We have had a lot of friends ask about this. As most of our friends know, my son has ADHD. Now, it's not "scientifically proven" that food dies cause his ADHD, BUT we do know that some dyes more than other push his behaviors over the edge. So, in the spirt of ADHD Awareness Month, I'm going to post about this.
Now, I am going to be honest with you. We are not 100% clean eaters. We do "occasionally" have food dyes. By occasional, I mean, we let birthday celebrations and other special occasions go. We try to avoid the dyes we know trigger his behaviors more than others. For example: Red 40 is not our friend. So, instead of getting the slice of cake that chocolate with red and black frosting all over it, we opt for a white piece of cake with white frosting or any color other than anything that would contain red, like yellow, blue, green. It's not easy and you almost need an art degree in color theory to remember that red + blue = purple and red + yellow = orange. So, with holidays we are a little more relaxed as well. We clean out the candy at Halloween and try to stay away from all those red suckers for Valentines Day. It's not easy and we definitely have a few sad faces but we remember that we're lucky to have what we have and have the opportunity to celebrate and so far, that works for us!
So, how do we do it? We read. A lot.
So, first things first. What is an artificial food dye?
Well, basically its an ingredient added that will provide color to the food. So, here's my handy charts that display the main types of artificial dyes out there and a little bit of what they're used in, in general.
So, real quick. Let's look at "natural dyes". These are food coloring but they come from natural food sources. So, for us, they're safe!
So how do we know what dyes are in our food? Well, if it comes out of the ground, a plant or animal AND not further processed then most likely it has not been colored.
I wrote to General Mills this time last year asking about food colors and they gave me a great explanation:
Ingredient listings printed on the outside of our product packages provide consumers with an opportunity to know the ingredients used before making a buying decision. The ingredient(s) you are referring to may be present as part of “natural or artificial flavors”, “natural or artificial colors”, or “spices” included on the ingredient listing.
So, whip out those magnifying glasses and grab a few boxes of food out of your cabinets! How about that box of Macaroni & Cheese. You'd think, hey, it's macaroni and it's cheese. Well, it is BUT read the label. It has a nice long list of what's in it.
Let's look at Pop Tarts! Everyone LOVES those! Pastry and FRUIT!!
So, we're a little disappointed in the promise of real fruit. I'm sure it's in there somewhere with the Red 40 and Yellow 6. Did you also see Caramel Color? And Riboflavin?So, there are a few natural ones too.
Let's not forget our children's medications. Take a look at this widely used medication:
For medications you'll need to look at the "Inactive Ingredients". We see Red 33 and Blue 1. The regular cherry flavor is known to have Red 40.
I know I've shown all brand name items BUT it also is in your generic items too. Wether it is a brand name, generic or even if it says all natural or organic, LOOK CAREFULLY!! It's just good practice and you'll get more and more used to knowing what's there and what's not.
So this all comes down to reading your labels. It's not rocket science but it takes time and patience. It took us a little while to find the products we love that don't have the dreadful dyes but now that we're into it, it's easier. Also, once you eliminate everything for awhile you can see what really effects your children. For us, we eliminated as much as we could for a good few months. Well, we had noticed that his skin became clearer and he was in general just a bit calmer. Then Valentine's Day came around and our boy got a HUGE red sucker. We let him have it so he didn't feel left out. Well, the next day he woke up with a windburn type redness around his mouth. BINGO! So, we know for sure that the Red 40 is not our friend. So, that is the one we stay away from the most. Somethings you just can't unless you make your own. For example, pickles. Store bought pickles contain yellow. Well, my take is 1-2 pickles on my kid's cheeseburger isn't worth my time BUT those lovely frozen drinks, we get the white cherry A LOT! It's not about making my kids feel left out but making them still be able to have treats and fun without those pesky ingredients.
So, this is my process in a nutshell. If you have ANY questions or need help, go ahead and comment below. I'd be happy to help any way that I can!