While each of us may have different desserts come to mind when we think about autumn, we can all agree that a pumpkin dessert would be somewhere near the top of most everybody's list — especially pumpkin pie. (What Thanksgiving table would be complete without it?) But if you take a look at the recipe on the back of the pumpkin puree can, one slice of pie serves up a whopping 20 grams of sugar, which will wreck your daily allowance. According to the American Heart Association, the maximum amount of added sugars you should consume in a day is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. (For the record, "added sugar" refers to sugars put in foods during preparation or processing, as opposed to naturally occurring sugars such as those found in fruit or milk.)
So how can you have your cake (or pie) and eat it too? Fear not, there are plenty of ways to enjoy your favorite fall treats while keeping those sugar numbers down. Check out these seven delicious, easy-to-make pumpkin recipes made with whole foods and better-for-you sweeteners like dates, coconut sugar and monk fruit sweetener. The best part? Each dessert has less than 10 grams of total sugar per serving.
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1. Individual Pumpkin Pies
Let's start with that pumpkin pie. We cut the amount of sugar found in the recipe in half and replaced granulated sugar with coconut sugar. Coconut sugar is the boiled and dehydrated sap of the coconut palm and contains trace amounts of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. It also ranks much lower on the glycemic index than refined sugar like regular table sugar (35 versus 60 to 75). Foods high on the glycemic index cause your blood sugar to spike, which can lead to that infamous "sugar rush" and subsequent crash.
That said, all sweets should be consumed in moderation, and we've made these treats a little smarter (thanks to the muffin tin) by serving them as individual portions, so you'll know when to stop.
Recipe and Nutritional Info: Individual Pumpkin Pies
2. Pumpkin Carob-Chip Cookies
Who doesn't love a chocolate-chip cookie? And there's so much more to enjoy with this better-for-you vegan version. To start, coconut sugar, which contains trace amounts of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, replaces the table sugars found in the traditional recipe.
Carob chips are made from the syrup processed from carob pods and provide a chocolate-like feel and flavor with less calories. Unlike chocolate chips, carob chips are caffeine-free, contain three times the calcium and are naturally rich in a number of nutrients and antioxidants.
Recipe and Nutritional Info: Pumpkin Carob-Chip Cookies
3. Pumpkin-Pie Freezer Fudge
Healthy fudge? Yes, please. This decadent, vegan and gluten-free one-bowl fudge takes all of five minutes to whip up in your food processor and is guaranteed to fly off your holiday table. The secret? Unsweetened coconut. If you've only ever used the sticky, presweetened stuff in your baking, you're in for a real treat because raw coconut is naturally sweet and rich in fiber and minerals.
Recipe and Nutritional Info: Pumpkin-Pie Freezer Fudge
4. Pumpkin Mousse
This no-bake mousse is a busy baker's dream. Aside from the ingredients, you only need one bowl to make this dessert, and it can be made up to two days in advance. It also serves a crowd, making it perfect for holiday gatherings. And while you could certainly serve it up in a big bowl and help yourself, these simple wonton cups help keep portion size under control.
Recipe and Nutritional Info: Pumpkin Mousse
5. Pumpkin Peanut Butter Cups
These vegan and gluten-free pumpkin peanut butter cups are a perfect example of how easy it is to dial down the added sugar without sacrificing an ounce of flavor. Instead of using presweetened chocolate, the shells are created by combining melted coconut oil with unsweetened cocoa powder. This allows you to add just the right amount and type of sweetener you want.
Naturally sweet pumpkin pairs beautifully with peanut butter, but you can substitute your choice of nut or seed butter. Make an extra batch to stash them in the freezer long after the holidays are gone for whenever a snack attack strikes.
Recipe and Nutritional Info: Pumpkin Peanut Butter Cups
6. Pumpkin Spice Latte Energy Bites
Skip the coffee shop and make your own PSL treat at home — and a better one for you too. Both vegan and gluten-free, these energy bites are a perfect post-workout, lunchbox or midmorning treat that get their sweetness from pitted dates.
Naturally sweet dates are a low glycemic index food that is full of fiber, vitamins and minerals and are a perfect substitute for the added sugar found in many packaged "bites." Cacao nibs add crunch and a subtle chocolate flavor without any added sugar, while instant espresso powder and pumpkin pie spice deliver the taste of everyone's favorite fall drink.
Recipe and Nutritional Info: Pumpkin Spice Latte Energy Bites
7. Pumpkin Swirl Brownies
Better-for-you brownies are just one bowl and less than 10 minutes away. To start, unsweetened cocoa powder provides all the chocolaty goodness you would expect in a proper brownie and allows you to control the amount and type of sweetener you would like to add. We used honey, but feel free to use maple syrup, molasses, dates or monk fruit sweetener if you prefer.
And coconut flour is the superior alternative to all-purpose flour. Coconut flour is gluten-free, higher in fiber and protein and has healthy fats compared to wheat flour. And to make these brownies even better, canned pumpkin is rich in fiber, minerals and vitamins (especially vitamin A), in addition to providing a pop of pretty color when swirled into the batter.
Recipe and Nutritional Info: Pumpkin Swirl Brownies