Dietitian Guide to Zucchini

Dietitian Guide to Zucchini

A summer-staple, zucchini can be used in a variety of dishes from sweet to savory. Get all you need to know about this summer squash. 

About zucchini 

Originally from northern Italy, this green squash is thought to have become popular in America by Italian immigrants. 

While the U.S., Australia, Sweden, Germany, and some parts of Canada refer to it as “zucchini,” in other parts of the world you may hear it called “courgette.”

Regardless of what you call it, zucchini is a summer-staple that’s become even more popular thanks to low-carb diet recipes such as zoodles, pizza crust and boats. 

Nutritional benefits of zucchini 

Zucchini is a good source of many vitamins and minerals, while being low in calories, fat, and carbohydrates. 

One cup cooked provides: 

  • 17 calories
  • <1 gram fat
  • 1 gram protein
  • 3 grams carb
  • 1 gram fiber and sugar
  • 40% of your daily needs for vitamin A
  • 10-16% of your daily needs for manganese, vitamin C, potassium and magnesium. 

They’re also a good source of antioxidants, specifically carotenoids, which can help with eye, skin, and heart health. 

How to select

In general, smaller zucchini will have a better flavor. However, regardless of size, look for ones that are firm, free of bruising, a vibrant green color, and a good chunk of the stem still in tact. 

What’s the difference between zucchini and yellow squash? 

Piled zucchini and yellow squash

Both are considered summer squashes as, you guessed it, they are in season during the summer. 

They also have mild flavors, soft textures, and are slightly sweet. The main differences are simply the color and shape. 

Zucchinis are usually green and have a straight shape. While yellow squash tends to have a fat bottom that tapers towards the neck. 

The bottom line: in most recipes you can sub one out for the other as long as color doesn’t matter.

The one exception would be zucchini boats, which wouldn’t work quite as well with shape of yellow squash. 

How to store

To store, keep zucchini whole and unwashed.

Store them in a plastic bag with one end open to allow for circulation, and pop that bag in the crisper drawer of your fridge.

When stored properly, zucchini can keep for up to 2 weeks. Just note that the skin will start to shrivel over time. 

How to blanch zucchini for long-term storage

If you have a large batch from a CSA box that you know you won’t use up in time, you can also blanch and freeze this green squash.

To do this, simply slice the zucchini into ½-inch rounds and place in a pot of boiling salted water for 1-2 minutes (or until slightly tender).  Drain and then place the slices in a bowl of ice water. 

Once cool, pat dry and place blanched slices in freezer bags. Blanched zucchini slices should last for about 3 months in the freezer. 

How to use in cooking and baking

Healthy homemade meat sauce over zucchini noodles

How to removing moisture from zucchini

As zucchini has a high water content, most recipes work best if you get some of that moisture out before cooking or baking. 

For sweet dishes where it’s shredded, simply squeeze the shredded zucchini with clean paper towels a few times . You can also place it in a sieve and use the back of a spoon to squeeze out the extra moisture. 

For savory dishes, slice the squash and place on a paper towel. Lightly sprinkle salt over the slices and let them sit for 15 minutes.

This will help draw some of the moisture out. After 15 minutes, press with a paper towel and then continue with your recipe.

Healthy zucchini recipes

Due to its mild flavor, zucchini is a highly versatile ingredient. These are just some of my favorite ways to use it: 

  • Slice and saute with spices or marinades to add to grain bowls or stir-frys
  • Cut into slices or french-fry-shapes, toss with parmesan cheese, oil, and lemon juice, then roast for a delicious snack or side dish
  • Chop and add to baked pastas, casseroles, and sheet pan dinners
  • Spiralize to use as a noodle replacement
  • Cut in half and stuffed for zucchini boats
  • Shredded and added to pancakes, waffles, quick breads (like this chocolate one or my high-protein recipe), muffins, and other desserts 

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About Kelli McGrane Headshot

I’m Kelli MS, RD, and my mission is to prove that eating healthier doesn’t have to be complicated or restrictive. Follow along to learn more about food and cooking, with an emphasis on breakfast and sweet treats!

About Kelli McGrane Headshot

Welcome to The Healthy Toast!

Here you’ll find realistic healthy recipes designed by a registered dietitian with your busy lifestyle in mind.

Whether you’re a busy professional or new mom, the goal of The Healthy Toast is to provide you with the recipes and nutrition info you need to live your healthiest life, even when life gets crazy. As I’m a firm believer in a whole-foods, non-diet approach, I hope my website shows that good nutrition doesn’t have to be complicated or restrictive. 

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