healthy baking substitutions paula deen pumpkin bar

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

October 14, 2015 1 Comment

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?

healthy baking substitutions paula deen pumpkin bar


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1 Comment

  • Bryn Hayes September 28, 2016 at 11:58 am

    Thank you Kayla! We’re going to do this next week! I appreciate the detailed descriptions, pictures, recipes and shopping list! Thanks for sharing!

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    I’m Kayla Pins – Health and Family and Consumer Sciences teacher to high school students in rural Iowa. Welcome to my online home where I share lesson plans, activities, and inspiration with fellow teachers.


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