Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas

I hope everyone else had a great holiday. Ours has been awesome and dye free for all but the one Kool Aid slip. We had a close call on Christmas Eve. Our church handed out little bags with crayons, a coloring sheet and --you guessed it: candy canes. I never thought to check the bag for candy. Well try taking a candy cane away from a hungry 3 year old quietly in the middle of a church service. Yes, there was a huge temptation to let her have it to keep her quiet, but the 2 minutes of peace it might buy at church was not worth the three days of terror I knew we'd have as a result. So she fussed very briefly that I took a broken piece out of her hand when it was about 2 inches from her lips (phew that was close) and we went on to have a beautiful Christmas.

I do find it frustrating that I could not find any white candy canes, so my kids skipped out on that part of the holidays. I looked all over but it seems the dye companies have gone extra nuts with candy canes. Oh, well, it's a simple sacrifice to ensure my kids don't revert back to their toxic, dye exposed selves.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

sunshine returns

Well, not on the outside, we're getting another round of freezing rain out there. But on the inside, Lindsey is back to being her sweet sunshiny self. It's amazing that she can wake up the 4th day after food dyes and she is back to the sweet well behaved child I love so much. She even sat perfectly still for a haircut. Life is so much easier when we stay dye-free.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

and the party goes on and on...

...At least the effects of the dye has. Lindsey has alternated between fine and "beastly" all weekend. The car trip had plenty of shrieking over little things. It's interesting that she behaved much better for the 10 hour trip to South Carolina last summer (dye free) than she did for the 3 hour trip to my parents' house this weekend. (Sigh)

Here's the really sad part. When I questioned Ben again about why he didn't eat the cupcakes I made for his party, he said that he saw the red and green decorations and thought he couldn't have one, so he said "No." Maybe I've trained him a little too well to avoid the stuff. He thought I had come in to drop off cookies and didn't realize I had made the cupcakes specially for him. Next time I need to explain better when he can have something.
Here are the cupcakes I made for the parties: white cake, white frosting, chocolates wrapped in foil. Too bad Ben missed out. Sigh again.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I should have guessed

I obsessively baked and decorated 6 dozen cupcakes for 3 class Christmas parties to make sure my kids had dye free foods to enjoy. The preschool party went off without a hitch. When I walked in and saw they were serving blueberry bread for the breakfast with Santa I got worried. But the staff had it covered. Lindsey's plate already had her organic cereal bar that they are supposed to substitute for blueberry bread. I was so appreciative. One party down successfully.

I dropped off the next batch of cupcakes in Ben's 3rd grade classroom. I trust him not to eat the candy canes and saw that the juice boxes were OK for him to drink. I went on to Alex's 1st grade class. I had to keep taking away candy canes because well other intended moms kept handing him one. Alex asked if he could have the coolaid drink and I told him no. His awesome teacher overheard and said she keeps Capri Suns in her cupboard to make sure he has a dye free drink. She quickly got him one and everything seemed good. The class went about the party, enjoying the cupcakes. Lindsey was tagging along so I handed her a cupcake and sat her down to eat it. When I looked back, I noticed she had a drink. Then I realized what it was. Some "nice" mom handed her a coolaid drink and put the straw in the pouch for her. UHHHHG! There goes my dye-free holiday and we are driving to Grandma's house today. Just great! I'm praying for a peaceful car trip, but I'm realistic enough to know what to expect. At least she had the green one (with blue and yellow) rather than the total red #40 one.

Then here's the kicker. Ben later told me he didn't even eat a cupcake because his 9 year old self didn't feel like it. Well, at least the rest of the kids enjoyed them. Bah humbug.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

surviving school holiday parties

One party down, two more tomorrow. That translates to 24 cupcakes down, 4 dozen more to make. I decided to be proactive for Christmas and volunteered to provide the treat for all three kids' school parties. I came up with a plan about a week ago while chatting with my friend (also dye free with 3 kids). I'm making white cupcakes with white icing. I bought bright red and green wrappers for the cupcakes. Then I'm using chocolates wrapped in colored foil to put on top of the icing. I'll have colorful treats without any of the down side of the dyes. I'll post a picture if I get a chance.

follow up on dentist

I've been wanting to write all week, but...tis the season to bake, shop wrap, etc. We went back to the dentist on Monday for my own appointment. They were so impressed with Lindsey on Friday they thought she could get an exam after she did so well watching the boys. Originally they didn't want to see her until she was 4. I'm hoping I made a point to them.

I watched very closely and caught the hygienist before she gave Lindsey the bright red tooth paste. She searched all over until the other hygienist gave her the same white stuff they used on Alex. That's the first small victory.

Lindsey did a great job with her first teeth cleaning. She sat very still, did everything she was told and stayed totally calm throughout her own check-up as well as mine. I got the same hygienist both days. She was interested in hearing more about food coloring. She made comments about how good Lindsey was and asked if she is a laid back child. I told her she can be very calm and laid back most of the time, but that she's a a totally high maintenance kicking/screaming mess on food dyes. It was nice that she got to see all three of my kids at their very best. I'm hoping that behavior made the point more than anything else.

I don't write as much about my kids' behaviors off the food dyes, but it's nice to be able to get through things like a new dentist and walk out proud rather than feeling embarrassed by my children.

Friday, December 12, 2008

food dye at the dentist

We went to a new dentist today. I was busily filling out the paperwork and they ushered us back quickly and said I could finish the paperwork as they got started. Before I knew it Ben's teeth were polished and the dentist had made his appearance. I opted for no fluoride because they only had a red one or a green one. I explained my kids can't have anything with coloring in it. Our previous dentist used white fluoride. I commented to the hygienist and dentist together that the dyes in medicines are often the ones banned form food. The dentist seemed a little interested saying, "Really?" and then he was out of there.

Then it was Alex's turn. I was no longer filling out forms from the corner so I could pay attention better. When it was time to polish his teeth she got out a nice little tin of dark red toothpaste. Why on earth does it need that much color? How can that be good for your teeth? I quickly asked if there were any other options. She had already used the stuff on Ben (big sigh). She quickly got a white paste and moved on. She did apologize that she didn't know on Ben. She also offered to put an allergy sticker on their new charts so they will know better next time. So, despite my best intentions of refusing fluoride and watching like a hawk, we still had yet another slip up. I'm not telling Ben he had anything.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

20 minute car ride

It seemed like 2 hours. She screamed all the way because I could not reach the book she wanted. Then she cried for Daddy who was not in the car. Not sure how Ben could stand it without comment. I sure couldn't stand it. We all had headaches. That's what food dyes do to my family. Lindsey is normally fun and cute in the car. 2 days down, 1 more to go until the chemicals wear off. Lets hope I can survive it. It's still kind of hard to believe a cupcake could have such an effect. But it's not really the cupcake, it's that little bit of petrochemical coloring that somehow short circuits the brain of a normally nice child and brings out the demon.

Monday, December 8, 2008

1000 hits!

I just checked my counter and I have reached the milestone of 1000 hits. So maybe word is getting out. Tell your friends and have them tell their friends about food dyes. This is an issue that Moms should get together on. If it were not common procedure to put petrochemicals in all the food targeted at kids, it would really make our "Mom job" a whole lot easier.

3 year old high on dye AGAIN

Well, all I can say is, they really tried. They had yellow cupcakes for snack in the preschool room yesterday. They even left them unfrosted because they knew Lindsey usually can't have anything frosted. She was supposed to have animal crackers instead of the yellow cupcakes, but somewhere somebody forgot and she ate one anyway. Oh well.

I'm hoping that if I shower her with lots of good 1 on 1 it will help stave off the beast she usually becomes. She already had her moments yesterday. It would help if she could go outside and run it off a little, but with sleet and freezing rain setting in, that's not going to happen either. This is the part that bugs me, fighting the same battle over and over again. I wish there was more nationwide attention to the effects of dyes so that every food wasn't so loaded. Maybe some day.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

red 40 site

Someone just told me about a site all about red #40 and the foods, candies, drugs it can be found in. Here is a link if you want to check it out.

Red 40 site

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

will bacon bits ruin the day?

We've been very successful avoiding the dreaded red #40 for quite some time. I was beginning to run out of things to write about. Well, here we go again. We had friends over for dinner. They brought a really nice salad. I served some up for all the kids. She had even called to make sure the dressing was OK for Alex (no dairy or wheat, very thoughtful of our needs). As I bit into the delicious salad with homemade dressing I knew instantly, there were bacon bits. Maybe not all bacon bits have red#40, but I checked the website for Bacos and they definitely have it.

It was a frustrating and defeated feeling. There was no way I could think of to politely stop my children from eating it. It would have made my friend feel horrible. So we ate it and enjoyed it. Maybe the fall-out won't be too bad. I think I felt the effects myself last night. Lindsey was running around naked slapping her rear end saying "booty" over and over again instead of getting in the tub. (You gotta love 3 year olds) I had to fight off strong urges to spank her. Hmm, I've written that before. I only think about spanking her when I have eaten food dyes. Strange to admit that, because I'm pretty opposed to spanking. Well this time I resisted the urge and took away her favorite pajamas that she had put out to wear. That got her promising profusely that she won't say "booty" anymore so it seemed effective. So now I'm really wondering, is it Lindsey that makes me reconsider the "no spanking" philosophy or is the petrochemicals? Something to ponder, I guess.

I'm not sure Lindsey really ate any of the salad because she was having too much fun socializing. I've wondered if Ben is finally a little less susceptible to the effects of the dyes now that he's been off them for a while. He also turned 9 this week. I've fantasized that he will be able to "grow out of it." For most of this year it has seemed like all of my kids react even more strongly to dyes. It's like they have no tolerance for chemicals since they eat mostly pure foods now. Maybe I just see it easier and know the reason rather than blaming it on other things.

So, we'll wait and see what happens.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

dye free Thanksgiving--almost

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. We enjoyed a wonderful meal with family. We tried very hard to stay natural and chemical free. The only exception was one grandma came with a cherry pie and cranberry jello, both of which had red dye. (sigh) Does anyone else have relatives that can't seem to remember what you are doing, despite numerous lengthy discussions about how badly the kids react to dyes? Luckily, neither item appealed much to the kids so it wasn't a big deal. There were plenty of other great things to eat. We had a lot of reasons to be thankful this year so we focussed on that and let the rest go.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

can food dyes make your child look bipolar?

Well, it sure did for my son. There aren't any studies that have looked at this issue, so I'm kind of going out on a limb here. But I got to thinking seriously about this after listening to Dr. Greg Keck speak at a dinner conference last night. He said how much it bothers him that people think their kids are Bipolar or ADHD when they are really still behaving normally for their age. It made me decide it's time to share more specifics about what effect food dyes really had on my son, Ben.

Ben has always been a smart, friendly, creative child. Teachers love him, he makes friends easily, and he really is an all around great kid. But he used to have a much darker side too. He used to have unpredictable bouts of anger, tantrums, rages, insults, defiance, the list went on and on. His behavior used to get really ugly some days, but only at home, never at school or anywhere with other people. He even once shouted that he wanted to blow up the house with me in it. It was really scary, even for me, and I'm trained to work with explosive children. It's a whole different thing when it's your own child going nuts.

Then I started limiting the dyes because I thought they made his brother hyper. Well, here's where it gets interesting. Ben's rages, tantrums and all that yuck, it just stopped happening. He's been off dyes completely for more than a year. Guess when the only tantrums have happened... when he's eaten food dyes. I'm serious about this. The only major outbursts (and I can count them on one hand) happened when he ate something at school or when we slipped and didn't realize there was a food dye.

The worst one was when he ate a whole plate of banana peppers. He even thought he was seeing things. I still am putting that one in the category of over-active imagination for Ben, because his "make believe" world is very real to him. I realize that's a serious psychiatric symptom, but how bizarre is it that the only 2 times he has ever complained of that, he has had big doses of food dye within 24 hours?! I've seen articles about food dyes having a neuro-toxic affect on the brain. Well there you go. I don't want to go any further down that kind of path if changing my diet is all it takes to avoid it.

I don't want to minimize Bipolar Disorder and the fact that it is a real disorder. I've worked with truly bipolar children. I think when there is a clear family history of such a disorder, that is something that needs to be assessed by a professional.

I also encourage parents to consider their child's trauma history. (I feel compelled to mention that as I'm spending 2 days at a conference on trauma and attachment.) If anything scary or dangerous has ever happened to your child, whether they remember it or not, it can affect their later behavior for years.

Ben had pieces of this too. He had too many babysitters when he as 0-2 years old. My friends kept moving and then military families were moving left and right after 911. It meant I had to keep finding new sitters for my part time work schedule. It took it's toll on Ben as an abandonment issue, even though he only went to those sitters once a week. A big part of his problem was that when I put him in his room, he freaked out because he felt like I was leaving him again. After reading Beyond Consequences by Bryan Post and Heather Forbes, I started talking to Ben and explaining what was happening. I would say things like, "I think you get scared that I'm going to leave you again and that's what makes you get so upset." This approach helped him tremendously. He really gained insight into why his feelings got overwhelming and can talk about it better without freaking out. But I still think the main freak out was food dye related, and the progress we made is largely because he is no longer experiencing toxic effects of petrochemicals. Here's a good artificial on that: How food companies fool consumers with food coloring ingredients made from petrochemicals

But the bottom line is, I feel like I rescued the great kid that Ben is, and got rid of the screaming, demon defiant mess, all by getting food dyes out of the diet. You don't have to believe me. You don't have to try it yourself. If you would rather get prescription for a stimulant, mood stabilizer, or anti-psychotic there are plenty of doctors who will oblige you in 5 minutes or less. But if it really is the fake foods we feed our kids that contribute to this, don't our children deserve to have their parents figure it out and fix it?

Please share your own stories if you have seen anything similar.

Monday, November 24, 2008

question about apples and grapes

I got an email asking why I am now looking at apples and grapes as a source of reaction. From reading the information from the Feingold Association, I've been learning about salicylates. Some foods produce similar chemicals to aspirin which can cause sensitivities. I noticed all of my kids being somewhat worse (moody, hyperactive, etc) last week when I had grapes out for snacking and they had apple juice a few times. In other reading, I've found these same foods to be at the top of the list of foods affected the most by pesticides. I've started buying organic on lots of things.

For more info on salicylates check out the Feingold site information on salicylates.

They also have a story of a family who found the diet helpful click here for more on that. Jane Hersey has more information in both of her books.

Friday, November 21, 2008

considering full Feingold

I'm trying to figure out how and when to start a full scale attempt at Feingold. We've gotten rid of the dyes and most of the preservatives for a while. We've drastically reduced high fructose corn syrup. I've recently suspected apples and grapes may be a problem as well. I guess I'm still a little hung up on the fact that fruit is supposed to be healthy and how could it really be such a problem. It's that, and the fact that I want to cook normal for Thanksgiving, but then I guess that went out the window when I figured out Crescent rolls have food coloring.

I had hoped that were going "over kill" by keeping Alex off wheat and dairy, but now it seems that he's once again much better off both. He can think better, behave better, write better, and the rash and bowel problems both cleared back up.

So, if it seems I'm not posting as much, it's mostly due to lots of appointments this week and trying to read the rest of Jane Hersey's book, "Why Can't my Child Behave." It's been very enlightening.

Monday, November 17, 2008

threw out the blue toothpaste

Well, that should have been a "no brainer" but I was still letting the boys use a blue toothpaste. We'll see if the natural one makes any difference. While I was at it I took out the orange hand soap and the purple body wash. Not sure why I didn't do that sooner, but better late than never. It's so hard to think of everything.

Friday, November 14, 2008

suspecting food dye is sneaking in somewhere

It's been a crazy week. Lindsey has been more emotional, defiant and temperamental. I keep wondering if some food dyes snuck in somewhere, but it could also be she's pining for Daddy who has not been home in daylight hours much at all due to lots of work demands. I keep telling myself to enjoy the threes, but I remember 4 being so much calmer than 3 with the boys.

We had taken a few weeks off the Gluten Free, Casein/Dairy Free diet for Alex and he's back to having a rash and bowel problems, so back out with the wheat. We knew milk has to stay out of the equation since he's lactose intolerant, but I was hopeful we could introduce some wheat. Oh well. I want to get closer to a Feingold diet for all three of my kids, but when we are already GFCF, it's tough. I guess salicylates are next on my list.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

ups and downs at preschool

This week I found a note from the teacher that had gotten pushed way to the back of our mailbox. She apologized that Lindsey ate their cheese crackers with food dye (either yellow #5 or #6). It was dated 2 weeks ago. I couldn't recall noticing much, but with Lindsey it seems every once in a while whe goes on a steak of worse than usual behavior and I find myself wondering what she's been eating when I'm not around. Maybe it is just being 3, maybe not.

I have to give the preschool credit though. The teacher told me this morning that she had already checked the donuts they were serving for the fall harvest party and they were free of dye. I really appreciate their effort.

the dreaded school meeting

There I was today, with the team of school staff and somehow the topic of food dyes came up. I made sure the speech therapist still has a stash of organic candy. The teacher politely smiles, saying nothing (which probably translates to "we know she's out in left field on this one folks"), a few others nod, the school psychologist actually said, "Hmm maybe I should pay more attention to that." I tell them I have a blog. They change the subject and I try to act like I'm not some mutant Mom who just grew a second head.

I guess I need to get over worrying about what they think of me and focus on what's best for my kids. Sometimes it takes more than just a little courage though. It's hard when my food rules for my children are so different than main stream beliefs. I might as well have started a new religion. But one day with my kids when food dyes are in effect and anyone would be a believer.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

dye free Halloween a success

I think we did it. I think we actually managed all three classroom parties, trick-or-treating, and even the big Fun Fest at our church without any food coloring. There was no shortage of candy as we've had our fill of chocolate and white Nerds. We were almost hyper-vigilant at times, but now we can enjoy our weekend without all three kids falling apart all over the place.

It was hard at Fun Fest. They really wanted the popcorn (coated with yellow), especially since Ed was eating it. But I stood my ground and said "No". Then they got candy from every game. People were nice and let them pick chocolate or tootsie rolls (one of Ben's favorites) or I found someone with a whole barrel of candy and tossed back the stuff they couldn't eat. They let me pick extra stuff as trade and Alex was more than happy to get Peanut Butter Cups from the deal.

My Mom also supported the cause and sent Halloween cards with Barnes and Noble gift cards rather than candy or other stuff. The kids were so happy to go pick out books today. What a sweet grandma!

Friday, October 31, 2008

more about petrochemicals in food

I came across another article about the dangers of petrochemicals in food which I have linked here. It's a lot of the same information I've posted before, except for oranges. Did you know they sometimes dip oranges in dye to make them look more appealing? It's really sad that salmon and fresh fruit isn't even natural anymore.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

dye free frosting and cookies

Well, here is the finished product, ready for tomorrow's party at the preschool. This was the only can of frosting I could find without red#40 and yellow #5 or 6. I'm still hoping that if my kids have good alternatives, they won't feel as tempted to eat all the other stuff with dyes. It's just not worth the tantrums and hyperactivity.

Monday, October 27, 2008

ready for a dye free Halloween (continued)

I baked the sugar cookies shaped like pumpkins. They turned out pretty good, but the frosting, well you get the picture. It's not exactly orange by any stretch of the imagination. I used natural food coloring from the health food store. The yellow was a nice color, so I thought I was doing pretty well. Then I added the red. It didn't even show at first, then it came off as a brownish hue. The more I added, the closer it looked to Dijon mustard. Then just for kicks I added the blue too. It was brown too, but slightly purple since it's blueberry juice. You can sort of see it on the edge of the bowl.

Oh well, plan B is to use the white frosting and just make chocolate chip faces. We'll see how that goes. Maybe I should try to just make pumpkin cookies with real pumpkin. Those would be orange. Maybe I should accept reality that despite my best intentions, at least one of my kids will probably eat something dyed this week at school.

mystery food dyes

Ben came home Friday with a grumpy, defiant attitude that went on and off all weekend. He said that he ate a sugar cookie at school and the teacher and parent must have lied to him about there being food coloring in it. He was quite adamant about it. Unfortunately, I was pretty irritable too. I started tracing back the foods Ben and I both ate. The only thing I could come up with was the salad we had at McDonalds Thursday night. The southwest Salad isn't supposed to have any food coloring, but the Oriental salad grilled chicken glaze has red #40. Maybe it was something else completely. Who knows for sure. It just seemed to have all the same problems. Hopefully it's all worn off by now.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What's in artificial food coloring?

I called the 800 number on the Beef taco Lunchable box today after noticing the cheese contained "artificial coloring". I know, it's "preservative city" in there so I shouldn't even buy that stuff. But since I don't let Ben buy most of the school lunches, sometimes I let him pack a Lunchable. We throw out the red candy that comes with it. I asked the representative for details about what the artificial color was. She left me on hold and came back after a few minutes to say she did not have that information. She asked why I was interested and I explained my kids react to the synthetic, petroleum based dyes like red #40. She assured me that by law the dyes with numbers (red # 40, yellow # 5 and 6, blue #1) must be disclosed on food labeling, so it wasn't that. However, she said since it was not any of those, she had no further information about it and no way that I could find out.

Hmmm. Sounds like yet another example of a company putting extra junk in the food, probably cheaper chemical stuff, that we don't need. I've bought those Lunchables for a while and never noticed that ingredient. I wonder if it's a new thing, or if it's always been in there. Once again, why does cheese need fake color added? Sigh.

getting ready for a dye free Halloween

I'm gearing up for the parties and trying to figure out how to let the kids have fun, without going "off the wagon". I'm sending alternate treats to school for the kids so they don't feel so left out from whatever orange colored pumpkin treat comes in. I have natural food coloring from the health food store that I need to experiment with. I'm hoping to make my own pumpkin shaped sugar cookies and dye my own orange frosting. Then I'll use mini chocolate chips to make the face. My gluten free/dairy free boy will get his GF cookies with the same frosting and organic chips.

Last year I let the kids go trick-or-treating as usual. Then I took all the candy and sorted out the stuff with dye (about 2/3 of it) and sent it to work with my husband. We kept what was left (lots of chocolate and clear stuff) and I still threw some away in December that they never got around to eating.

Lessons learned last year: Butterfinger has yellow dye. Most chocolate products don't have dye. Chocolate Tootsie Roll pops don't have dye, but the rest of the flavors do. Regular tootsie rolls are also dye free. Coconut and Cream Soda Dum Dums don't contain dyes but could have trace amounts from all the other flavors that do. Biggest lesson learned last year: don't save the red licorice and eat it all yourself while the kids are sleeping. I was sooooo grumpy the next morning that Ben actually said, "Mom, are you reacting to red dye?" and I had to admit that I was. What a proud parenting moment that was!

I'll probably get some chocolate candy, hopefully without artificial "vanillin" to swap for some of the colored stuff they get from trick or treat night. I'm also stocked up on Yummy Earth lollipops and Sweet Surf candy to use as trades for stuff they get from school, bus drivers, etc. The deal I have with my kids is that whenever they hang on to a piece of candy (such as given by bus driver) and turn it in to me, I give them 2 of my organic candies as a trade. I throw away the dyed candy. That gives them an incentive to delay the gratification a little more because they get extra. Sure, I spend a little more that way, but when the pay off is 3 kids with self control and stable moods it seems more than worth the extra 5 dollars spent on organics. I also keep candy in my purse so they don't feel like they miss out all the time.

We also have coupons for free Frostys from Wendy's to give out. I checked, the vanilla and chocolate are dye free. My friend had her kids bring back their dyed stuff to the house and she gave it back out to other kids. Feel free to comment if you have other ideas. My friends and I seem to do better when we put our heads together and swap ideas.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

writing to more companies

I wrote to Pillsbury this week:

I would like to request that you make products available without artificial food dyes such as red #40, yellow, #5 and yellow # 6. I was stunned to see red#40 listed on the ingredients of Crescent Rolls. My children react severely to any consumption of synthetic food dyes. I do not understand how products such as bread or white frosting require any color in the first place. Please note that consumer preferences are leaning toward more natural products.

This is the response I received:

Thank you for contacting Pillsbury about the use of artificial flavors and colors in our products. Most people would agree that food tastes better if its appearance is pleasing. Because processing or high temperature cooking tends to destroy natural colors, natural or artificial color is added. When natural flavorings are in short supply, artificial flavorings are used. They maintain a stable flavor level during processing and storage of the product. We are researching ways to reduce artificial coloring and still produce an attractive product. We appreciate the opportunity to share this information with you and hope you continue to choose our products.

food dyes and medicine

One red antibiotic, that's how it all started for me. You can read my original post here, but I thought it was worth mentioning again, because the topic keeps coming up.

My friends' kids were recently on red antibiotics and all the typical problems seemed to occur. One friend was preparing for her toddler to have his adenoids and tonsils out. She had dye free electrolyte drinks and had made numerous calls to the pharmacy to check out options for getting dye free antibiotics and pain relief medication. This is a difficult task to accomplish. I'm not sure how to put more pressure on drug makers or pharmacies, but it strikes me as concerning that I may not have a choice to give dye loaded drugs when my children are either injured or sick.

When Alex broke his arm at school back in May, the school offered purple Tylenol before I took him to the ER. I declined, hoping to get a dye free version at the hospital. I got stuck in traffic and spent longer getting there, Alex moaning in pain, poor guy. The hospital quickly offered me orange pain relief. I requested a dye free one and they said they would try. They forgot, so instead, Alex had to wait another 90 minutes for any pain relief. Then it was the original purple stuff anyway. Then he ended up with a prescription for more purple codeine at home. He was pretty "out of it" those next few days, so I'm not sure it mattered much. But it made me pretty frustrated that there doesn't seem to be much choice when it comes to medicine.

Benadryl, Tylenol, and Motrin, all have dye free products. I try to keep those on hand. I have yet to find a children's cold or cough medicine that is dye free, but I have not checked the health food store for that yet.

At least we dodged the bullet yesterday. I took the kids hiking at a quarry park. We were having a great time, enjoying nature until Ben fell and hit his head on a rock. He ended up with 5 stitches at Urgent Care. I was sooo relieved the doctor prescribed Augmentin because at least that's a white antibiotic. My family doctor also prescribed Augmentin for Alex last spring when he had a sinus infections, because I requested "dye free". I'm not sure there are many other choices of antibiotics, but at least if you make a request, there is one option.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

How can I get food dyes out of my diet?

I've been sharing my frustrations on this topic with my close friends for over 2 years. It shouldn't be so hard, but it is hard to eliminate dyes. Here are my suggestions on how to go about eliminating food dyes without loosing your mind.

  1. Pick a target color first and focus on that. I started with red #40 and focused just on avoiding that for several months.
  2. Then when you've gotten used to that, eliminate another color, like yellow #5 and yellow #6 .
  3. Once you've gotten red and yellow out, it's not that big a deal to get rid of the blue #1 stuff.
  4. Expect lots of mistakes, on your part, on your kids' parts, and from other adults.
  5. Get support from your spouse. show the research and reports from other parents. You cannot get anywhere if Daddy comes home with colored candy or cookies or just forgets what you are up to.
  6. Communicate your wishes with every adult in contact with your kids. Tell the teachers, informing them in writing or by email is best. Tell extra school helpers like speech and OT people. Explain to family members so grandma doesn't show up with red cookies or candy. Tell church helpers and freinds/neighbors too. Eiether provide your own snack or be clear about what your kids can have. I never take offense when my neighbor brings snacks for all the kids when her kids will be over with mine.
  7. Ask questions at restaurants. You have a right to know what is in the drinks, sauces, etc. Take a minute and ask wait staff to check for the food dyes or show you the ingredient list. Then you may be surprised to find out some foods are actually OK. My kids love sorbet at ice cream places and it is usually natural, but always ask first.
  8. Give yourself extra time at the grocery store and read those labels before you buy anything. It gets easier after a while. If you used to shop with the kids, find ways to shop alone for a while until you get used to reading the labels.
  9. Be strong in your efforts, you may find amazingly better behaved kids as your reward. Is there anything you wouldn't do for helping your kids be their best? Keeping the end in mind helps make up for all the hassles.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Yea for the Preschool teacher

I think I'm finally getting everyone in our life used to checking for food dyes. Lindsey's teacher wrote me a note that they did spider activities today and she ate the spider snack (rice noodles covered with chocolate). She actually checked to make sure there was no food dye in it so it was safe for Lindsey. It takes effort, but you can go dye free, even when others control your kids' food. You just have to really work hard with people, and hope they work with you back.

Monday, October 13, 2008

why does bread need red?

Red #40 that is. Why? I don't get it. It was a sad day when my friend told me that those nice brown loaves of bread you get at restaurants and steak houses have red #40 in them. Maybe they have to make up for bleaching the flour first so it makes perfect sense to add a little petroleum based dye to make up for what should be there but isn't.

But yesterday I made another startling discovery. I'm checking more closely for preservatives in foods and trying to eliminate those as much as possible. So I picked up a refrigerated tube of crescent rolls, thinking I would just see how much extra stuff is in there. It jumped right off the label at me: red #40 and yellow #5. What?!! When did they start putting that in there? I've checked those before and there wasn't any red 40 #. I know they were OK when I served them last Thanksgiving. Why do they suddenly need food coloring now? I wish there was a way to encourage these companies to make foods healthier instead of more toxic. Maybe I better start sending emails again.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

those little shining moments

It was a beautiful afternoon yesterday. The sun was shining and my children played happily outdoors. They came right when I called, they helped each other, they used polite words, they said "OK" to me or "You got it Mom." All three of them! Ben actually gave up his swing for his brother. They took turns on everything from throwing the ball for the dog to climbing rope on the playset. I got help preparing and cleaning up dinner. Ben scooped the dog doo doo without me saying anything. I didn't even know he had done it. Lindsey stayed at the dinner table for a whole meal without any negative behavior. She even ate seconds.

These are the beautiful moments that happen more easily when nobody has any food dyes. Life is just better when there's no petroleum in the diet.

Friday, October 10, 2008

More petroleum in my food

Just when I thought I had enough to obsess about with food dyes, I read in Jane Hersey's book, Healthier Food for Busy People, that artificial vanilla, usually called vanillin, is often made from petroleum and used paper pulp ingredients. So here's another one I'd like to weed out of the family diet. I wonder exactly what it was that made people decide that synthetic chemicals were better than real food. Well, money, I'm sure. But how can this be good for us our for our kids? Have they ever really studied what petroluem does to a developing brain? I've been scanning ingredients, cookies, chocolate chips, you name it, it's got vanillin. Sigh. Ignorance would be bliss at this state.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Food dye at church

We really like the children's ministry program at our church. They do a really great job teaching values in a fun and interesting way. Today they worked on determination, the theme for the month, by giving all the kids a Tootsie Roll pop. How many licks does it take? You know the deal. We instructed them not to give our children the candy and someone was kind enough to get them chips as a substitute.

Well my husband was volunteering in the third grade group and came out just shaking his head. He said within 20 minutes the kids were literally rolling around, throwing paper airplanes, slapping each other, climbing, drumming, etc. It is normally such a nice, structured, great place for the kids. None of them are normally like that. But juice those kids on food dye and sugar right at the start and all "you know what" breaks loose. Ed said it was a real eye-opener for some of the other adults volunteering.

I'm just sad that our school district is doing reading proficiency tests for most of those same third graders tomorrow. Most people don't realize that a dose of food dye can carry through with behavioral effects for 3 whole days. That's probably why it all bothers me so much. If it was only a few hours, I could take that now and then, but three days of problems, that's too many good times thrown away to be worth one lollipop.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

My favorite dye free foods

I've talked to lots of people who find it so much effort to avoid the food dyes, they just give up. We've found lots of great substitutes.

Drinks: we only do 100% juice or Capri Sun. We often do water at restaurants as lemonade and punch are always loaded. Kroger recently started carrying organic lemonade.

Macaroni and cheese: Kraft has a white cheddar and so does Kroger. We get the Kroger one and the sauce needs a little more mixing than the regular stuff, but my kids like it better than the yellow stuff.

Breakfast foods: we make our own pancakes and freeze extras for quick meals on school days. Tip: Most eggo brands have yellow dye. Most Kroger brand waffles are dye free.

Yogurt: Yoplait is usually dye free. We skip all the Gogurts, Yogos, etc (more sugar and dyes added than good stuff)

Popcorn: Orville Redenbocker and Kroger have natural brands that skip the yellow. It took me months and months to figure out microwave popcorn was a culprit for hidden dye.

Fruit snacks: Motts/Brachs has a dye free fruit chew (my kids still seems to bounce more after eating them, probably due to all the corn syrup). We really like FruitABu brand fruit snacks (health food section of Kroger) They have lots of organic fruit leather individually wrapped type snacks.

Chips and snacks: We skip Doritos and cheesey anything like popcorn or Cheetos. Plain chips and pretzels are usually safe. Kroger brand has a barbecue chip that is free of dyes, so are a few others if you like the flavor but not the petroleum.

Breakfast Cereal: We do Rice Crispies, Cheerios, Crispex, Chex. We splurge sometimes on Organic Wild Puffs (again in the Kroger health food section) Its actually fruity and colorful but from natural ingredients.

Candy: My kids love Yummy Earth candies and lollipops. They taste great, but I've only found them at the health food store. I keep them in my purse so any time someone offers us regular candy like DumDums, I decline and hand the kids my organic stuff. I also gave a bag to each teacher so my kids have safe candy at school.

Basically, we check out the natural food section at Kroger before shopping in the regular part of the store. I'm partial to that store as my husband works in the corporate office (designs their web stuff) and we get nice discounts. I also have a color coded list of what to avoid and what to pick instead. It's in a table so I couldn't find an easy way to post it here. Email me at and I'll forward it to anyone interested.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Here we go again...

I might as well just copy my old posts because it's the same old story every week. No matter how many times I put it in writing or call, someone forgets and gives my kids food they are not supposed to have.

I picked Lindsey up from Preschool and she was literally spinning in circles and shrieking. That 's not how my daughter usually is. Her routine for the past year is to run up to me and hug me sweetly. Even the teacher commented that she didn't know why she was so wound up. Hmmm, I know what that looks like. My immediate thought was that she had some sort of food dye. There was not supposed to be anything on the menu that day. But her regular teacher was out so who knows. They probably forgot to substitute my cheese crackers for the off brand dye-added brand they serve.

Alex had "puppy chow" for his after school snack. He is only supposed to eat foods I provide. He had 2 healthy snacks in his bag. Instead they gave my lactose intolerant/gluten free child something that probably has both milk and wheat. At least they've insisted before that there is no artificial dye in that snack. The poor little guy was so sick to his stomach he barely ate a few rice crackers for dinner and was in bed an hour early at his own request. How sad is that?

Ben had chocolate cupcakes at school this week, so 50/50 chance he had red dye. What happened to the alternate treat I sent in? Who knows, but it absolutely was not offered to him. At least he was on the ball and scraped off the sprinkles.

If I had met a parent who talked about this stuff a few years ago I would have written her off as a total nutcase. I just don't know how to make people understand how important the link is between children's food and their behavior. Not to mention the links to cancerous tumors and other health problems. I've sent emails to both Oprah and Dr. Phil. Maybe they'll get interested and do a story some day.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Do you eat crude oil?

The answer is YES any time you eat something with synthetic dyes (red #40, yellow #5, yellow #6, blue #1). They are all made from petroleum, YES that's the same stuff they use in gasoline!
Does anyone else think that's just gross? The current food industry norm is to add a little petroleum to just about every food targeted to kids. No wonder we need so much Ritalin! The same card states that Red 40 is banned in Canada due to concerns about it causing cancerous tumors in test animals. So research shows it makes kids hyper and irritable. Other countries ban it, and here in the US we crank it into more and more foods at higher and higher doses. Am I the only one that thinks that is just plain wrong?

I received this information in a packet sent by Jane Hersey at the Feingold Association yesterday. She was kind enough to send me copies of her books, newsletters and other handouts from Feingold. Thanks Jane! It's really worth reading.

Previous post about Jane Hersey on my blog

Monday, September 29, 2008

So much effort to avoid food dye

Well, we survived a bouncy weekend. Alex and Lindsey both had all the typical characteristics of consuming food dye, but I'm not sure where it came from. It sounds like everyone has been making good efforts.

Lindsey's preschool teacher made a special effort and checked the ingredients of the biscuits and margarine used to make a special pizza in class. Alex's OT at the school specifically picked out a white jelly bean for him. I didn't have the heart to tell her that it probably had traces of color that really would effect him. Sometimes it's all just so much work.

Another school staff sent a note home saying that Alex earned a piece of candy but she didn't give him any due to the dye issue. I was a little frustrated as I specifically sent in a whole bag of organic dye free candy to that staff member 2 weeks ago. Apparently she never got it. It seems I've won half the battle about people understanding what my kids can or can't have. But somehow the logistics of it all still seems to get messed up. Sigh, it could be worse, much worse.

Friday, September 26, 2008

You should see what other parents go through

I was checking out the Center for Science in the Public Interest site on food dyes to send a link to a teacher and noticed they have updated a section with parent testimonies. I'm not sure whether to be grateful that other parents go through the same thing, or more alarmed at how widespread this problem really is. You can report your child's response to dyes or check out my earlier post on that topic

As for an update on my homefront, Alex has been all over the place since Tuesday's red#40 snack. He fidgets, gets frustrated, yells, hits the wall, stomps his feet, the list goes on. It's really awful to watch him like this. It's not the real Alex. I only see glimpses of his real self. He still has good moments, like when he played his cello for the neighbor. It should wear off tonight and my sweet one will be back this weekend.

Luckily, Ben has handled dye exposure OK so far. He has been pleasant and cooperative but a little more bouncy and distracted. It's almost like they switched places and Alex got the irritibility that Ben ususally shows and Ben got the wired up hyper stuff that Alex normally does. Go figure. That's what I get for trying to make predictions.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

new articles about effects of food dye

I received an email I wanted to pass along:

Dear Laurie,

Jane Hersey of the Feingold Association asked me to send you some links about articles on food dyes for your blog. Here is our article about the most recent actions regarding food dyes, which we have just posted: We would be thrilled if you would include a link to it on your blog! Discover Magazine ran this article about the Lancet study: and an excellent article ran in the UK's Daily Mail: Another good article is at I hope that these are helpful to you!

Best wishes,

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sometimes I could just cry!

The director of my preschool/daycare called me today. The box of Little Debbie snacks that I provided as a safe alternative for colored birthday treats, the one I thought I had screened for all forbidden substances, actually contains red #40. UHHHHHG! Of course my boys both ate them yesterday. It figures, I really thought I was getting ahead on the food dye battle. Sometimes I just want to give in and let them eat whatever everyone else eats and who cares about the dye. But then I'm back to hyper, impulsive or argumentative kids whose personalities change and that's even worse, way worse.

If we follow trends of the past 2 years, Alex will be louder than usual (actually he was loud at breakfast and I reminded him 3 times use a quiet voice.) He's usually more distracted, and will probably throw things around more. I hope he can keep it together in school. Ben is usually fine the first day but around day 2-3 he usually blows up over homework or piano practice or both. I'm not going to tell them they've even had the dye and see if that helps.

This is exactly why I started this blog. It should not be so hard to keep your kids on a healthy diet. But the reality is, it is hard to read every stinking label of every darn food product that enters your home. It is so defeating to try and try for months only to get distracted in the grocery store with 3 kids along for the ride "helping" you shop. So I missed the crucial ingredient and actually encouraged people to feed it to my kids. I think it stings more to mess up and have someone else call to point it out, not that I'm not glad they did catch it, it just gets me feeling so defeated.

This is why I want food standards to change. It just shouldn't be so hard to keep track of food dyes. I wasn't even focusing on preservatives as much as I want to or I wouldn't have bought the Little Debbies. I wanted something with a shelf life of a few weeks to keep on hand for unexpected events so my kids wouldn't feel so left out. I guess what I should do is make my own cookies from scratch and send them in to the school/daycare to keep in the freezer and pull out whenever there's a birthday. Then I'm free of preservatives and colors. That's more like my mom and grandma would have done it anyway. I guess I can't get around the fact that good nuturtion takes a little work and planning.

ups and downs on dye

We seemed to have officially survived the last does of dye. Alex and Lindsey both went back and forth with impulsive behavior for the last few days. Alex was more silly and loud. Lindsey was more likely to yell or make spitting sounds. Now it's like the switch is flipped and they are back on the normal channel. They weren't awful all the time. We actually made it through a whole cello lesson without incident. Alex was a little distracted but Lindsey sat still and played quietly for the entire 40 minutes. Maybe it was the novelty of being in the cello teacher's garage. She was on her 9th day without power since the Hurricane Ike winds blasted through Ohio. Some things make me stop and be thankful for just a normal ordinary day.

Monday, September 22, 2008

What was I thinking?! 3 year old high on dye part 2

It started off so innocently. We went out to lunch to CiCi's. We all had salad and pizza. That should be safe, right? They used to have a nice salad bar with lots to choose from. Now all they had was a premixed Italian salad or a Bacon ranch one. We've learned to avoid any kind of bacon bits-always red#40. The Italian looked OK at first. Then I realized it was loaded up with banana peppers.

I've learned my lesson about banana peppers. Several months ago at the very same CiCi's Ben asked for banana peppers for his salad. He ate a whole plate of them. Needless to say it was the worst tantrum of his whole entire life and it went on for hours the next day. That was when I realized they soak banana peppers and pickles in yellow dye.

But back to this story, I picked out all the banana peppers and put them on my plate. Alex and Lindsey both ate the salad. Alex even had 2 plates full. It was like half of my brain said, "You know it's contaminated and soaked in dye so don't let them have it." but the other half was in denial and having fun "Oh, it'll be fine, you can't even see any yellow." The logical smart side commented to my husband, Ed "You know we'll probably pay for this." He said, Yea, I know, we'll wait and see." Ben was the smart one. He didn't eat any of it. I can't believe how stupid I was, I ate all the extra ones on my salad. I even thought to myself, "I hope I don't get grumpy."

Things seemed fine for the rest of Saturday. The kids were excited to have a sitter coming so I attributed the bounciness to that. Then Sunday morning hit. Alex and Lindsey kicking each other on the couch until I snapped off the TV. Alex running around not getting dressed for church, Lindsey being loud and demanding and fussy. That's the part that is hard to explain to people. This stuff sometimes takes 24 hours to kick in and then really goes into high gear 24-48 hours later.

After church, Lindsey didn't want to take her nap. She got up at least 4-5 times loosing TV and various items each time. At one point she came out of her room and threw her nightlight at me, then sobbed for 15 minutes that I took it from her. I got angrier and angrier and considered spanking her. I only consider that option when I've had dye. I took a moment of self reflection about how my parenting breaks down when the I have dye and that I need to find some calm strength somewhere. After a quick prayer for patience I decided not to spank and bribed her that I'd give the nightlight back after a good nap. It worked and she finally went to sleep.

I almost took a picture of the fussy crying mess that emerged 2 hours later, but decided she might hold it against me someday. Bedtime was not quite as crazy but Lindsey was pretty demanding and fussy. Alex was wild and had tossed a slipper on top of the plant shelf and wanted it down. I breathed a sigh of relief when all three were in bed. But wait, it's not done yet.

Around 3 am Lindsey was up. She came in my room and announced it was dark. She started screaming all the way back to her room. Put her back to bed and explained the dark is good for her and helps her her body sleep. 3:38 she's up again--needs to pee. 3:57 Alex is now up and announces it is too dark. Sent him back to bed. Alex was up 2 more times to pee and complain about the dark between 4 and 4:30. Ed realized the night light in their bathroom wasn't on and got up to fix it. I love my husband. Thank God Ben didn't wake up too. What a night. My kids are rarely up at night. They know I always take a whole day of TV away and they don't like that.

Now that I'm writing regularly about all this, it is so much easier to see the pattern. The last time Lindsey was up screaming at 2 am was the last time I knew for sure she had yellow dye. Here's what I posted that time

I don't think this is coincidence. People might say I look for excuses and blame it on the dye. Well, I was getting ready to write about the nice week we've had and how great all 3 kids were being all week. Good manners, good behavior, good compliance, peaceful home. Add a little tiny bit of yellow dye and it all breaks down for a few days.

Now that I'm "baring it all" for everyone to see, I'm trying to make sure I keep my parenting is consistent and positive so that is not contributing to any problems. I like Dr. Kevin Leman's book "Have a New Kid by Friday. " I've tried to keep his strategies in place even when behaviors are breaking down: More action than words. "B won't happen until A is complete." It really does help. But keeping them off dye helps the most.

I think I used to write many things off as, "Oh he's just 3, or boys will be boys, that type of stuff that we all say to get through the trials of parenting. Well, food dyes make it all worse. Maybe I'll follow up later with an email to CiCi's. Then again, maybe I'll just take a nap.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Whatever happened to real food?

A friend forwarded this article to me. Does anybody else think it is just ridiculous that everything has to be chemically altered? Check out the slide show at the bottom of the article.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

report adverse reactions to food dye

I was excited to hear from Jane Hersey, the national director of the Feingold Association this week. She has written 2 books on the topic of improving children's behaviors by removing preservatives and food dyes. Here is a link

Jane also reminded me that parents can report adverse reactions to food dyes at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. I filed a report for each of my 3 children before I started this blog. Please do the same so we can get the FDA to take action. The FDA continues to be in denial that this is a problem so the best way to change that is for parents to speak up.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

concerned enough to write to congress

I've never written to Congress in my whole entire life, until now. But since I've seen for myself the HUGE effects of food dyes on my children and lots of others' too, I've decided to make some noise. It's honestly that big a deal to me. I can't even begin to describe how significantly better my kids are off the stuff, and how every little thing breaks down into various levels of chaos when they consume dye.

You don't have to take my word for it. Try it yourself for a week. Remove all food coloring from your family's diet. Keep it out several days. Then serve them something nice and red. Watch for 3 whole days after that. Comment back on my blog when you see what happens. It took me several months to really believe what I saw and experienced. It was the same with my friends. So many people have seen the same crazy behavior with red and yellow dye, as well as the research published a year ago, that I just hope our food standards here will change someday soon like they already have in Britain.

It's easy to contact government officials through Center for Science in the Public Interest. I used their form contacts but wrote my own quick statement requesting foods with artificial coloring have warning labels.

The more parents that get involved, the sooner our foods standards will improve.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

new response from Kraft foods

I previously wrote to request that Kraft make foods free from red #40, yellow#5 and #6. Here is another response I received today:

Hi Laurie,
Thank you for visiting
Although Pillsbury is not one of our brands, I would like you to know that we have begun making a few products without any coloring. For instance, Invisible Kool-Aid. Also, keep in mind that any product to which a colorant is added to enhance visual appearance is considered "artificially olored" even if the colorant used is a natural ingredient.I appreciate you taking the time to e-mail us and let us know about this situation. We always like to acknowledge when our consumers provide us with information that can help us serve you better.
I'll make sure to forward your information onto the appropriate staff.Again, thanks for contacting us, and I hope you'll continue to enjoy our products.

Kim McMillerAssociate Director, Consumer Relations

dealing with dyes in school snacks

It's hard enough to avoid the food dyes at home and at restaurants. They are hidden in products you would never expect. It's an even more complicated mess to try to keep my kids from eating all the tempting colored treats at school. Ben has gotten tired of having the "melt downs" after eating red so he's pretty good at avoiding things, or asking about ingredients before eating things. At the "meet the teacher" night we explained that our son cannot have food dye and other parents seemed interested. I told the teacher that safe treats are white cakes without the sprinkles, glazed donuts, and chocolate or chocolate chip cookies.

Last week, one parent contacted me to check what Ben could have. She happens to be a former colleague so that may make her more willing to go the extra mile. She decided to make white cup cakes, but her daughter was really hoping for some chocolate sprinkles. I emailed back to leave a plain one for Ben, but also added that if she was shopping for sprinkles anyway, that the Mr. Sprinkles clown bottle is dye free. I heard back from that Mom today that while others were running around the store restocking milk and meat from the massive power outages, they were looking for the clown sprinkles and found them! How blessed we are when someone is willing to go out of their way to include my son so he can eat what the rest of the class eats. If you read this, Thanks Laura!

For the times when other treats are sent in, I have supplied the teacher with individually sealed cakes that don't have dye. Most "Little Debbie" snacks are fine, but it's best to read the label.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Do your kids get hyper on sodium benzoate?

I'm thinking there's something to the British study last fall on food dyes and the preservative, sodium benzoate. check it out here

I've started paying attention to how much sodium benzoate my kids have. It's a preservative found in pickles, soft drinks, etc. Today I learned there's lots of it in soy sauce. It's pretty high on the ingredient list. I'll have to re-think cooking some of my favorites.

I thought I had a nice healthy dinner: Chicken stir fry with broccoli, yellow peppers, carrots and onions served over rice. I used lots of soy sauce to flavor it. All three kids ate is up and enjoyed it quite well with compliments. Their afternoon snack was apples. They drank milk with dinner. There was no sugar or food coloring in anything. But as soon as dinner was done, all three went spastic. They were literally zooming around the house. I sent all three of them out to run laps around the cul-de-sac. That calmed things down considerably, but I have to wonder about those preservatives.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

taming the tantrums

I could never figure out how my oldest son could be so great some days and have so many tantrums and outbursts on other days. It was like he had two personalities. I tried to parent him consistently and deal with the behaviors the best I could, but it was still hard.

Then while I was taking his brother off food coloring I started to realize something. Ben was calmer and less moody. I realized his outbursts only occurred within a few days of having food coloring. I took him off food coloring, and now outbursts are rare or nonexistent. He is an excellent student, helpful brother, he cleans the bathroom and scoops doggie doo without complaining. He is so much more peaceful ever since I took him off food coloring.

It's been a whole year of peace now. I feel like I saved the best parts of Ben's personality and saved my sanity too. I wish other moms could see what a difference removing food dye makes. The research shows plenty of links to hyperactivity, but not so much to irritiability. Well, food dyes really make 2 of my children so irritable I don't want to be around them. It is such a huge difference I hope other moms will try it. Just take a week to read all the lables and keep them off reds and yellows. Then when the inevitable happens and they eat something dyed, watch for 3 days and see for yourself. It's not easy, but it's worth it.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Response from Kraft

I received a somewhat generic company statement from Kraft in response to my request for naturally colored products. Here is what I sent back:

Thank you for acknowledging my request. However, I would like to point out a few things to you. Your Pillsbury frosting sometimes list red #40 and yellow #5 and sometimes indicate "artificial coloring" on the ingredient list. I'd like clarification as to what kind of coloring that really is, otherwise, I won't be buying it. I will add it to the other Kraft products that I no longer buy due to food coloring.

I may seem like one insignificant consumer, but I've already affected the buying habits of at least 20 families, and they are now telling their friends and families about the risks of food dyes. We are amazed that every family who has tried eliminating artificial coloring has found it to be hugely beneficial. I suspect this effect is not well represented in research because of how difficult it is to truly eliminate all coloring from a child's diet, thus, only the very diligent parent is able to see the true difference. Despite that, recent research does show food coloring to be problematic.

I also understand that Lunchables are currently being sold in Britain without artificial food coloring due to that country's demand for naturally colored products. I would like to see the same type of products available here in the US as it sounds like you are already manufacturing them. I would like to assert that more and more consumers are finding artificial colors to be detrimental to their children. I found the following comment to be very insulting to the intelligence of the American people:
"Consumers expect food to look, smell and taste good and without added color many foods would appear unappetizing and would be rejected by many consumers without regard to nutritional value."

While I understand this to be sadly true about many consumers, I hope you will consider that there is considerable movement among parents to improve the quality of our children's diets. If you want us to continue shopping for better products at high priced health food stores, we will do so. However, you may be surprised that more and more people are changing their shopping habits and we hope Kraft will pay attention to our desire for better products without all the dyes.

Laurie Hoff

Sunday, September 7, 2008

It's hard to say, "No" all the time

I'm used to telling my kids, "No, you can't have that." on a daily basis. I do it without really thinking about it much anymore, but sometimes, it's just hard.

Today, when I dropped Lindsey off at Sunday school all the normal precautions were in place. The sign up sheet has her name listed in bold "no food coloring." I attached the extra alert clip to her clothing and let the staff know she should not eat the M&Ms or the red licorice. I said OK to sugar cookies and white frosting. It seemed simple and safe.

Then I picked Lindsey up after service and saw the bowl of frosting on the table. It was more yellow than white, a difference most people don't notice. A small difference makes a big difference sometimes. I'll watch and see what that little dose of yellow food coloring does over the next few days. She hasn't spit or hit since the last dose wore off.

It's ironic that I checked Pillsbury's website last week for frosting ingredients. I knew that even the white frosting lists artificial coloring (red #40 and yellow #5). I knew when I dropped her off I should have just said, "No frosting." But sometimes, it's just hard to say "No," so I didn't. Oh well.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Terrific Teacher

I am blessed with a terrific 1st grade teacher for Alex. She contacted me to let me know she was letting the kids have freezer pops on hot afternoons and was letting Alex have his natural candies instead. She asked if there were popsicles he could have. I dropped off his dye free popsicles and he got to have his cold snack with the class, without all the trouble of the dye. Yeah for Miss Thiel. I also let her know that Popsicle brand has naturally colored products.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Requesting natural products from Kroger

Since it was so easy to contact Kraft, I decided to starting contacting different companies and making the same requests for naturally colored products. Kroger was at the top of my list becauase I do most of my grocery shopping there and we get prescriptions there. After hearing my friend lament about her kids being on red antibiotics this week, I wanted to be proactive and make a request before my kids get sick.

You could contact Kroger too:

Sunday, August 31, 2008

challenge of shopping for dye free products

Every week it's a challenge. Every grocery store trip involves much more reading of ingredients than I care to do. Luckily, Ben is great reader and helps look for the dreaded Red 40, Yellow 5 and 6. He's a good helper. It's still frustrating when the things I want don't come dye free. Today it was pudding mix to make a Berry Trifle for our neighborhood cook out. Why does vanilla pudding have to be yellow? Who decided that every brand needs it? I just wonder sometimes. Usually I opt not to get things with color. This time, I'm making the recipe anyway, because it's a favorite and I'm a victim of cravings. I'll just give my kids another desert.

It only takes minute to send a quick email to companies such as

Here's what I sent:

To whom it may concern:

I am writing to request that you make your products available without aritificial coloring. My children react strongly with negative behaviors every time they eat anything with food colorings such as Red # 40, Yellow #5 and Yellow #6. Research has shown these ingredients to be problematic. Please make products available that are naturally colored. It is frustrating that even things such as Macaroni and Cheese and Vanilla Pudding have coloring added. I find the additives to be unnecessary and detrimental to my children's health.


Laurie Hoff

Saturday, August 30, 2008

3 year old high on dye

Why do I need a diary to keep track of food dye? Well it seems like every week there is some new struggle. This week it is Lindsey's screaming, tantrumming and hitting ever since eating the orange cheese crackers for snack on her first day of Preschool.

The staff know she isn't supposed to have those crackers since they have Yellow #5 and #6. I've gone through every ingredient on the menu months ago and explained what my children cannot have. They forgot. They apologized. But I'm still left with a three year old who woke up that night and had one of the biggest screaming tantrums ever, all at 2 am. Then there is the hitting, spitting and sticking her tongue out all the time. I know, it's not at all unusual for a 3 year old to do these things and assert her independence and new found skills. The timing of her move to the 3 year old class and her big brothers going back to school could also trigger behaviors. But it is sure is interesting that these things only seem to occur within 3 days of a dose of dye. I try to pray for extra patience to materialize out of somewhere, because I used up most of mine by Wednesday. If she stays true to form she should be better today.

Friday, August 29, 2008

What's up with food dye?

I figured there was something about red food dye 2 years ago when my son took a red antibiotic for 2 weeks. He was a wild and crazy 5 year old for the entire 2 weeks. It was awful. He changed into this crazed maniac that I was embarassed to be with. So I started watching and realized over several months that it was happening every time he had Red #40. I took out the Red #40 and realized it also happened with yellow #5 and #6.

That was 2 years ago. Now I have removed all artificial food coloring from the diet of all three of my children. If you've ever tried to do that, you know it's not easy. If you haven't tried it, you should start today. You may have no idea how many of the annoying things your kids do could be related to the food coloring in their diet.

I'll write more about my kids in other posts. If you don't believe me, check out the link I've provided to Center for Science in the Public Interest . There is recent research that verifies this problem is not just for ADHD kids but the general population.

Britain has removed food coloring from their foods. Why haven't we done that here in the USA? I hope this blog will help more people ask that question and start demanding answers.