Wednesday, April 27, 2011

questions about caramel color

I've had some recent questions about caramel color so I figured I'd gather some things I have found on that.

Caramel color is considered natural, but some experts are now saying that it may still have health risks. Here is the basic list of natural verses unnatural dyes.

Here is a recent article that describes some of these concerns about caramel color:

My experience is, well, odd to say the least. You may have seen my earlier posts about anger and food dyes, tantrums and food dyes, or even childhood bipolar and food dyes. We've been a dye free family for almost 4 years now. We also do not generally allow our children to drink soda, so my recent experimentation is limited. We used to allow caffeine free soda such as root beer or the lemon lime ones on special occasions. Usually I noticed my younger two got increasingly hyperactive. I attributed this to the sodium benzoate so they just rarely get any soda at all. However, on at least three rare occasions that I allowed my oldest to have root beer, my usually easy going, cooperative and calm kid had a terrible time going to sleep. He kept thinking he was seeing or hearing things. He was all "edgy," hyped up, and upset without any real reason. After the third or fourth time, we attributed it to the root beer. No more root beer, no more problem. REALLY. We let it slip a few more times, (denial about the effects of food on behavior is normal) and finally decided together (my son and I agreed) root beer does weird things to his thinking. Avoid it and we're fine. I should also mention here that my daughter also has trouble staying asleep if she has any of the food dyes.

Now remember, I'm also a mental health professional. I'm well aware of what these symptoms can mean. It is highly unusual to have such symptoms just pop in and then go away. But then again, that's what happens with the other food dye reactions we've experienced, so I'm pretty confident that something in the root beer does that to my son. He's sooooo good about it now, I just have to brag about his responsible, mature response. When offered root beer at a party, he will just say it makes him crazy so he doesn't drink it. His friends know he has some weird food restrictions, they're used to it so they accept it and move on. We've not had the same response from any of the clear sodas. With more sleep overs and parties, he's allowed to have those and it's not a problem. I also like the new Sierra Mist Natural. Finally something more like what we had as kids. Strangely, my son's had cola a few times (Dad wimpped and coudn't say no) but it didn't seem to cause a problem.

While I'm on the topic, I may as well mention that we also try to avoid all the artificial sweeteners. I've seen a trend in my professional work with children. Well meaning families that consume a lot of Splenda (in attempt to be healthier and avoid sugar) seem to have more than their share of aggitated children. Just an observation on that one, no research to back it up, but I think the general rule applies. A little sugar is OK in moderation, fake stuff/chemical stuff gets you one way or another. So if your kids don't sleep well, once again, check the food and get rid of the fake stuff. You may be surprised at how great your children can be when they eat real, healthy food.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Naturally dyed eggs

Happy Earth Day and Happy Easter! I'm celebrating hitting 25,000 hits on my blog today. Thanks for following!

My mom told me Rachel Ray did a show this week on dying eggs naturally with tea bags. I missed it, but I found this on her website (scroll down to the bottom for the natural colors).

Found some other links too.

I had already bought the Paas egg sleeves so we did that today. It was simple but fun and the eggs are pretty.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Ready for Easter, Part 2

I went to Trader Joes and got most of my Easter candy there. They had peanut butter cups in milk and dark chocolate (but without the artificial stuff in the name brand) as well as Tummy Yummy Bunnies. I bought a few other kinds of chocolates and I think I'm all set with more than enough sugar to get through the holiday. In case you missed my earlier Easter post, I really like Surf Sweet Jelly beans. I usually get them at my health food store and I think they taste a little better than Trader Joes'.

I also made the trip because we had another birthday party. I picked up a package of mini chocolate cupcakes with butter cream icing to take with me. That's what my daughter ate while the other girls had pink frosted cake and fruit punch.

I bought an egg decorating kit (at another store) where you can melt the little sleeve around the egg. If I get my False Indigo to take off in the garden this year, maybe next year I'll have some interesting natural colors to play with. Decided I'm spending too much time getting my garden going to work on natural egg colors this year.

Happy Spring!

Friday, April 15, 2011

forget the frozen lemonade

We tried that frozen lemonade from Tim Hortons I mentioned a few days ago and you may as well forget it! It tastes very artificial, like it's made from a powdered mix...NOT NATURAL AT ALL. So I called to see if I could find out the ingredients. They did not acknowledge any artificial flavors or colors, but it's loaded with high fructose corn syrup, sodium benzoate, etc. Maybe now we're getting into a whole new category of foods that sound healthier, but really aren't. I'm trying to decide what to call them: imposters, pseudo-natural, sorta better, or "fake good" foods. I'm feeling very manipulated! The advertising is deceptive in a very subtle way. Technically, they didn't say anything false. They just lure you into thinking it's healthy and better, but really, it's not much better than everthing else out there. I think big companies are learning that people want natural ingredients so they advertise "no artificial flavors or colors", yet they still put lots of other junk in behind the scenes, hoping we won't notice. Well I noticed! When you stay on a a real food diet, you can taste the chemicals in the first bite. I hope you'll be on the lookout for this kind of sneaky tricks too. Feel free to comment if you too have had a "natural-NOT" experience. And if I sound grumpier than normal, I AM and I'm sure it has something to do with the bright pink and blue amoxicillin I'm taking for a sinus infection. I was too miserable to be my usual demading self and settled for the dyed prescription. Pray for my children that my patience holds out.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

dye free candy

I made another exciting discovery yesterday. Wonka has dye free candy: sour gummies and regular gummies. I was at Ohio University for a training and found it at the check out line in the cafeteria. My friend, another dye free advocate, was surprised we had never tried it. She said she sees it everywhere, especially gas stations. I guess I stopped looking at candy racks under the assumption there was nothing we could have. This was yet another pleasant surprise: regular candy, in a regular check out, at a regular candy price. I attached a link to their site so you can see what the packaging looks like. However, only a few products are natural. Most of their other products still have dyes. If they could only get a dye free laffy taffy my son would be in heaven...maybe some day. When I looked more closely at the site, it appears Nestle owns Wonka. Nestle has been changing many of their products, going more natural. They even took the artificial flavor out of their chocolate chips. With that in mind, chocolate chips would be another idea for things to put in Easter eggs. So, Thanks Nestle! We'll be buying your natural products.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

dye free treats

Our discovery of dye free foods continues all the time. Today my son spotted an add from Tim Hortons promoting their new frozen lemonade free of artificial colors and flavors. We haven't tried it yet, but it's so exciting for my kids to move from everything seeming to be off limits, to having more and more choices. In case you have not read my other posts, most lemonade in restaurants has yellow dye. If it comes from the soda fountain, it usually has yellow #5 or 6. We stopped asking months ago. Only a few, like Chick-Fil-A, have natural lemonade. Even then you still need to be aware. Many of the Chick-Fil-A salad dressings have dyes in them so check first. We did have another good lemon discovery. Minute Maid has individual frozen lemonade cups that are dye free. We noticed their cherry lime ones are also dye free. In the past, I've taken these in a cooler to the ball park for team snack after baseball games. We also attended a birthday party today. I meant to make my own sweet something (cup cake, brownie, etc. to take but I ran out of time). I grabbed a Capri Sun and a few donut holes on my way out the door. We lucked out as it turned out the birthday girl requested chocolate chip cookies so there were no issues with frosting. They served red punch so my daughter had the drink I brought. Easy party with no "left out feeling." Yay!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Ready for Easter?

Nothing used to stress me out like another colorful holiday where my kids would have to miss out on treats while their friends get to stock up on the sugar. This year seems easier than ever to stay dye free. In case you are worried about how to get through another holiday, here's a summary of current and past ideas for Easter. Make a trip to the health food store or shop online for Surf Sweets jelly beans. They are natural and taste great. I bought a few bags on my last trip. You can also find great natural candies at Trader Joes and Whole Foods. Unfortunately, these stores are not convenient to my home, so I rarely shop there. Check out a Kroger Marketplace. I have the good fortune of a new one close to home. Ours has a bulk food aisle with many surprises. We stopped there this weekend to get some bulk quinoa (my new favorite healthy breakfast). My 11 year old noticed the gummy bears were naturally colored. Lucky for us the ingredients were easily posted on bulk food containers. Then we realized we had many new dye free choices: jelly beans, gummy bears, fruit candy, and Sundrops (natural candy coated chocolate like M&M's) in regular and peanut. All these choices were available in bulk. Yay! Consumer pressure is working. Annies is also a good brand for organic gummy bunnies: cute for Easter and found in lots of stores including Kroger. Other Easter ideas: fill plastic eggs with non candy items. In the past we've used plastic soldiers, police, firemen, butterflies, and bugs. We've used dinosaurs, golf tees, foam golf balls, Sillly Bandz, etc. You could also use pennies. Eggs are just as fun without all the candy. I have used larger eggs to fit plastic toys better (I have a bunch that are about 3 inches long). A bag of little trinkets doesn't cost much more than candy and lasts a whole lot longer. Also, watch out for inexpensive chocolate. They may add red dye to make up for the lack of real cocoa or many brands have artificial flavor, which is still a petrochemical like the food dyes. You may also want to prep the grandparents or other family members. Simple reminders go a long way. Tell them to avoid chocolate bunnies that have the cute colored bows and eyes. Take your own candy to family functions if you need to. I was lucky that my mom stopped sending candy and substituted cash or gift cards to book stores. As my kids have gotten bigger, gift cards for books or itunes have been huge hits. We also tend to skip the regular colored eggs. We have used kits that have stickers or sleeves that shrink over the eggs. That way we still have the project of decorating eggs, without intense petrochemicals seeping through the shells. Feel free to post any other ideas you have, especially if you have colored eggs with natural colors.