Americans have expanded their Thanksgiving repertoire in recent years. While many of us have fond childhood memories of the classic Sweet Potato Bake studded with miniature marshmallows, our adult tastes now run more toward organic Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Apples with Pecan Streusel Topping or Curried Sweet Potato.

In recent years, winter squash has replaced sweet potatoes on many Thanksgiving tables. The two are interchangeable in many recipes (see Candied Butternut Squash and Butternut Squash Soup with Sage), and both veggies contain high levels of cancer-fighting carotenoids.

The beauty of winter squash is its many varieties, flavors and preparations. Registered dietitian Karen Collins, nutrition adviser for the American Institute for Cancer Research, offers the following tips:

  • Acorn squash is small, with a very hard rind. Your best bet is to cut it in half and bake it, without peeling it. Season with pumpkin-pie spices like cinnamon and nutmeg.
  • Butternut squash is sweet and moist, with a slightly nutty flavor. The skin is easy to peel, and you can roast cubes or add chunks to a soup or stew.
  • Buttercup squash has a sweet flavor, but it can be dry. Use it in moist dishes to avoid drowning it in butter.
  • Large squashes (like Hubbard) are also delicious and will provide lots of leftovers. Use what you need now, and freeze cooked cubes or purée.
  • Spaghetti squash is a little lower in calories, fiber, and nutrients like vitamin C and potassium. Its preparation is unique, as strands of cooked squash are pulled from the flesh with a fork. As the name implies, it’s often served like pasta.

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