I let both kids have a jelly bean – before supper! – as we gathered at my in-laws’ for Easter dinner on Saturday. Leah was just excited to have a candy, period, because she always is and loves her sweets. Paul understood the full weight of the treat: “But they have artificial colors, don’t they, Mom?” he asked, wide eyed.
“Yes, they do. Would you like one?”
He was geeked.
Results: No night waking or terrible, out of the ordinary fits Saturday or Sunday night and through Monday. The late night Saturday (bedtime after 9:30; our norm is 8/8:30) definitely affected Leah on Sunday/Monday, but nothing beyond usual 3yo girl tiredness.
Read all the posts from the “My Food is Not a Number!” series HERE.
The Easter Bunny brought only approved sweets and treats:
- Surf Sweets sent me some samples of their naturally colored, no HFCS gummies, jelly beans (new!), and sour bears to fill the kids’ eggs. I might have sampled some (don’t tell). They’re really good. You’d never know they were “healthier” candy.
- You can find Surf Sweets at a number of online retailers, including here at Amazon.
- Yummy Earth Organics suckers, available at our local health foods store (but pricey, of course).
- Larabars, which I usually make homemade, but since they were on sale for $1 each at Meijer a few weeks back, I couldn’t help but grab a few. When presented as treats, the kids are so excited to have them, and I love having a healthy, no-sugar snack available in the car.
- A few eggs were also full of chocolate chips.
- Garden clippers and seeds (from the dollar store). The Easter Bunny seemed to know that the kids are always trying to help trim old flowers, thus rendering Mom not able to work because they have her clippers. Now everyone has clippers! E.B. also picked out meaningful seeds for the kids, who were, no kidding, incredibly excited and wanted to run right out to the garden to plant!
- Their own tape (another thing E.B. noticed they were always taking from mom’s desk).
- And for Jonathan, some freeze-dried fruit from Tropical Traditions, which he got to try and thinks is pretty interesting. (This is our only dry finger food so far, since we’re sticking to no grains until he’s one! More on how we’re feeding (and not feeding) the third Kimball babe.)
What I think is great about this is that neither kid even knows the difference between the Easter Bunny’s contributions this year and regular junky candy. I’m pretty sure they don’t even know they got “good” candy in their eggs.
Grandma and Grandpa supplied plenty of junk candy to tempt us all, but I’m fairly certain that on Easter itself, the colors weren’t consumed.
But on Monday night…
Both kids joyously embraced their bags of separated candy full of “artificials” as Leah calls them. Quite literally. There was honest-to-goodness jumping up and down, and I think I may have seen one of them hug the bag.
Leah chose a Now and Later as her first treat back to food coloring and Paul had a fun sized Skittles. He had an achy foot (“growing pains”) about an hour later, which he hasn’t struggled with for quite a while. Coincidence? Wouldn’t that be interesting?
The End Game
For us, I really don’t think the colors are making a difference, but it was an interesting experiment. We definitely haven’t proven that artificial colors cause any behavioral problems in our family. The night waking I mentioned in my last post continued to happen a few times near the end of the next week, when Leah would have been completely off food colorings for two weeks (although she didn’t stay up for an hour this time, thank goodness).
Many questions have been raised in my head about these colors, and I know they’re nasty, but I’m not going to avoid them whole hog right now.
I even just used the regular egg colors that I had in my stash, although I considered trying the natural egg dyes with chlorophyll, turmeric, and beet powder. It just wasn’t meant to be when it came time to dye eggs, and I was totally comfortable with the compromise. Plus, I saved the nasty colored water to re-test the Berkey filters like this next time we clean it. I know that natural colors aren’t all that hard, but since we only used 1/3 of a box of junk colors, it cost only about $0.3o to color a dozen. The natural way, including 2 cups of blueberries and red cabbage, would have cost over $3. Plus, I had an audience of family visiting to color eggs with the kids and wanted to focus on joy and fun, not trying something new. It’s just not something I’m doing while I still have egg dye kits in the house.
There are so many other issues possible in Leah’s behavior post-grandparents’ visits: TV, general excitement, lack of sleep, different SAD food in general…or just that she’s a feisty, stubborn, 3-year-old girl with immature emotions, who, like many preschoolers do after school, lets loose once she gets home because she’s used up all her effort trying to be so “good” at Grandma’s house.
What Will We do Now?
Moving forward, I’m going to work to avoid artificial colors more than I did before, which was zero. I’m not going to get worked up about them, but I’ll choose the non-colored option when there is one and be continuously taking mental notes on behavior, night wakings, and food coloring.
I cannot emphasize enough, however, because Kitchen Stewardship is devoted to finding the balance, with budget as one of the four pillars, that buying pricey candy without artificial colors is dead last on my priorities. I would only do it if my kids actually demonstrated a problem with colors, and then only for special occasions. Like I always say about sweeteners like sucanat or coconut sugar, better to skip the candy altogether than stretch a budget to buy sweets that are only marginally better than the conventional and certainly not actually healthy.
In the end, I’m really glad we did the experiment, if nothing else because these posts inspired at least a few of you to try it in your own home – and some discovered a new child you didn’t know you had, one who had been hiding under the influence of chemicals affecting their brains. I’m so honored to have been a part of your stories, and thank you for sharing them in the comments here at KS and by email.
What did your Easter Bunny bring?
Disclosure: Surf Sweets send product samples for my review, but my opinion is wholly my own. I am an affiliate of Amazon and receive commission if you buy any item starting with one of my links – and it doesn’t cost you any more. So thanks for starting here to shop there! See my full disclosure statement here.