Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to avoid food coloring and artificial dyes in food and personal products. Maybe for a day, maybe a week, maybe all 40 days of Lent, like our family has pledged to do. If you’re wondering about their effect on you or your kids, the best way to test them out is to cut them out altogether.
I find that the best way to raise awareness of how prevalent something is in your diet is to give it up.
In 2009, I gave up white sugar for Lent. I had to learn to make my own bread and salad dressings, as it was nearly impossible to find them (on a budget, at least) without sugar or high fructose corn syrup.
In 2010, I gave up all corn and soy products (and Twitter). I knew I’d miss tortilla chips, but I had no idea corn products were in my sour cream and cottage cheese. I found better brands. I also went gluten-free for Holy Week…and I was pretty terrible at it.
In 2011, we as a family gave up all grains for the first half of Lent and all gluten for the second half (boy, were we happy to see oatmeal and rice back!). It’s amazing how prevalent gluten (and grains in general) are in our culture. I learned many new tricks for cooking and baking grain-free, including being gluten-free on vacation in Florida. Someday I’ll write about that…
This year, although we’re not exactly a household drowning in artificial food coloring since I already make pretty much everything we eat from scratch, I really felt called to tackle this subject once and for all. Until now, I’ve never really looked into the subject of yellow no. 5, red 40, and blue stuff that turns your poop green.
…That would be in reference to kids after snow cones with Grandma, in case you’re wondering how I know that!
Why Food Dyes?
I wasn’t sure how important food dyes were for the real foodie, and I still have more research to do, but I’d been thinking about the subject for several months now. I’ve heard many, many success stories from parents whose feisty children have become like new kids after cutting artificial colors from their diets. (Did you see Jennifer’s excellent introductory post on food dyes this morning? She has been thrown into the pool of “no food coloring” since her son’s rather recent diagnosis with sensory processing disorder.)
I started to wonder if my 3-year-old’s intense fits might have a solution somewhere in our diet, or if they just come when she’s too hungry, got to bed too late, woke up too early…or are quite simply a product of being a 3-year-old girl.
The nail in the coffin of the challenge for the Kimball family was when I grabbed some food coloring to test my new Berkey and noticed this:
See the parabens on the ingredient list?
Now instead of just, “These artificial things are certainly not natural and might impact children’s behavior negatively” I’ve got a hormone disruptor running rampant in my kids’ candy bags.
Time to get serious.
Do you Really have Food Coloring in your House?
Sometimes I think that others expect that because I blog about real food, our house is probably a mecca of perfectly sourced meat, only soaked and soured grains, lots of produce, fruit for dessert, and butter dripping from the walls.
If you’ve been around KS for a while, you’ll also know I’m the queen of compromise and appreciate the 80/20 rule a great deal (that you should eat awesome 80% of the time so you can slack off 20%). Our 20% consists of meals out, trips to relatives, an occasional ordered pizza, ice cream, and the candy that will not stop coming into our house.
Our kids are allowed a dessert after one meal each day, and they most often choose an item from their personal candy stash. Of course, most of it has food coloring in it, but when we compromise, we learn to look the other way (unless it’s really, really vital like artificial sweeteners – those guys don’t even come through the door!). So for a few weeks here (40 days of Lent), even the kids will be sticking with chocolate candies and Breyer’s vanilla ice cream for treats. I’m curious to see if I notice any difference.
When I brought up the concept to my husband, since clearly we all had to be joyfully on board for this one, here are the items we found that we’d have to omit:
- many candies
- many ice creams – even a dark chocolate one I was eyeing up yesterday that was dressed up to be healthier/fancier
- pickles. Yes, really.
- my husband’s shampoo – he pointed out how ridiculous it is to artificially color men’s shampoo – like he cares a whit what it looks like!
- eating out will be a challenge – which restaurants might have food dyes in their pizza sauce, ketchup, or other items? Then again, we’re going grain-free/gluten-free again anyway, so eating out is a challenge, period.
Take the Challenge
Maybe you can take one day to increase your awareness of how prevalent they are…and remember: even if they don’t seem to impact your mood or your kids’ behavior, food dyes are not food.
- Keep an Eye Out for Artificial Food Dyes
- Avoid Natural Food Dyes and Colorings
- Having Fun With Natural Food Coloring
- Do Yellow Pickles Keep You Up at Night
- I’m So Mad I’m Turning Red No.5
- Artificial Colors: The Final Update