Acorn squash is a type of winter squash known for its sweet, nutty flavor and acorn-like shape.
If you are following the keto diet, you might be wondering whether you can enjoy this delicious vegetable without exceeding your daily carb allowance.
Unfortunately, acorn squash is not considered keto-friendly (unless consumed in very small portions), but there are a few delicious alternatives you can enjoy instead. Read on to learn more.
Acorn squash nutrition
Like most starchy vegetables, acorn squash is high in carbohydrates and low in fat and protein.
A 1 cup (205 grams) serving of baked acorn squash provides the following nutrients (1):
- Calories: 115
- Protein: 2 grams
- Fat: <1 gram
- Carbohydrates: 30 grams
- Fiber: 9 grams
- Thiamin: 0.34 mg (28% DV)
- Vitamin C: 22 mg (25% DV)
- Vitamin B6: 0.4 mg (24% DV)
- Manganese: 0.5 mg (22% DV)
- Magnesium: 88 mg (21% DV)
- Copper: 0.18 mg (20% DV)
- Pantothenic acid: 1 mg (20% DV)
- Potassium: 896 mg (19% DV)
- Niacin: 1.8 mg (11% DV)
- Iron: 1.9 mg (11% DV)
- Folate: 39 mcg (10% DV)
- Phosphorus: 92 mg (7% DV)
- Vitamin A: 43 mcg RAE (5% DV)
- Zinc: 0.4 mg (4% DV)
- Selenium: 1.4 mcg (3% DV)
- Riboflavin: 0.03 mg (2% DV)
- Calcium: 0.2 mg (<1% DV)
- Sodium: 8 mg (<1% DV)
Carbs in acorn squash
A 1-cup (205-gram) serving of cooked acorn squash contains 30 grams of carbs, 9 of which are fiber (1).
By definition, fiber can’t be digested or absorbed and therefore doesn’t increase blood glucose levels (2).
For this reason, some people following ketogenic diets calculate “net carbs” — the amount of digestible carbs in food — using the following formula:
Net carbs = total grams of carbs – total grams of fiber
This means that acorn squash has 21 grams of net carbs per 1-cup serving.
Is acorn squash keto?
Acorn squash is not very keto-friendly due to its high carb content.
Ketogenic diets typically allow for about 20-50 grams of total carbs or less than 15-30 grams net carbs per day (3).
Therefore, a 1-cup serving of acorn squash could easily cause you to exceed your daily carb allowance in a single meal.
Reducing your portion size to ½ cup of acorn squash lowers the net carbs to 10.5 grams, but this is still quite high.
Ultimately, acorn squash’s high carb content makes it a less than ideal choice for people following a ketogenic diet or other low-carbohydrate diets.
Keto-friendly acorn squash alternatives
Butternut squash, spaghetti squash, and summer squash are some of the best keto-friendly alternatives to acorn squash. Keep reading for more details.
1. Butternut squash
Butternut squash is a popular type of winter squash known for its delicious, pumpkin-like taste and ability to pair well with both sweet and savory foods.
Although very similar to acorn squash, butternut squash has a stronger, sweeter flavor and a smoother, less fibrous texture.
There are 22 grams of carbs and 7 grams of fiber (or 15 grams of net carbs) in a 1-cup (205-gram) serving of cooked butternut squash (4).
To make this keto-friendly, reduce your portion size to ½ cup of butternut squash (7.5 grams of net carbs) and pair with non-starchy vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli rabe, and cabbage.
2. Spaghetti squash
Spaghetti squash is another type of winter squash with unique pale yellow flesh that can be shredded into long, noodle-like strands.
Compared to acorn squash, spaghetti squash tends to have a milder, less sweet flavor and more moist and crunchy texture.
One cup (155 grams) of cooked spaghetti squash offers 10 grams of carbs and 2 grams of fiber (or 8 grams of net carbs) (5).
Although it looks and tastes very different, spaghetti squash makes an excellent substitute for acorn squash as a keto-friendly side dish.
3. Summer squash
Summer squash is the name for a group of squashes that have thin, tender skin and are harvested in the summer. They include zucchini, yellow crookneck squash, and pattypan squash.
Summer squash has a milder flavor with just a hint of sweetness and tends to be more moist and tender than acorn squash.
A 1-cup (180-gram) serving of cooked summer squash contains 7 grams of carbs and 2 grams of fiber (6).
With only 5 grams of net carbs, summer squash is a keto-friendly alternative to acorn squash that can be used in soups, salads, stir-fries, and side dishes.
With 22 grams of net carbs per cup, acorn squash is not a great choice for those following ketogenic or other low-carb diets.
Better alternatives include butternut squash, spaghetti squash, and summer squash, all of which are lower in carbs.
Regardless of your diet, adding more vegetables to your plate is always a good idea. With a variety of flavors and textures to choose from, there’s something delicious for everyone!
Amy Richter is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in Missouri. She is an experienced nutrition writer and medical advisor for Healthline and Medical News Today. Amy is passionate about all things food-related and enjoys translating complex science into easy-to-understand articles.