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Pumpkin bars are one of my most craved treats this time of year. The original recipes can be weighed down with oil, white flour and saturated fats. In my book there is always “a better way” to make everyday and seasonally loved dishes more nutritious, yet just as enjoyable.

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Okay, are you ready? Your mind is about to be blown. These bars (with cream cheese frosting) are only 140 calories per bar! Yes, are you rejoicing with me? Your quest for a healthy fall dessert has just ended my healthy friends. Pumpkin and applesauce replace the oil and butter, keeping them moist and delicious. Whole wheat flour and light cream cheese sub in for their higher fat, nutritionally insignificant counterparts.

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If you are doubting the taste I beg you to give these a try – one bite will change your outlook. A great way to involve your kids in healthy baking: scoop small amounts of frosting into sandwich size zip bags, snip the corner with scissors and let your little chefs squeeze creative frosting designs onto bars.

(I’ve listed a gluten and dairy free recipe option below. Only 140 calories too!)

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HEALTHY PUMPKIN BARS
makes 24 bars

• 4 LARGE EGGS
• 15 can 100% PURE PUMPKIN
• 1 cup APPLESAUCE, UNSWEETENED, natural
• 1 1/4 cup SUGAR (or 3/4 cup maple syrup)
• 2 cups WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR
• 2 tsp CINNAMON, GROUND
• 1/4 tsp NUTMEG, GROUND
• 1 tbsp BAKING POWDER
• 1 tsp BAKING SODA
• 1/2 tsp SALT, SEA

Cream Cheese Frosting (optional):
• 12 oz 1/3 LESS FAT CREAM CHEESE (NEUFCHATEL), softened
• 1/2 cup POWDERED SUGAR (or 1/4 c. pure maple syrup)
• 1/2 tsp PURE VANILLA EXTRACT
• 1/4 cup LIGHT SOUR CREAM

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease or spray a 9 x 13″ baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

2. Whisk first 4 ingredients (eggs, pumpkin, applesauce and sugar or maple syrup) together in a large bowl until smooth. Add dry ingredients and stir just until incorporated.

3. Pour batter into prepared dish and spread evenly. Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden brown and toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool and cut into 24 bars. Serving size: 1 bar.

4. For cream cheese frosting: beat frosting ingredients with an electric mixer until smooth (add milk if needed to thin). Spread or pipe onto cooled bars; serve or refrigerate. Garnish with sprinkle of cinnamon if desired.

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VARIATIONS: Add dark chocolate chips, raisins, orange zest, dried cranberries, chopped pecans or walnuts to batter.

NUTRITION INFO PER BAR (includes frosting): 140 calories, 4g fat, 2.5g sat fat, 45mg cholesterol, 230mg sodium, 20g carb, 2g fiber, 12g sugar, 4g protein

PRINT RECIPE – PDF
*recipe adapted from Fitness At Home blog

Sorry I don’t have a picture of the gluten free version. I ate them too quickly – can you blame me?

GRAIN FREE PUMPKIN BREAD or BARS
gluten & dairy free (and diabetic friendly)
makes 8 slices

• 1 cup ALMOND FLOUR
• 1/4 tsp SALT, SEA
• 1/2 tsp BAKING SODA
• 3/4 cup PURE PUMPKIN (canned or homemade)
• 1 1/2 tbsp CINNAMON, GROUND
• 1 tbsp PUMPKIN PIE SPICE
• 2 tbsp HONEY (or to taste)
• 3 LARGE EGGS
• 10 DROPS LIQUID STEVIA, or 1-2 packets powder (or use 1-2 T. extra honey)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease or spray an 9 x 5″ loaf or 8″ x 8″ baking pan (I made mine into bread and haven’t tried the bar method yet).

2. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and add wet ingredients, stir just until combined. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 25-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove from pan and cool on a baking rack. Slice into 8 pieces, serving size 1 slice or bar (see dairy free whipped cream topping tutorial/recipe below). Wrap tightly and store in refrigerator or freezer.

NUTRITION INFO PER SERVING: 140 calories, 9g fat, 1g sat fat, 80mg cholesterol, 170mg sodium, 11g carb, 3g fiber, 6g sugar,6g protein</em

PRINT RECIPE – PDF (gluten free version)
*recipe adapted from the Barefoot Cook

DAIRY/GLUTEN FREE WHIPPED CREAM – Here is a great tutorial and recipe for dairy free whipped cream (good replacement for cream cheese frosting) using a can of coconut milk. Add a little cinnamon and sweetener of choice to top your pumpkin bread/bars! http://ohsheglows.com/2012/08/30/coconut-whipped-cream-a-step-by-step-photo-tutorial/

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