The Pumpkin Muffins That Made Me a Liar

Pumpkin muffins

The Pumpkin Muffins That Made Me a Liar

As parents when we want to convince our kids to eat new foods it seems natural to extol their health benefits.

“Jicama is soooo fun to eat–and full of fiber!”

“Milk will help fill your tummy and build strong bones!”

“Plain yogurt is the best–none of those nasty added sugars!”

Sounds enticing to me, but it turns out that kids are not impressed. A 2014 study found that children are actually less likely to eat a food if they have been told how healthy it is. Just like a kid, right?

I witnessed this very phenomenon with my own eyes a few days ago. Saturday morning I baked pumpkin chocolate chip muffins adapted from a quick bread recipe in The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion. I switched up the method a bit, subbed in some whole wheat flour, cut the sugar, and trimmed the amount of chocolate chips. The result was delicious — tender, still sweet, and very pumpkin-y.

Rosa took a bite and immediately loved them. I was so pleased that, as she continued to eat, I excitedly began ticking off my recipe tweaks. “I used whole wheat flour! I trimmed the sugar!” … Her face fell, and I could tell, instantly, that she was beginning to rethink her affection for these muffins. I immediately switched gears, saying, “But, I increased the amount of chocolate chips!”

“Ah!” she said. “That’s why they taste so good. And more chocolate chips makes up for the sugar you cut, right?” Yes, I nodded. Yes.

Actually, no, since in reality I also cut the amount of chocolate chips. So, yup, I lied. I lied. And I’m still feeling a little weird about it. I’m not one of those moms who hides food or sneaks veggies. I believe in telling kids there is spinach in their smoothie or cauliflower in their mac ‘n’ cheese so they learn to like veggies. But I did not think twice about fibbing about these muffins. I knew she liked them, and I wasn’t about to let her built-in prejudice for “healthy” foods dissuade her from enjoying them for breakfast every day this week.

In the end, I got some fantastic pumpkin muffins and real-world confirmation that selling a food’s nutritional benefits to kids (at least my kid) is probably counter-productive.

Have you ever lied to your kids about what they’re eating? Please don’t mention this blog post to Rosa.


Adapted from The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion.

This recipe makes a lot of muffins: two dozen, plus six baked donuts. I am a little obsessed with baked donuts; one of my favorite photos in Real Baby Food accompanies the Zucchini and Carrot Donuts recipe.I use this pan from Wilton. Depending on how many tins you have, muffin or otherwise, you may need to bake in batches. 

2 1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 cup canola oil

1 3/4 cup sugar

4 large eggs

1 15 oz. can pumpkin

2/3 cup water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup chopped pecans

Scant 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line two muffin tins with paper liners.
  2. In a medium bowl whisk together the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg.
  3. In a large bowl whisk together the canola oil, sugar, eggs, pumpkin, water, and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir just until combined. Stir in the pecans and chocolate chips.
  4. Divide the batter between the muffin cups, filling each about 2/3 full. Bake until a muffin top springs back when you gently press it, about 20-22 minutes. (Or use a toothpick.) Let cool in the pan for a few minutes, then remove the muffins to cool on a wire rack. Repeat with remaining batter if necessary.

These muffins keep well at room temperature for up to three days and freeze beautifully, so don’t be afraid to make a large batch.

Real Baby Food 

Jenna Helwig