Practice Healthy Baking Substitutions with a Paula Deen Recipe Overahaul | Family and Consumer Sciences Foods Lab

healthy baking substitutions family and consumer sciences lab paula deen pumpkin bar recipe overhaul

When searching for a recipe to use for my healthy substitutions lab, I couldn’t resist one from Paula Deen. Even students who aren’t Food Network junkies know that Paula Deen is synonymous with high-fat, indulgent recipes.

I edited the original recipe slightly by halving it (it’s only a tasting lab afterall) and changing the melted butter to oil. (A cost-saving choice.) We also used freshly roasted pumpkin instead of canned, left over from our healthy plant-based protein snack demonstration.


I re-wrote more versions of the recipe: High fiber, low sugar, low fat, and total overhaul. One kitchen was assigned the original and each of the other four were given a healthy substitute to try.

I usually don’t require a mise en place (preparing all ingredients before mixing), but it is especially important for this lab. Usually mistakes are viewed as learning experiences, but in this lab it could throw off our experiment’s results!
paula deen pumpkin bars original recipe healthy baking substitutions

The original recipe calls for two whole eggs, 3/4 C sugar, 1/2 C oil, 3/4 C pumpkin, and 1 C white all purpose flour.


The added fiber version replaces one of the eggs with a “flax egg” or 1 heaping tablespoon ground flax seeds mixed with 1/4 C water. One-half of the all-purpose flour is replaced with whole wheat flour. The other ingredients remain the same.


The low sugar version is the same as the original but with only 1/4 C sugar.

I missed a picture of the low-fat version. But it replaced the two whole eggs with three egg whites, reduced the oil to 1/4 C, and and increased the pumpkin to one whole cup.


The total overhaul version takes a little bit from each recipe. Half of the flour is whole grain, two eggs are replaced with 3 egg whites, pumpkin is increased to one whole cup, oil is cut in half, and there is only 1/2 C sugar instead of the 3/4 in the original recipe.

To evaluate the recipes, students drew five columns on a paper towel. I scrambled the numbers of the recipes so that students couldn’t easily guess which recipe was which.

evaluate healthy baking substitutions lab

After tasting students voted with a tally on a table drawn on an overhead transparency:

  • Which pumpkin bar was your favorite?
  • Which pumpkin bar do you think was the original?
  • Which pumpkin bar do you think was the most healthy?

Give it a try with your students, but here are our results:

Even after repeating this experiment with the staff, the low-fat version was overwhelmingly the favorite. It was most often picked as the favorite and as the original. Many people chose the high-fiber version as their favorite even though they knew it wasn’t the original. And many people chose the total overhaul as their favorite.

The point of the experiment is this: If you can’t tell the difference between a high-fat baked good and one with low-fat substitutions, and if more than 50% of people actually prefer the low fat version, why not try healthy baking substitutions more often?

This is one of my very favorite labs to do with students and teachers can learn a lot from it too.

Here is a link to my materials. You will find a copy of each of the recipes and a grocery list. The recipes are not labeled in the materials, so remember:

  1. Original
  2. Added fiber
  3. Reduced sugar
  4. Reduced fat
  5. Overhaul

I hope you enjoy this lab as much as we did! What are your favorite ways to teach healthy baking substitutions?

How to Roast a Pumpkin for Healthy Snacks and Baking

During our Nutrition unit I demonstrate how to roast a fresh pumpkin. We enjoy the roasted seeds as a healthy plant based protein snack during our video on vegetarianism and save the flesh for our healthy baking substitutions lab.


It’s easy to do!

Select a small pumpkin from the grocery section… Not a decorative pumpkin! Last year the pumpkins were nearly impossible to cut. We were later informed that the grocery store sprayed pumpkins with a laquer. Great for decorating- not for eating! Our pumpkins this year came from a local farm. You can still roast the seeds out of big pumpkins used for carving but the flesh will be bitter.

Preheat your oven to 400 F.

Remove the stem. Do this by rolling the pumpkin onto the stem and it will easily snap off.

Sharpen your knife, sharpen it again, and cut the pumpkin cleanly in half.

Use a spoon to scoop out the “guts” of the pumpkin into a small bowl.

Run some cold water into the small bowl which makes it easier to separate the seeds from the “gunk.” Put the seeds in a colander and the gunk in the compost.


Spin a paper towel around your colander to remove as much water as possible.

Spray a rimmed baking sheet with cooking oil spray. Spread the seeds out on the sheet in a thin layer and spray again. Sprinkle with desired seasonings. We liked Cajun seasoning and have enjoyed brown sugar and cinnamon in the past.


Bake the seeds on the top rack in your oven for 15-20 minutes or until crispy. Allow to cool, then enjoy!


Meanwhile, spray the inside of the hollowed-out pumpkins with a cooking oil spray. Place face down on another baking sheet and cook on the bottom rack of your oven for about 40 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork.

After the pumpkin has cooled a bit, remove the outer skin of the pumpkin. Use a stick blender to puree, or use a regular blender in batches. The pureed pumpkin can be used in place of canned pumpkin in any recipe. We use ours in our healthy baking substitutions lab, which I will post about later this week.

I hope you enjoy this recipe with your students!

Paula Deen Pumpkin Bars Healthy Overhaul

PumpkinsNo Paula Deen recipe would be complete without lots of added fat! That’s why this pumpkin bar recipe from Food Network made such a great subject for our healthy substitutions lab.

This lab works great with five student groups.  Each kitchen makes a different recipe. The recipes in my materials are not labeled, so refer to the following list:

  1. Original recipe
  2. Add fiber with whole wheat flour and ground flax seeds
  3. Cut sugar and add extra flavor with cinnamon
  4. Cut fat by reducing oil using egg whites
  5. Overhaul: Use all of the healthful substitutes in a single recipe

View My Materials

Whenever I’m trying “healthy” versions of recipes students can usually pick out the original.  I give them this scenario:

Imagine you walk into Mentors (homeroom) and your teacher has prepared pumpkin bars for you and your classmates.  Do you say “No thank you, those are far too healthy,” or do you say, “YES! FOOD!”

Every high school student I know says “YES! FOOD!” I never have to worry about leftovers. 🙂