Gluten-Free Pumpkin Bars

While in search of a different, delicious breakfast one morning this fall, I accidentally created a new breakfast bar recipe. And because it's fall - and because I'm a white middle class millennial woman - this means it includes pumpkin.

Gluten Free Pumpkin Bars from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com

Despite my love for breaking clichés, I have to admit that I, too, succumb to the pumpkin fanaticism. Pumpkin is not only delicious in so many ways, but it's also really good for you (check out my recipe for Pumpkin Spice Granola and learn why!).

Pumpkin also happens to lend itself as a great way to sneak a vegetable into breakfast. And I love breakfast. But not everybody (or every diet fad) does.

The Breakfast Controversy

Somehow, I often come back to the topic of breakfast. It's popularly known as the most important meal of the day, but recent diet trends such as Intermittent Fasting having unearthed the question of how necessary (or indeed healthy) it is for all of us to eat first thing in the morning. I've even previously written about this topic: Is Breakfast Really the Most Important?

So before I share with you how to make the delightful pumpkin-y treats, let's explore the pros and cons of MY favorite meal of the day.

Gluten Free Pumpkin Bars from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com

Pro-Breakfast Arguments

Reason #1: "I'm Hungry"

If you're hungry, you should eat. Hunger is the beautiful, natural way our bodies tell us when they need fuel. After an overnight fast, your body has used up most of its glucose stores, so it's a great thing to be hungry when you wake up.

Unless, of course, your name is Patrick, in which case you have to deal with me waking you up early on the weekend because I'm so hungry I can't sleep in. It's a tough life for him.

Reason #2: Fuel for your Body

For most of us, we are most active - in mind and body - during the day. Whether it's work or play, simply being awake and moving around burns calories. This also happens to be the time when it's easiest to ignore the body's hunger cues. If you're busy on a project, you might skip lunch. If you're late for work, you might run out the door in the morning without grabbing anything.

Unfortunately this can lead to an imbalance in hunger; by the end of the day when you sit down to rest and relax, you find you're starving and want to eat everything in sight (especially things with lots of calories!). Being hungry is the worst state in which to try and make healthy eating choices!

 Breakfast bar batter

Breakfast bar batter

Anti-Breakfast Arguments

Reason #1: "I'm Not Hungry"

Not everyone needs to eat as soon as their feet touch the ground in the morning. If you do better with brunch at 10am as opposed to breakfast at 8:00, who am I to judge?

All too often clients tell me they're worried about slowing their metabolism if they skip breakfast - but that's just not what the science says. If you're not hungry, don't eat! (Read more about the science behind Intermittent Fasting.) But if skipping breakfast throws you into the late-night-snacking, go-to-bed-too-full cycle, it might be worth re-evaluating the value of breakfast in your own routine.

Reason #2: Questionable Quality?

One of the (many) reasons there isn't clear consensus as to whether or not breakfast is good for you is because quality of breakfast varies widely. Consider the difference between a bowl of Frosted Flakes vs. 2 eggs with sauteed greens and a side of fresh berries. One of those breakfasts enhances the overall quality of the diet while the other is basically just dessert disguised as breakfast food.

 I eat my breakfast bars like cereal - with milk!

I eat my breakfast bars like cereal - with milk!

The Bottom Line

As a pumpkin-spice-drinking millennial, let me tell you the clichéd bottom line: You do you!

You SHOULDN'T eat breakfast if:

  • You're not hungry in the morning

  • Skipping breakfast doesn't have any effect on your appetite later in the day

  • You eat >1,000 calories at breakfast (unless you're doing some serious exercise or not eating much later in the day)

You SHOULD eat breakfast if:

  • You're hungry

  • You burn lots of calories with physical activity early in the day

  • You find yourself starving and snacking all evening because you haven't fueled well during the day

  • You choose high quality foods (fruits, veggies, lean proteins, whole grains)

 Coarsely chopped pecans

Coarsely chopped pecans

Of course, all of this nutrition stuff is hard to wade through. If you'd like to talk more about how these nutrition recommendations apply to you, consider setting up a Complimentary Get-to-Know-You nutrition consultation session with me.

In the meantime, let me share with you this accidentally delicious, really-pretty-healthy recipe for Gluten-Free Pumpkin Bars. I originally called them "breakfast bars," but you can eat them whenever you want to!

 Freshly baked Pumpkin Bars!

Freshly baked Pumpkin Bars!

Start by coarsely chopping two cups of pecans and add them to a large mixing bowl. Stir in four cups old-fashioned oats, 1 cup (packed) brown sugar, one and a half teaspoons baking powder, two teaspoons cinnamon, and a half teaspoon each of nutmeg and ground cloves.

Meanwhile in a microwave safe bowl, melt once cup of butter in the microwave for about 30 seconds until very soft. Add butter and a can (14.5 oz) of pumpkin to the dry ingredients and mix well.

Prepare a 9 x 13-inch baking dish by spraying with cooking spray, then add batter to the dish and smooth with a spatula until evenly distributed.

Bake at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes, until bars spring back when touched lightly but are still very soft. Enjoy them hot, at room temperature, or (if you're weird like me) like cereal with milk poured over the top.

Enjoy!

Gluten Free Pumpkin Bars from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Bars

Ingredients

  • 2 c. pecans

  • 4 c. old fashioned oats (choose gluten-free if you’re baking for your Celiac friends!)

  • 1 c. brown sugar, packed

  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

  • 2 tsp. cinnamon

  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg

  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves

  • 1 c. unsalted butter

  • 1 can (14.5 oz) pumpkin

Instructions

  1. Coarsely chop pecans and add to a large mixing bowl. Stir in oats, brown sugar, baking powder, and spices.

  2. In a microwave safe bowl, melt butter in the microwave for about 30 seconds until very soft.

  3. Add butter and pumpkin to the dry ingredients and mix well.

  4. Prepare a 9 x 13-inch baking dish by spraying with cooking spray, then add batter to the dish and smooth with a spatula until evenly distributed.

  5. Bake at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes, until bars spring back when touched lightly but are still very soft. Allow to cool, then slice into 16 pieces.

Serves 16 - Serving Size 1 bar - Nutrients per serving:  340 calories -- 23g total fat -- 8g saturated fat -- 0g trans fat -- 31mg cholesterol -- 12mg sodium -- 38g total carbohydrates -- 6g fiber -- 14g sugar -- 4g protein

Printable Recipe