We’ve Got Spirit, Yes We Do!
We’ve got spirit…How ’bout you?
Today my thoughts are on school spirit nights, and the aftermath of eating at the chosen restaurants for some food coloring sensitive families.
My kid gets a sticker on her shirt reminding her to support her school at a local eatery, every Wednesday. She begs to go. She even does little cheer routines. I cringe at said sticker, try not to go into a long diatribe about why we can’t go, eventually agree with a fake smile, and steel myself for the 2-day sneak attacks of a crazed pod kid who looks just like mine.
No offense to the parents who plan these things, it’s just that I wish they’d throw in an all-natural or organic choice every once in a while. Then I could say “Ra-Ra-Ra!” with a genuine smile and a good feeling, knowing I’m supporting our school and my family’s additive-free lifestyle. But unfortunately, we’ve had limited choices, and even one downright bad experience. Let’s just say that this weekly event is aptly named.
A couple weeks ago we went to a local “pizza joint” and enjoyed our fairly obvious, made-in-front-of-you pizza ingredients. My daughter drank water from a new Coke machine that looked like something out of a 1950s sci-fi movie. It had a touch screen showing loads of flavored soda choices, and ONE spout. It was admittedly cool looking, but I was still careful to dump out the first cup of water that came out before serving my daughter. Meanwhile, I lost count of how many kids were returning to it for refills of their various fizzy drinks and ignoring their dinner.
My daughter was getting a little moody/sassy by the time she finished her dinner. Then we followed her little friends to the fro-yo shop next door, because, you know, you can’t NOT go get a treat when your friends are going there! (Mom!!!!) Okay so it took me 5 to10 minutes of perusing their ingredients binder to find something without artificial food coloring or flavorings. Luckily, my daughter was happily occupied with her friends and some random balloons. Finally she said she wanted chocolate, and I found *one* chocolate that was mostly okay. Then to the toppings…the employee generously brought out a box from storage to allow me to read ingredients. We enjoyed our treat in relative peace as we watched other kids run and scream in the shop. My daughter did fine until her ears appeared to stop working, and she “accidentally” bopped a balloon into a friend’s mother’s back while she was trying to help another child do homework…twice. Hey, at least she wasn’t going crazy or melting down…
Less successful was our Stevi B’s spirit night…you know the place, that chain of cheap pizza buffets that slap syrup on crusts and call it “dessert”? One brief conversation with the manager made me feel like Han Solo in the constricting trash compactor…”I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” I started by explaining that we can’t eat certain foods, and asked if they use any food coloring in any of their stuff. His facial expression immediately changed into a squinty middle-aged man version of “cat fight!!!” Uh-oh! He sneeringly said that everything they serve is made right there from scratch. I was surprised by this and asked more specifically if they use Red 40, Yellow 5, or Yellow 6 in their toppings, sauces, etc. He said no, and that he’s been cooking for 30 years – and he knows food. (???) Then I started to pay for our meals, and my 7-year old innocently and sweetly asked, “Is it organic?” I piped in that it was probably not an organic restaurant, honey (to my daughter). This was apparently too much for him. He went into some kind of snickering yet seething “let-me-tell-you-somethin-sugar” speech on how he’s been cooking for a long time and “all that gluten-free and organic stuff ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.” Oh really? Thanks for the enlightenment, jackwagon. Realizing that he probably had no idea that the marshmallows and chocolate sauce on the “desserts” were likely full of blue and red dyes, I again specified that we “have an allergy to food coloring”…at which point he just turned and busied himself dismissively.
That positively pleasant preface wasn’t the highlight of our evening, ohhh ho ho no. My daughter ate white cheese pizza, and I gave her water from the fountain drink tap. Yes, the water tap shared double-duty with the “lemonade”, but I again dumped the first full cup of water before serving her, and the “lemonade” was out of order anyways. So she calmly ate and chatted with her teacher and some buddies for a few minutes. Then it was time to check out the arcade games, and her classmates were already zooming around bouncing off the walls. Then I could see the semi-wired transformation in my kid: She seemed confused and aimless as she darted around the room, not really focusing on any one game…like Tayler’s “fuzzy brained mice” in that yellow dye maze experiment. And there it was. The claw machine. The most unfair, crooked, rip off of all token games known to kid-kind. And peeking through the front of the glass, all sad and begging, was a PINK DOLPHIN. *dreadsigh* My child is ob.sessed. with dolphins. And pink. Up to this point, my daughter was holding it together. Several rounds of mommy’s craptastic motor skills later, and she was a sobbing mess. She was howling and crying and heartbroken and angry. I had to get her home, fast. She screamed and cried allllll the way from the game area, through the dining area (WHY can’t they put the arcade near the front door? Know your exits, people!), out the front door, and all the way home.
“Spirit” night, indeed…
I want to add that my daughter’s past responses to Yellow artificial dyes include freaking out at the smallest change of plan, a feeling that the world is unfair and out to get her, emotional overload, The Screaming Weepies, and complete overwhelm. Yep.
I don’t care if we never step foot in that place again. Hell, all kids menus could stand to be improved, just in general. Some of you reading this will agree. Some of you will get hungry. I can’t tell you how many tweets I found from people who broadcast their plans, hours ahead, for ordering off the kids menu, on purpose (I hear ya, “Mr Puff A Ton”). You go, dude, more power to ya. I used to love noshing on kiddie food too, but since I’ve learned how the foods my child eats affect her behavior (and therefore, affect mama’s sanity), I now seek out healthier places and ask lots of questions.
The DFD Facebook page has become a bit of a pep rally for concerned parents who share resources and stories…we have Spirit Night every day…just sayin’. But if you’re not using Facebook or even Twitter, s’okay, here is a rundown of what’s happening -
“READY?!…O. K. !!”
Larisa posted a fantastic Fox News video of a news segment with Consumer Reports, outing manufacturers of “fruit” snacks for their blatant lies.
Brooke linked to a Mamas Against Drama blog post about one mom’s steadfast defiance against the status quo in kids’ food.
Lee Ann sent a huge news story about how Nestle UK ditched all artificial additives in their entire line of sweets and beverages, due to consumer demand. Power in our pocketbooks!
We discussed Green 3 and its possible link to bladder and testicular cancers, and shared ideas on making naturally green treats. Raising Natural Kids shared that you can use liquid chlorophyll as a green colorant. I offered that we should try to put blueberry juice in golden beer to see if it would work for a green St. Paddy’s Day toast (results coming soon!).
I shared a link to some DIY natural food coloring recipes, and there are plenty more online to be found. Sounds like a great kitchen or science experiment for engaging the kids!
Jaime and Larisa both talked about Robyn O’Brien’s TED Talk on how every person is affected by the way our food is manufactured.
Jen gave suggestions for finding additive free Chinese dumplings and noodles at Trader Joe’s, and how to make more natural doughnut holes at home with a nifty gadget.
Heather shared a recent story on the link between caramel coloring in soda and cancer.
Nicole gave us links to a couple of dye-free drink mixes here and here.
We had lots of great discussion about vegan food colors, kids’ vitamins, and annatto-related behavioral problems.
Speaking of annatto, my child started in on the eyelash yanking again yesterday after snacking on some cheddar flavored brown rice snaps from Whole Foods. The label didn’t list annatto specifically, just cheese. Lesson learned.
I found a super simple infographic that makes it easy for anyone to understand what’s wrong with food additives. It’s immensely shareable!
Another good find from Twitter: I posted a story about how school lunch burgers are made from “pink slime” beef deemed unfit for pet food…yay.
I shared a link to Jaimie Oliver’s Food Revolution toolkit for parents and school personnel who wish to make healthy changes to their school lunch programs.
While on Twitter, I found out that a dog is following @DieFoodDye…I am humbled y’all. I hope Stubby Freckle Butt (Mr. Stubbs to his friends) likes what he sees! We did welcome quite a few new human friends this week, too! Thanks for your support!
In an effort to keep this team spirit at fever pitch, and to help everyone find better places to eat out with the family, I am working on adding a discussion board to this blog site. More to come on that soon (praying nightly to the tech gods).
And you just know I’ll be chiming in on St. Patrick’s Day here soon, too.
Now to come up with an awesome cheer for all this additive free momentum we got goin’! Got any suggestions? Go ahead, you know you want to post your cheer in a comment below! Go-Go-Go!
(Not) The End
**ADDENDUM: Tonight we had another spirit night, so we gave it a try. Moe’s Southwest Grill was our favorite spirit night so far. They were engaging with my child (drew a smiley face on her queso cup and made a jalapeno face on my rice bowl, awwwww), they brought out boxes of several types of their kids meal cookies so I could read ingredient labels, and they generously offered my child extra queso since she couldn’t eat the cookies with artificial flavoring. I brought water and a Hanson’s drink mix packet, but we found out that it was way more fun to mix the packet into my San Pellegrino fizzy water – we had a little hot pink volcano in a cup. The only thing I would do differently next time is ask for white cheese in her kids quesadilla meal, just to avoid the annatto in orange cheeses. We will definitely be going back!