Traditions That Make Your Kid Blue – Avoiding Food Coloring All Year
There are so many occasions that beckon us to bond and celebrate with colorful food. Food and fellowship have been connected since the first time a Neanderthal shared his bison hocks with his cute neighbor two caves down. Thankfully, these days we have lots of healthy options to help us avoid mammoth saddlebags, feral freakouts, and caveman crash.
There are times when my child acts like a Neanderthal, I have to admit – especially after she has eaten something with food coloring (see our story in Why I’m Over This Rainbow). And it’s everywhere – the eerily blue bank drive-through lollipop, the pediatrician’s dum-dum stash, the dentist office treasure chest (really?), the fruit salad and ice cream bars in school lunches (more on school lunches soon).
We just have to read food labels, ask questions, and bring replacements everywhere we go. It’s hardest to address when either 1) you don’t know about it – like when our old school ironically gave out candy rewards to kids who were quiet at pick-up time (thanks!) – or 2) when it’s at a special gathering such as birthday parties and holiday feasts. Luckily our current school does not use food for rewards, they do not have in-class birthday parties, and they ask each parent to provide their own child’s daily snacks.
No celebration in class? Party pooper, you say? Trust me, they celebrate…just without cupcakes, allergic reactions, and meltdowns. And we don’t want to deny our kid any opportunity to bond with her community. At the school’s ice cream social, we brought a quart of dye-free ice cream, Smarties (the ones that look like M&Ms), and dye-free “Sprinklz”. Our child was served just like everyone else, she LOVED it, and we left the remainder of the quart for other kids to choose. This is also a way to inform the PTA of this little-known subject. Ours was very receptive and helpful.
Friends’ birthday parties mean cake, goody bags, colorful drinks, and more cake. I honestly don’t know how we’ll handle the next friend’s birthday party, as I’ve yet to concoct that magic elixir that erases The Crazies (will keep you posted on that one – might need to administer it to myself first, as a test, in a sterile brown paper bag.). We bring Trader Joe’s organic lollies and dye-free fruit gummies to friends’ parties, which seem to go FAST. Our child had a blast at a recent Halloween party and didn’t feel deprived. For our own party, we’ll either have a cake and quarts of gelato made at Whole Foods bakery, or we’ll get a sample of their natural food dye to make our own (just ask, they may give you enough to make gorgeous frosting in a tiny covered cup). Other dye-free options are India Tree dyes, Chefmaster Natural Food Coloring, Chocolate Craft, Seelect, Maggie’s Naturals, and a few Wilton’s “decorator icings”.
Luckily we live in a big city with tons of food options for every need. Here in “The City Of Festivals,” we seek out vendors such as King Of Pops (mostly organic handmade popsicles) and natural bakeries. When we travel to major vacation destinations like Disney World, we bring snacks from home (heretofore untried treats make a special surprise), and dye-free flavor packets for our reusable water bottles. And we avoid those brightly decorated candy shops near the front entrance like the plague. Honestly, if you just try to avoid sugary snacks then you’re probably automatically reducing your petroleum food coloring intake, and that’s a good thing.
What about holiday feasts? How do you avoid feeling like the Grinch when your dye-sensitive kid wants to partake in that traditional “roast beast feast”? Nasty chemicals have infiltrated our culture to such an extent, that they can be found in every facet of our holiday merry-making: Mashed potato mixes, gravies, stuffing mixes, sauces, breads, imitation vanilla extract, canned peas, chips, croutons, crackers, dips, sausages, salad dressings, soups, desserts, candy, beer, liquors, soda, coffee creamers, fruit juices, and tea. Try to buy “pure” vanilla extract, for example, because its evil twin, “imitation” vanilla extract has a chemical related to propylene glycol – more commonly known as antifreeze (at least your cake won’t overheat, freeze up, or rust!).
My friend Heather recently purged her spice cabinet, and shared some surprising results. Heather wrote,
“Making chili! Reached for the “chili powder” and had two choices. One is made of spices, the other is made of chemicals. Grrrrr. One says chili powder and HAS NO CHILI POWDER. I was surprised I even had that in my cabinet. And the worst part is that at some point, I used it. Blech. Purged my spice cabinet and threw out some creole seasoning, some BBQ stuff, and a thing mysteriously labeled ‘spice blend’ that was made of sugar, corn, preservatives, salt and coloring. Luckily I hadn’t even opened that one (probably a gift). I don’t have a MSG problem, so I’m not used to having to read lables on my freakin’ spices!! On a positive note, the bulk pumpkin pie spice I bought for 65 cents was really made of spices! ”
It may seem daunting, but health food stores are making it easier than ever to provide an all natural feast for your family. Whole Foods has a more affordable store brand called “365”, and coupons on their web site. You can also find coupons for more common healthy foods at MamboSprouts.com, if you don’t have a specialty store nearby. Many cities and states also offer double value on food stamp programs for anything purchased at farmer’s markets. Join a local CSA for some great deals on locally-grown vegetables and fruits. Bookmark my “Badditives” shopping list on your smart phone, or print it out and write notes about products you consider acceptable.
Oh, and after all that partyin’, you’ll need some relief. I recently threw out my bottle of petroleum dyed TUMS, and was left wondering what to do next. It turns out that there are some ways to combat an icky stomach naturally, without food coloring side effects. Expectant mothers swear by all natural papaya extract. Grannies swear by apple cider vinegar with water, and baking soda with water. If you have more natural home remedies to share, please leave them in a comment!
Here’s hoping your holidays are “bright”, but in the good kinda way.
Fah-Who For-es, my friends.
Do you have any dye-free recipes to share for special occasions? E-mail me at admin[at]diefooddye[dot]com and I’ll post them up on the site with your name!
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