that’s right, only 150 calories a pound and you can eat it like pasta.

It is a winter squash, meaning it has a long shelf life as long as it’s kept in relatively cool temperatures. I keep it on my kitchen counter out of direct sunlight and have never had one go bad, even after sitting there for a month.

Cooking it couldn’t be easier: poke a hole in it with a fork and bake it at 400 degrees F for an hour or 375 degrees for 40 minutes if you have a convection oven. Let it sit on the counter for a half-hour or so to cool down, then split it open. Scoop out the seeds and the connective tissue they’re attached to. Then scrape out the flesh with a fork, and before you know it you’ll have what looks like a big bowl full of noodles.

Here’s one simple way I eat it at work; I can prepare a batch of the ingredients once a week, and it takes just a few minutes to slap together in the morning before I leave. At only 150 calories for a good-sized portion, I can bring a couple servings with me and have plenty to eat at my desk without blowing my calorie budget.

8 oz spaghetti squash (75 calories)
1/4 cup marinara sauce or other tomato-based sauce (30 calories)
1 oz chopped grilled chicken breast (45 calories)

When I’m ready to eat it, I mix it all up in a microwave-safe container and nuke it for about a minute and 20 seconds.

This site has some more elaborate recipes and some photos.

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