Monday, December 21, 2009

darn those yellow donuts!

This is the second time in the last month that yellow donuts have become an issue, both times at breakfast buffets. From the outside they looked like normal brownish sugar covered donuts (one with powdered sugar, the other with cinnamon sugar). Both times my 4 year old took a bite only to reveal a bright yellow inside. By then it's too late. Uhg! No more sugared donuts for us. I definitely see the irritability and impulse control problems that always accompany the dies. At least it will wear off before Christmas.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Food dyes and sensory issues

I wanted to respond to a question posted on my last entry. Do children who respond to food dyes also have sensory issues? In my family, I have one child with sensory issues who responds pretty strongly to food dyes with VERY SEVERE impulsivity and hyperactivity. My other two children do not have sensory issues, but they respond almost more severely to the dyes with irritability, tantrums, and pretty intense negative behaviors. These behaviors always last about 3 full days after eating the food dye.

My friend has a child who only seems to have sensory issues when she has food dyes. She becomes sensitive to clothing and temperature, etc. It makes getting ready for school on time almost impossible. The same friend and I have shared observations that we each have a child who could meet diagnostic criteria for Bipolar Disorder when they are on food dyes. What is reassuring, but also alarming to me, is that both children are normally well behaved, even tempered children. We are both trained child mental health professionals, so we find that very interesting that our children actually start to mimic symptoms of many clinical disorders by merely consuming petrochemicals in food. So my answer would be, yes children with sensory issues may very well be more sensitive to the neurological effects of the food dyes. But my strong hunch is that many many children are sensitive to food dyes and could be calmer and more stable with basic dietary changes. If only more parents knew this!!!!

If you are new to this blog and reading this, you read right when I said petrochemicals. Artificial colors and flavors are really made from petroleum and often manufactured in China. Need I say more? Why should anyone eat that? Get the word out so we all have more choices and options to eat real foods without chemicals. The trends are changing so hopefully it will be easier and less expensive too. I thought finding organic candy canes at Kroger was a great indicator of good choices to come.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

dye free candy canes

I could hardly believe it. I went to Kroger to pick up a few basics and saw in the produce section a huge display of holiday items. It was the typical stuff you use for baking. Then I realized there were boxes upon boxes of Organic Candy Canes! That means no dyes! They are the same kind I went to the health food store to get last week. I checked out their web site They even have dye free COTTON CANDY. Do you know how long it's been since my kids have eaten cotton candy?!

My 4 year old probably does not remember eating candy canes since we banned red #40 from the house 3 years ago. I haven't had a candy cane in years. I have to say, it was nice to enjoy a normal holiday treat without the mood problems (mine or my kids'). Maybe the "dye free" choice is finally catching on. It's about time it got a little easier. Feel free to comment on your own dye free discoveries this holiday season.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

food dye from the funeral

Well, that about says it all... sort of. I have not posted much because of my parents' health problems, among other difficulties. I'm sorry to say my dad passed away about a week ago. As if that were not all hard enough, my son's birthday was the day of the funeral. Then we went to a lunch afterward only to have banana peppers in both the sandwiches and the pasta salad. In case you have not seen my previous posts about banana peppers, they soak them in yellow dye. I've seen some of our worst reactions come from banana peppers. Too bad, because I really like them. Normally, I would just send all the "contaminated" food back, but when 3 kids had already waited an hour at the restaurant (until 2 pm) for lunch, I didn't care any more and we all ate it. Well you can imagine how that turned out.

Now I messed up again and got green gum instead of the white gum for St. Nick's day. My 4 year old has been back to the spitting, yelling, defiance, you name it. Uhhg. Hopefully only 1 more day of that until the effects wear off. You would not think a little stick of Trident would make a difference, but it does for my kids. I try to stick to Freedent, or other white gums, but I have been distracted and less careful lately.

On a more positive note, I found dye free candy canes at the health food store. Well, actually, my friend asked if they would order them back in November and they called her Saturday to say they were in. My friend had ordered some online, so I ran over and got her box. Good thing I went right away, it looked like the last box. If I get my act together I'll dig the box back out an post the brand name.

Here's hoping everyone else is more successful in their pursuit of dye free foods this holiday season. We did avoid problems on Thanksgiving. Still sad that Crescent rolls have red and yellow in them, but we somehow survived without them.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ready for Halloween

Whew, I wasn't sure I would even get to post this before Halloween. I've still been busy with sick parents, sick kids, and school problems. It's been a tough fall so Halloween kind of snuck up on me this year.

A fellow food dye fanatic/friend sent me this link about Necco wafers going dye free. I stocked up on Yummy Earth Lollipops, Darell Lea's licorice (from Target) and some chocolate. I use my selections to replace what my kids bring home from parties.

Here is what I sent in to the preschool party today:

I used a white cake and frosting mix and then decorated with spider rings from Walmart. My daughter loved that some of the rings were purple. For those who have not read my previous holiday posts, I often use white cakes and frosting to make cupcakes for school parties. Be sure to read the ingredients. Many white cake and frosting have dyes.

Then I decorate with colorful things that don't contain dyes. Some cupcake paper wrappers come with matching toothpicks to stick in each cupcake. Otherwise I've used foil wrapped chocolates. Basically I try to add color, without adding petroleum based color like red #40. This year I did not sign up for very many parties (didn't get to the list quick enough at parent night) so I just brought in a cupcake for my son's party and he passed on the rest of the stuff the other parents brought.

My oldest has been quite happy that I stocked the teacher with candy for him. He would rather have a few Surf Sweets sour worms than a cupcake anyway. I just asked what he wanted to eat on party days and he picked a few bags of candy. It works out easily because the candy keeps a little longer than cookies or cakes. The only down side: one day he had a sub and she didn't believe him that he could get candy instead of a birthday treat. Win some, loose some.

I'm also still trying to find which dentist pays kids for their Halloween candy. I think we'll pay him a visit.

Monday, October 19, 2009

pet peeves about food dyes

My children often drink water in restaurants because the lemonade and punch have dyes, the soft drinks have sugar and sodium benzoate, and one is even allergic to milk. I hate it when the only water option is the self serve soft drink dispenser where you have to push the tab on the same spout as the fruit punch. I always let the water run to try to wash it out. Today I went back and asked for a lid for the cup of water. They did not have a lid so they gave me a white Styrofoam cup instead. Once I transferred the water from a clear cup into the white cup, it was easy to see that it was still pink. SIGH. How frustrating when you can't even get water without the red#40. Next time I'll spend the extra dollar and buy a bottle of water. So much for the environment. I dumped the cup an told my daughter I'd give her a better drink when we got home. Bottom line: watch out for where your water comes from in restaurants.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

dye free cough syrup

Since flu season hit so early here, I've found myself with 3 coughing children this week. I don't like to give a lot of medicine, but when they are hacking away so bad that nobody can sleep, it seemed something was needed.

I actually had 2 kinds of cough syrup on hand after I threw away the purple stuff. One was a clear Triaminic. The other was NatraBio children's cough syrup from the health food store. Both have helped. My children tolerated the taste of both, even though the homeopathic one smelled pretty strong. I have been unable to find more the of the clear Triaminic now that we ran out, but I've only checked Kroger so far. The good news is, you do have choices besides the rainbow colored ones. Even if your kids are healthy, keep an eye out for the dye free Motrin and cough products now so you already have them when you need them. You'll be glad you did.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

dye free antibiotics

I can't believe we're in cold and flu season already. We've had a major flu outbreak at school this week, so when my son spiked a fever, I was thinking there was a huge chance it was H1N1. It turns out 2 of my children have strep throat instead. The doc warned that almost every child she has seen from our school has tested positive for flu, so we will probably still get it. Can't wait!

In the mean time, the nurse handed me 2 prescriptions for Amoxicilin chewable tablets. I reminded her my kids can't have food dyes. She said she could check with the pharmacy, but they were visibly swamped and I guessed that would take another hour. I called the pharmacy myself, from the doctor's office. The pharmacist originally thought they only had pink tablets, but sounded surprised to find some white ones. Problem solved, for once without dyes and without the run-around. My son says they taste good/minty. It was nice to get a cheep generic prescription rather than the expensive compounds we've had in recent months for other things.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hi, I'm back

September ended up being a very stressful month. I thought we were starting off a really great school year, but soon found a long list of problems with one particular school staff member. I've been so busy, I feel like I blinked my eyes and the month is over. Oh, yeah, we've also had one kid in a cast and many other interesting adventures.

On the food dye front, one of the funniest, and at the same time most pathetic incidents was when an intervention person at my school told me she gives the kids the red and white mints to help them concentrate. Oh, yeah, that will do it, I thought.

Another person gave my son a Dum Dum at school on a Friday and we dealt with that for a whole weekend. That was a "fun" weekend, to say the very least. Hopefully others are being more successful in their journey to remain "dye free." Hopefully life will settle down a little and I'll get back to posting more often.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

it's starting early

Can't believe I've already got a child with a sore throat and fever! We haven't even had a full week since school started. At least the Urgent Care doctor took me seriously and wrote the script for Augmentin (the while antibiotic) rather than the pink stuff. I told him my child reacts badly to food coloring and could I please have a medicine that did not contain artificial colors. I told him I have learned that many times medicines have colors in them already banned in food. He seemed surprised by that. I briefly explained that my children all show severe changes in reaction to food dyes and that it is very detrimental to them. He believed me and said we could get Augmentin instead of Amoxicilin.

In case you haven't read my early entries, that's how my whole journey with food dyes began. A dark colored antibiotic made my child look crazy hyper. That was 3 years ago. What a journey it has been.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What are the effects of food dyes?

Many people wonder what food dyes really do. How can they be detrimental if they are allowed to be in so many children's foods? Well, I'd like to lay it out there from 2 perspectives: 1. the research 2. my experience as a Mom.

Research has been showing food dyes to cause hyperactivity and irritability in "normal" kids, not just ADHD kids. Our FDA does not want to acknowledge the recent research, but it was enough for Britain to ban dyes from their foods. Hmmm, total denial, verses total action to protect children. Seeing any trends with out FDA? Check links to the side for articles about the recent studies.

Here are a few new ones I found:

Do food dyes affect kids' behavior? --LA Times

The truth about food dyes -Couric and Co CBS

Chemical food additive exposure during pregnancy

This last one is disturbing. In case you didn't read it all the way through, here's the conclusion:

Regarding the observations of hyperactivity after exposure to food dyes, there was enough evidence for the researchers to conclude,
"Our results provide additional support for the belief that administration of food colorings may exert significant effects in the developing organism. Thus, it is apparent that food dyes affect activity levels during the first month of postnatal life."
Dr. Bennett A. ShaywitzPediatric Neurology, Yale University School of MedicineNeurobehavioral Toxicology, Vol. 1:41-47

I wish I knew why this stuff has not been better studied and publicised, but it seems that it is still not common knowledge to many families. My hope is that my blog will help with that. I just wish there was a better way to shout to our country, "Wake up and look at your children! This is not how children are supposed to be. People were not made to eat petroleum by-products!"

As a mom I have seen even more dramatic effects. I have 2 children who become irritable, defiant and difficult to be around. The screaming, shouting, fighting, it all goes off the charts. It's not continual. It's more like it spikes without warning over the course of 3 days. One even spits, hits, sticks the tongue out a lot, but only within 3 days of food dyes. The behavior does not otherwise occur. I also see hyperactivity mixed in with the angry stuff on the same two. It's like the brakes short circuit and they jump, bounce and dash about much more than normal.

That leaves my other child, the "hyperactive times 100 when on food dyes" child. I don't see as much of the angry responses out of that one, but more of the crazy, "devil may care" attitude that revs from sun up to sun down with no break. It's like he's on drugs! And then I sat there thinking he needed to be one. Thank God I figured out the food dye connection and never had to go down that path. He didn't need Ritalin or any other drug. He needed healthy food. Again, the behavior stays under control unless there is an exposure to food dye. I've tried it out hundreds of times over 3 years. When the food dyes are not consumed, I have calm, considerate, polite children who do their chores and homework without incident, practice their musical instruments, and maintain a reasonable level of peace. It's honestly just that simple.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


I decided to organize my links a little better, so that part of my blog will be undergoing changes over the next few days as time permits.

informing teachers about food dyes

As my children get ready to go back to school this week, I am composing a letter to the teachers. I like to introduce our family and tell a little about my child's interests, but I will also be making my preference to keep my children "dye free" known in writing. I am hopeful that having the preference known in writing will help prevent problems. I also found it helpful last year to voice the concern out loud to other parents at the "meet the teacher" night and request that it be treated as a food allergy. We had many parents who did remember about the need to be "dye free" when they chose birthday treats for their own child's party. Some went to great lengths to make sure my son had a dye free snack.

My letter to the teacher will go something like this:

Dear teacher,

I wanted to let you know that my child is not able to eat anything with the following artificial food coloring ingredients: red #40, yellow #5, yellow #6 and blue #1. These petroleum based chemicals have been found to negatively affect children by provoking emotional and behavioral responses. The response to these chemicals can last up to 3 full days. These food colorings are banned in Brittan and other countries, since research has proven their ill effects on children. As I want my child to be at his best for school work, I hope you will assist me in making sure that my child does not consume any artificially colored products in class. I will be happy to provide alternate treats so that my son can enjoy treats with the class. If you could please let me know of any special parties or activities in advance, I will be happy to send in appropriate substitutions for my child. I have collected a great deal of information and research on this topic on my blog: You could also say: I have found a blog that explains more information and research about food dyes.

Lets hope for safe eating and a successful dye free school year!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

dye free lollipops at Amazon

My friend found Yummy Earth on sale at Amazon. They have really good dye free candy. The Amazon link actually has a video where you can watch how they make them. The kids enjoyed hearing them talk about how they don't use red #40 and all that yucky stuff.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Feingold on youtube

Why is your child irritable, angry, hyper or upset? This is really worth checking out!
Feingold has short video clips on youtube about food dyes and reasons to avoid them. This is a nice clip to pass along to teachers or family members who do not understand about keeping children off food dyes. Pass this along to anyone who is interested!

Monday, August 10, 2009

surprising dye free cereal

While shopping at Kroger today we noticed a large display at the end of an aisle of a new line of natural cereals from Mom's Naturals. They actually have an all natural substitute for Lucky Charms, only without the junk. No kidding. I always loved them as a kid, so of course we bought them and tried them already. Picking the crunchy little marshmallows is still just as fun, only now without all the side effects of the dyes. Here's a link to the company where you can even get coupons:

I've heard that the demand for natural foods has finally increased such that companies are able to produce foods in larger quantities pushing the price down. Kroger is now offering more and more natural foods because the lower prices also make it more likely the average Kroger shopper will buy them. Isn't that a nice change.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

imagine paint poured over a cookie

That's what the snack at daycare looked like today. I should have taken a picture. They apparently mixed food coloring (the entire bottle from the looks of it) with sweetened condensed milk and poured it over a pan of bar cookies. I planned ahead and expected myself to forget to pack the cookies this morning so I packed up my own plain old chocolate chip cookies ahead of time and already had them in a bag in the car (Luckily it's been cool here). That way when I walked into the daycare kitchen this morning and saw today's cookies, all I had to do was go back to the car to get safe cookies for my kids. I wonder how many kids are going to be cranked up all weekend? At least it won't be mine.

I also think it's time to search for new info on how many countries have actually banned food dyes and their reasons for doing so. Of course I'll post whatever I find on that, but I'm thinking I need to print it out and hand it to the director of my daycare/summercamp/preschool just for good measure.

So today's lesson about avoiding dyes at day care. Always look ahead at the menu and always have a safe snack.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

what are the odds of this?

We rarely eat any restaurant food anymore. It's just easier not to. However, tonight Alex had a cello recital and we wanted to celebrate how well he played, so we stopped at McDonald's. We were originally only going to get fries, but Ben wanted a chocolate shake and that sounded good so we both got one. I was driving home drinking my shake when I suddenly found myself chewing on a piece of strawberry. Just as I was starting to grumble, Ben says, "Mom I think my shake tastes like strawberry."

You know what that means. McDonalds only has strawberries with red #40 in them. Of course they make dye free strawberry sauce for Britan. If you have not read my whole blog then you may not know that food dyes are banned in Britain and other countries. Those countries acknowledge the research that indicates negative health effects on children from consuming food dyes. I'm still wondering how our own FDA gets away with ignoring the same research and allowing neurotoxins in our food.

In the mean time, I'm trying an experiment. I told Ben I'll pay him 5 dollars if he shows no sign of irritability, defiance or the other negative results of food dyes for the next 3 days. I'm curious if he's old enough to summon the effort to over-ride it. We'll see how I do too. My guess is that Friday and Saturday will the "hot days." So the contest is on to see who can keep their cool longer, me or my son.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

How is this legal?

I was cleaning through m medicine cabinet last week when my boys had poison ivy. I came across a package of Benadryl tablets that look hot pink and contain. D & C red #27. I found that interesting as I know only red #40 and Red #33 are approved for food. Tuns out this one's in lipstick and lip gloss despite it being known as a neurotoxin. Check out the link I found about that:

Now obviously I threw it all out before anyone in my family could accidentally take it, but how many people take that on a regular basis? Hmmmm.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Celebrating 5000 with another food dye mishap

That's right, yesterday marked the 5000th hit on my blog.

We have learned to be very very careful about what we feed our children. But somehow those nerotoxins still seem to sneak in. This week it was salad dressing at golf camp. How ironic that my 2 boys were among the few that chose to eat the beautiful healthy salad since there were always chips, cookies, brownies, etc. OH MY GOSH! It was not until I even typed this that I stopped to consider the brownies. Those can often have red #40 too.

I noticed Ben getting progressively more negative and grumpy at home all week. I kept asking him what he ate. I suspected they had the lemonade at camp. Both boys insisted they only drank water. Then it dawned on me when I asked a food server to check the ingredients on the potato wedges that looked a little too orange. Sure enough, there was dye in them, so we avoided those. That's when I looked at the Italian dressing they were having all week. Nice red bits, deep yellow base, pretty sure we had the culprit. Luckily this camp encouraged parents to come eat with the kids every day so I could be the overprotective "no you can't eat that" watch dog of a mom. Well, that part's more due to the milk/soy/wheat allergy than the food dyes.

But, trying to keep it all in perspective, my boys loved golf camp and may be developing a lifelong interest they can share with their dad. They developed skills, made friends, behaved well, avoided injury, and ended the week with a new bargain set of clubs so they don't have to share anymore. The camp also included new golf shoes and a Tiger Woods hat for everyone. So while I would prefer to not have the grump and the energizer bunny running around my house for the next 2 days, all things considered we are still doing pretty well. I'll try to count my blessings. On second thought, there must not have been red#40 in the brownies. I ate them 3 days in a row (Ben kept getting too full to enjoy good chocolate so someone had to do it). If there really was red#40 in them, I'd be way too irritable to write about counting blessings. So that's another blessing.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Why is my child so angry?

My obvious answer to that question is FOOD DYE, FOOD DYE, FOOD DYE.

Sorry to be redundant to my regular followers, but I'm hoping that a few more parents looking for answers will stumble across my page if I address anger problems. For those who haven't heard, I probably sound completely crazy. How could my food make me or my child angry? Well, don't take my word for it. Food dyes are banned in Britain. That's right. You can't buy food there with artificial colors like red#40 or yellow #5. That happened as a result of a study that came out in 2008. Check my links to research at the right hand side of this page. I'm not making it up.

Still not convinced, then just try it for yourself. Start paying attention to what your child ate for the 2-3 days prior to an outburst. Was there red or yellow food coloring in it? Hmmm, I know it seems way too simple to be a real issue. Better yet, take your child off all food dyes for a few weeks. Summer is the best time to try this since you don't have school lunches and snacks to worry about. Then after you are sure you have cleaned out the dyes for a good week or two, indulge in some nice red #40 colored something. See what happens for the next 3 days after that. It could be the most enlightening experiment you ever do in your family. Or you could live with tempers flaring, outbursts all over and relationships frustrated and failing.

Now I'm not to say there are not legitimate mental health problems that cause anger. If your child has a trauma or abuse history or your family is going through lots of stress then you may need more intervention than diet. I'm really talking to all those families whose children have a pretty good life but still seem angry or grumpy all the time and no one knows why. Those are the ones who could benefit from being dye free. But on the other hand, if perfectly normal healthy children in intact stable families show dramatic behavior changes just by taking away a few ingredients, isn't it more important for children facing other stressors to have the same benefit?

I hated the way my son and I were always at odds. He acted like he hated my guts. I was sending him to his room a lot and he would yell, scream, cry, threaten, etc. Rewards and punishment didn't seem to change it. It wasn't until several months after I weaned my family off food dyes that I realized how much better my son was. He doesn't get angry or explosive any more. He stays calm and accepts the ups and downs without loosing it. I never would have believed it if I had not lived it with my own 3 children.

I didn't even start my quest to avoid food dye due to anger or irritability. I started because the dyes made my other son wildly hyperactive. The calming of the storm in my other 2 children was a completely unexpected but very real blessing. It was almost miraculous when I think back to how crazy things were. I just wish more people knew about this. Others, feel free to comment on your own stories.

Monday, July 27, 2009

dye free foods, a few steps at a time

While the word of mouth approach continues to be very slow, I can see some things starting to happen. I spoke to a parent at swim lessons, who wanted to go dye-free. My neighbor posted about dyes on facebook. A Kindergarten teacher contacted me as she is setting up an allergy safe kindergarten snack menu and wanted dye-free ideas. I think people are slowly learning that this is something we should pay attention to.

We are also finding new surprises to satisfy old cravings. We tried Kettle Brand New York Cheddar Cheese chips. We've been waiting for them to go on sale as they are a little pricey, but really tasty. While we have missed the flavor of all those orange cheesy chips, we have certainly not missed the behavior that used to come with them.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

sometimes the 3rd day is the worst

I think we managed 4 days at my in-laws' farm and 3 days at my parents without any mishaps with dyes. That's a feat considering the large M&M dispenser full of peanut M&Ms always within reach at my in-laws'. In a momentary loss of reason I ordered a lime soda ( blue #1 and yellow #5) for myself when my Dad took me out for Mexican food. I seemed fine until the third day but today I feel short tempered and need to hold my tongue to not say or yell what I really want to say. I also intercepted my Dad before he offered a shortbread cookie to Lindsey with yellow #5 in it. I don't think the grandpas will ever really understand about food dyes.

Friday, July 17, 2009

now she tells me

I think my 4 year old actually ate the cookie bar I ranted about yesterday. The hitting out of nowhere, spitting, yelling and spite, it's all there too. Now she says she ate some colored cookie at school. Maybe she's making it up, since 4 year olds do like their drama. But, Ben says he got the whole bag of chocolate cookies I left for the 2 of them to share. Might be a long weekend.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

creative cookie bars!

There is just no convincing some people that food dyes are a problem. Offer the research, it's ignored. Explain that other countries have banned them, so what. Giver personal testimony of how it affects my own children and every family I know, it still lands on deaf ears. How many Americans still think that if it's in everything and we've eaten it for years, it must be OK? Sometimes I honestly wonder, what's the point?

To what do I owe this new wave of pessimism? Today's summer camp menu included creative cookie bars, which I was told were chocolate chip cookies covered with condensed milk with red and green food coloring UUUUUUUHG! Now, it's not really that bad. It's not like my kids ate them or anything like that. I shouldn't complain too much. I looked ahead on the menu. Heaven help me on the morning I don't have my act together and forget to look at the menu, but I looked at the menu before leaving the house and was prepared and left my own cookies for my little darlings to eat for snack. I just get so annoyed that the same people who have helped me check every menu ingredient for the past 2 years still keep finding "creative" ways to add extra unnecessary food coloring into the menu. Clearly I've been written off as an extreme nut case who knows nothing. Maybe that's why everyone smiles when they say hello.

Win some, loose some, I guess I'll call this one a draw. They all work well enough to make sure my kids don't eat any dyes. But unfortunately, this day care's one battle for dye free foods that will apparently never extend beyond my own children.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Update of my favorite dye-free foods

My original favorite dye free foods post has been the most visited on my site. I decided to update it as I've found more favorites. We shop a little at the health food store due to food allergies (son needs to avoid wheat, dairy, soy, oats, lemon). Otherwise, we do the majority of our shopping at Kroger. (Helps to have my husband's employee discount so I opt for Kroger and Private Selection products whenever possible.)

Drinks: We do mostly water or milk. Chocolate milk has been a special indulgence only for restaurants. It is usually dye free. I've cut down on juice and Capri Sun since finding that 2 of mine get pretty wired on apple and grape products. However, 100% juice and Capri Sun are usually dye free. Watch out for individually bottled juice drinks. My husband once bought a juice blend that said 100% juice but it had yellow #5 added. We like Simply Lemonade, which is organic, They also have a pink lemonade colored with raspberry juice. Once in a while we get Vitamin Water or the Naturally Preferred H2O drinks for times when I know my kids will be around other kids with lots of Gatorade (baseball). We mostly survived baseball season with our own water bottles that I filled and took with us to each game. I found an old insulated diaper bag that kept them cool and saved us lots of money on concession drinks. Sprite and rootbeer are usually OK, although someone just commented on a post today that A&W rootbeer had dye in it.

We skip all lemonade and punch at restaurants, it always has artificial dye.

Breakfast foods: we make our own pancakes and freeze extras for quick meals on school days. Tip: Most Eggo brand waffles have yellow dye. Most Kroger brand waffles are dye free.
Yogurt: Regular Yoplait is usually dye free. Most of the Yoplait Light have dyes. We skip all the Gogurts, Yogos, etc. (more sugar and dyes added than good stuff) We recently found that Dannimals Crush Cups are dye free. So are the Dannimal smoothies, but fairly high on the sugar.
Cereal: We stay with plain cereals or organic. If you kids want sweet and colorful cereal Kroger brand Cocoa Crispies are dye free. We also like Barbara's Wild Puffis and several Puffin brand cereals (there's even a peanut butter one). Our Kroger has all the organic cereals in a separate aisle. We also like Kashi products.

What to eat for lunch: 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. We no longer eat any kind of Lunchables. My kids did OK ditching the colored candy but the preservatives still seemed to set them off. We like Hormel lunch meat as it is all natural. I actually have 2 kids who love tuna. We have PB, but for some reason my kids don't like the jelly. (saves the problem of possible dyes there.)

Foods at Daycare/Preschool: this continues to be an area of struggle and frustration. I had the menu down and provided substitutes for all necessary items. Then they changed the menu for summer. My food allergy son takes his own lunch and is not allowed to eat anything that I did not personally pack for him. For my other two in the summer camp, I check each food ingredient and request to see the packaging on everything. I often spend an extra 5-10 minutes checking this at drop-off time in the morning. I supply extras for them to keep on hand of cookies, sprinkles, candy, popsicles, etc. The biggest factor in our success is my kids constantly asking, "Does that have any dyes in it? I can't have that."

Snacks: Stick with plain pretzels, chips and tortilla chips. If you want more flavor, try the Kettle Brand chips which are all natural. At our Kroger they are in a different section with the natural and organic products. Regular Fritos are fine too. Anything "hot" or BBQ flavored red usually has red #40. Most cheesy chips or cheese curls have yellow dye, but Cheetos has a natural one that is dye free. Microwave popcorn is another source of hidden dye (yellow #5) but Orville Reddenbocker and Kroger both have natural brands that are fine. We also like plain rice cakes and Sweet Pea Crisps for crunchy snacking.

Fruit snacks: Motts/Brachs has a dye free fruit chew (my kids still seems to bounce more after eating them, probably due to the apple juice). We really like FruitABu brand fruit snacks (health food section of Kroger) They have lots of organic fruit leather individually wrapped type snacks. You can also buy organic cereal bars that are dye free.

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. We also like Surf Sweets candy. I have other posts about their products. ToysRUs is supposed to carry surf Sweets, but the one by my house does not have it so I get it at the health food store. Basically, we check out the natural food section at Kroger and load up there before shopping in the regular part of the store.

Ice cream and frozen deserts: We check all ice creams for dyes. Many are fine, but we skip the obvious ones like strawberry and black raspberry. Many vanilla ice creams, frosting,etc have yellow and/or red dye. WHY? I can't figure it out, but they do. We found out the hard way that Steak and Shake ice cream has dye, but the yogurt doesn't. I am also wary of "artificial color". I think if they can't tell me where the color comes from, I'm not eager to risk it.
I make a lot of popsicles and smoothies when our fruit gets ripe by putting it in the blender and mixing in some rice milk and natural sweetener. Strawberry, banana, blueberry was a huge hit. We avoid all sprinkles at ice cream shops. Even the chocolate ones have red #40. At home, the Mr. Sprinkles in the clown bottle are dye free. Those are from Kroger too. Watch out for carmel sauces and some chocolate sauces. I have not found any strawberry flavored sauce or product that does not have red #40. I would also want to see the ingredients of the chocolate soft serve dip for cones before letting my kids eat that. I would guess it would have red #40.

Cake mix and frosting. Pillsbury and Dunkin Heinz have boxed white cakes and frostings that don't have dyes. Watch the chocolate ones for red #40. At least half of them have it. It's a pain, but read the labels. If you are going to a bakery, ask about their ingredients. Assume that most yellow cakes are dyed. Also beware of just scraping the frosting and sprinkles off cake at parties. If the knife drags through red frosting all across the cake, then the red 40 will be pulled all through as well. My kids have reacted to as little as one pink jelly bean.

Restaurant food: Beware! You would not believe how much extra stuff is in restaurant food. I thought I was eating healthy getting grilled chicken on a salad. When I have checked the ingredients, there is often a whole paragraph of extra stuff added to the chicken, including dyes. McDonalds adds dye to at least one of the grilled chicken marinades. Also beware that vanilla ice cream, loaves of brown bread, pickles, banana peppers and salad dressings are all common sources of food dyes. We simply don't eat out as often anymore (that milk/soy/wheat allergy makes it pretty tough). When we do eat out, we ask a lot of questions and really annoy the waitstaff, but it's a whole lot better to take that extra step than have 3 days of bad behavior.

So what do we eat? We still eat hamburgers and hot dogs. We make out own fries or bake frozen ones. We grill meat and seafood and have lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. Left over green beans, broccoli or snap pea pods become a side dish for lunch. I plan ahead and pack lunches and snacks in cooler packs when I know I will be on the go so that we are not at the mercy of fast food. My kids love to have breakfast for dinner (scrambled eggs, hashbrowns, bacon, fruit). We make our own spaghetti and pizza, or we still do frozen pizzas too. We avoid boxed meals such as Hamburger Helper or Rice-a-Ronis as many of those have dyes. I also really like the 5 dollar dinner blog: She lives in the same area and has great ideas on how to cook cheap. She also has dairy free recipes.

If all this sounds restrictive, it is at first. It is stressful and time consuming to read lables and worry about food ingredients. But what you can gain is priceless. I have reclaimed my relationship with my children. We have largely eliminated tantrums and defiance, whining and aggression, hyperactivity and wild impulsive stuff that drove me crazy and robbed me of all my energy. What we have gained is true peace and happiness in our family. That is why I am committed to getting the word out. Every family deserves a chance at that kind of joy. Every Mom deserves to have her children be at their best, not their aggitated irriable, embarrassing worst. Every child deserves to eat foods that do not cause them to break down into a mess of behavior and emotion. Every family needs to know that simple changes in diet can do as much good as medication without all the side effects.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Managed a birthday party without contamination

We had a 4 year old party to go to at the Magic Castle complete with rainbow colored princess cake. I thought for sure Lindsey would want a piece of cake and I would be hoping and praying I could scrape enough of the hot pink icing off to avoid problems. It ended up not being an issue. She didn't want any cake and helped me eat another piece of pizza instead. Nice when it's that easy.

We also avoided dyes at my husband's company picnic. I honestly think all the huge spread of food was dye free, except maybe the cheese crackers. That left us with fruit, veggies, chips, pretzels, salsa and chips, hot dogs, chicken, beans, pasta salad, etc etc. Two easies in one weekend. How about that.

Maybe that makes up for the temptation with the donuts I got this morning from Tim Hortons. I was getting them for a support group I run at the office so I didn't ask for dye-free (in a hurry). They put in this fabulous looking blueberry one with purple blueberry jelly and crumbles all over it. It smelled so good, but I had to remind myself I'd be a huge grump the rest of the weekend and convinced someone else to eat it.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

back in action

I am finally back at the computer. It's been a busy summer so far, so I've barely had time to do much on the computer. I'm enjoying lots of fun time with my 3 children at various parks and wet activities, but hopefully I'll be back to posting more regularly now. We still have lots of ups and downs with food dyes, menu changes at summer program, etc.

I found a very informative site on food sensitivity called fed up with food additives. You can check it out here There was so much info I went on overload. I stumbled across it while looking for info on phenols. Another site I found with info on phenols I'm still sorting out what happens to my children to make them more crazy with the salicylate foods like apples, grapes etc.. My doctor suggested a "no phenol" supplement product. We are trying a product called Houston Nutraceuticals No-Fenol Chewable from New Beginnings Nutritionals. Not sure how it works, but I'll keep you posted. I just tried it today.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Effects of food dyes again!

BIG SIGH..... here we go again. Guess who's having the most reaction to dyes this week--me. I get on my kids about this stuff so often you'd think I would learn my lesson. It was the last baseball game of the season (thank goodness!!!) and the coach brought cupcakes for everyone. You know, the dark blue frosting with a zillion little sprinkles all over them. So it was obvious Alex was going to pass on them due to too many forbidden ingredients (dyes, wheat, soy, milk, etc.). so while my son wondered off to throw a ball and distract himself like the good little boy he is, I was passing out cupcakes to the rest of the team. I had icing all over my fingers when I was done and, being at the baseball park where they don't happen to have an extra sink or napkins, I licked it off. I've been grumpy and yelling a lot more easily ever since. I have felt a whole lot less patient the past 2 days. It should be worn off tonight.

Monday, June 15, 2009

food dyes at the dentist

We started off our first day of summer vacation with 4 dentist appointments. It went fairly well and they have now flagged all of our charts with allergy stickers regarding the artificial coloring. I requested that they flag it as an allergy.

The paste they normally use to polish teeth is dark red. I'm assuming it's loaded with red #40. They had a substitute that looked a little like grey sand, but it wasn't gritty, so that's what we all got. The hygenist said there is a white flouride available, but they still use the pink or green stuff. I may write ahead and request the white fouride as an option next time. I guess it costs a lot more so they don't keep it on hand. On the way home Ben said they gave him pink flouride, so we'll wait and see if there's any fallout from that. Oh, let's hope not.

Friday, June 12, 2009

last day of school

We made it to the end. It's the final day of the 6:50 trip to the bus stop until August. I had at least 7 times the past week when I needed to send in substitutes for everything from ice cream sundae toppings to popsicles for the end of year parties. I actually had to make myself a chart to remember which child needed which snack on the right day.

I also made cupcakes for Lindsey's preschool birthday party. I tried red raspberry juice in white frosting. It tasted great! I did them late at night(after baseball) but I forgot to take a picture. I needed to keep them chilled because my husband bought whipped icing and it kind of flopped and got runny when mixed with the juice. All in all, I think the raspberry was much better tasting than the beet juice, but both had nice color. We got a good "bubble gum" pink each time. I'm thinking about buying a lot of raspberries now while they are in season and freezing them. Then I can make the same color any time.

Monday, June 8, 2009

pretty pink cake

My little girl loves pink so I've been trying to figure out how to make her a pink butterfly birthday cake to go with the candles I found. I tried adding beet juice to white frosting. Then I decorated with lots of white frosting and more of that Surf Sweets candy I got for free. I used gummy worms for the butterfly body and jelly beans and gummy swirls to make the flowers. My daughter was thrilled with the outcome. Eating pink food is a big deal since we have to pass on so many pink and red items. I really don't think you could take taste the beet juice at all, but the thick white frosting on top may have helped with that. I also stopped adding the beet juice when I felt like I could smell it. The candy was so tempting I even caught my mother-in-law picking a few pieces off the cake.

Here is how it turned out:

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Free Candy from Surf Sweets

I've mentioned Surf Sweets candy several times on my blog. I received an email from that company last week inviting me to request some free samples. We already really liked the Gummy Swirls and Jelly Beans that I have bought in the past. I originally found them at the health food store, but they are also available at Toys R Us.

Here is a little bit about what the company had to say, "We're doing our best to give our customers a healthier alternative to mainstream candy. We have six different varieties of gummy candies and jelly beans, made from all-natural ingredients: - 100% Vitamin C per serving- NO synthetic flavors and artificial colors - NO trans fats- NO GMOs - NO corn syrup - NO gluten.

We got the candy in a nice size box and all I can say is, "Wow!" I can't believe they sent me all this for free. What's better is that it is all dye free and tastes great!!!! We really enjoyed the Super Sour Gummy Worms. It's been hard for my kids to be at all the baseball games when their friends are able to buy sour candies (with lots of artificial colors) at the concession stand. I've brought other kinds of candies, but it will be nice to have all the options from Surf Sweets.

Happy Happy Day! Thanks again Surf Sweets. It's great to see a company that cares about putting the right ingredients in treats for our children. I encourage all my followers to try their candy. You'll be hooked. It's going to be hard to save them for the kids and to not eat them all myself.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

dye free meds getting easier to track down

Well I'm getting closer to a happier ending on this one. I found a local pharmacy (Medicine Shop in Beavercreek) that will compound the medication and I can pick it up. That alone should save me a bundle in shipping costs. My order had not been processed so I was able to cancel with the other compounding pharmacy.

So if you find yourself needing to find dye free prescription medication here are a few tips:

1. Ask your doctor ahead of time to prescribe a dye free medication. That step could save a lot of hassle right there. I thought I had that one covered, but it seems big pharmaceuticals change their additives.
2. If your regular pharmacy does not have a dye free option, you can search online for a compounding pharmacy in your area. You can also ask your doctor for suggestions on compounding pharmacies.
3. If you can't find a local compounding pharmacy, you can contact Lee Silsby Compounding pharmacy in Cleavland, OH.
4. Or you can decide to suffer whatever ill effects dyes have on your child and get the medication with red #40. If it was only a 10 day antibiotic on non-school days, I might have gone with this option. Then again, how much is it worth to have a sane, stable, well controlled child? I decided it was worth the extra 70 dollars to not have a crazy wild child for 30 days.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

quest for dye free meds

It should have been simple. My son's doctor wants him to switch to a different antifungal medication. A generic prescription should be either 4 or 10 dollars at my pharmacy. There's only one problem. Every dose of the medication has red# 40 in it, name brand as well as generic. The doctor had thought it was a white tablet when she prescribed it.

The suspension liquid is dye free, but it has lots of sugar, which my son is supposed to avoid in order to fight his intestinal yeast overgrowth. So two doses of sugary syrup every day doesn't seem like a good plan. The liquid also has sodium benzoate, which always seems to wire him too.

So, after a failed trip to the pharmacy, the one where I thought I'd be able to drop of the prescription for white pills and be on my way in 15 minutes, three calls to other pharmacies, I'm going to pay big again for a specially compounded medication. I found out that Medicine Shop compounds medication, but the pharmacist didn't call back so I went ahead and faxed the prescription to Lee Silsby again. At least I'll save about $25-30 by getting a 2 month supply all at once. That's only after I pay out 200 for what should have only cost 20. If this keeps up I may need to post ads on my blog.

Someday, there will be a better way. I just wish that "someday" was a little closer to now. This battle gets old. I need to start writing to politicians again.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

update on allergies and other stuff

It's been a nice weekend so far. What a relief to have a a few days off from baseball, swim lessons, etc. We spent the entire day together as a family. Yard work, slip-n-slide, some quiet time, and a surprise party for our neighbor, made for an all around good day.

We passed on the cake at the birthday party. It had a beautiful golf course on it with red frosting piped around all the edges. I could see how the bits of red had streaked down through the cake when it rubbed off the knife. Simply scooping the frosting off would not have prevented 3 days of melt downs, so we came home and had some cake that I had at home. I've learned from too many mistakes in the past where minimal amounts of dye lasted on and on and on.

As for the allergy issue, I'll give a brief summary since I had a few questions about it. My son has always had problems with milk. We switched him to soy at age 2. He tested negative for allergies at that point. What we didn't realize is that the chronic ear infections and corresponding long term antibiotics left damage in his intestines in the form of a chronic yeast infection. We speculate this is why he is so much more sensitive to various foods than my other two children.

About a year ago I started searching for information online to figure out what was going on. The regular pediatrician sent us for another food allergy blood test in which everything came back negative. But he still had chronic rashes, bowel problems, memory problems, etc. Pediatrician suggested an elimination diet and referral to allergist. Allergists I contacted only did the same test as the one already done, or prick him a zillion times.

I decided to try an elimination diet and looked for more naturally focused MD to oversee his care. Last summer we took him off wheat, milk and soy waiting a week or two in between each food that we eliminated. I had seen a lot about "leaky gut" and intestinal permeability. Ithought that might be my son's problem. He was much better going into fall, but still reactive to some things, and getting milder rashes. We gradually stopped being vigilant about soy, but kept him off milk and wheat. We tried going back on wheat over Halloween and Christmas. Both times his academic work suffered, behavior got worse, rashes and bowel problems returned. What we missed was that the crackers, bread, and sweets that had wheat all had soy ingredients too.

I finally found a more homeopathic doctor who works with Great Plains Laboratory on biomedical testing. We did the full deal: stool, urine, hair sample, blood work, and organic acid tests as well as an Igg food allergy panel which tests for about 90 foods rather than a dozen on the standard Ige panel. We now have a more complete picture of what foods he can't have (milk, soy, watermelon). We are also treating him for yeast infection in the intestines which means no sugar or sugar-like products for a long time (months to years). Lots of basic foods are completely off the menu (ketchup, prepared spaghetti sauce, etc.) because of sugar.

Cooking without sugar, milk, wheat and soy has been rough, but we've mostly adjusted. I can use Xylitol and Stevia as sweeteners. I make tomato sauces from scratch. I also make my own popsicles and other treats. I use a lot of rice based products. I found one cookie sweetened with fruit juice at the health food store. We're starting some new supplements next week, so we'll see how it goes. We may be able to try adding wheat back in as some point. It is exhausting and stressful at times (as if avoiding just the food dyes isn't hard enough by itself!) but we are hoping to someday see the light in a healthier child.

Whenever I start to get bummed out about all the food hassles, I remind myself that I almost lost my son 2 years ago to a near drowning, and that the good fortune of still having him here to hug every day is worth any amount of food headaches that pop up. I guess it's all about gratitude. Focusing on what I do have is a whole lot better than thinking about what we can't eat.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

same old story

I'm wondering if the food dyes have slipped in for various reasons. Hmm, maybe it was the 5 times my 3 year old woke me up last night (a child who normally sleeps through the night every night) or the spitting, hitting, kicking and constant whining all day. All the classic signs are there, including a conversation about having chocolate cake at preschool. I'm temped to go back through old posts and check how many of the "3 year old high on dye" posts were the day after being at preschool. Praying for patience again!

Sometimes I wish I could go back to food just being food and not having to know every ingredient of everything we eat. I also finally have conclusive food allergy results back on my son. It appears that milk and soy are major problems, but not so much the wheat as we had expected. Unfortunately, watermelon and lemons are also moderate on the allergy scale, so there go a few more fun foods. So I'm in the process of re-evaluating everything on the menu. So besides my family taking up a second residence in the dug-out at the Little League field, I'm spending a lot of time just figuring out how to cook without any form of soy. I'll probably be back to posting more regularly when I come up for air in mid-June.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Jelly Beans

I've been so busy, I haven't had time to rant and rave about this one. My son came home from school a week ago and sobbed on and off for a couple of hours. Several things were going on that he was upset about, but his reaction seemed unusually severe (very much like a food dye reaction). He swore he had not eaten anything. I'm finding it a little too coincidental that he has reacted twice to handling dyed foods at school (Easter eggs and now jelly beans). That was part of what he was crying about. The class did a jelly bean activity. He was supposed to sort, count and taste jelly beans and then write about it. I was not informed they were doing this, or I would have sent dye free jelly beans for him. Jelly Belly and Surf Sweet both make dye free jelly beans.

He was upset that he had to make up which flavor he liked and that he had to watch the other 2 boys on his team consume 144 jelly beans, since he couldn't have any. Now am I just a mean mom that I would not consider letting my child have 50-75 jelly beans in one sitting? And even if I did want my child to eat that way, should my school promote that as an academic task? I like teachers who make education fun and interactive. But isn't there a way to do it without sugar and food dyes? Now I think this is a good teacher, who does a nice job most of the time, but when I have sent my request in writing and made several reminders about my son needing to be "dye free" I just wish I didn't have to continually start over. It's always one step forward, two steps back.

Friday, May 8, 2009


I probably will not be posting as much during Little League season as my boys have games Mon-Thurs and again on Saturday. Since they alternate days and my husband is coaching 2 teams, we are really living on the go right now. I kind of wonder sometimes if it is worth all the insanity and portable dinners, but then Ben pitched 3 strike outs in a row in one inning and Alex got his first 3 hits all in one game and we can't help but celebrate.

The down sides of Little League: concession stand full of red candy, just about every kid on the team has a brightly color sport drink, and my kids sit back and watch all the other kids have their food coloring fiesta for 2 1/2 hours every night. I have stocked up on safe gum, candy, treats, and other drinks, but sometimes it gets to be a pain. At least I think we have finally seen the last of the effects of that dixie cup of Crystal Light the other night.

I'm not sure how I would survive if my son were that irritable, whiny, demanding and over-reactive on a regular basis. It makes me all the more thankful I've been able to see his REAL personality without the food dyes for the past 2 years. The contrast is so "Jekkyl and Hyde" it is hard to describe. Imagine watching your calm, loving, affectionate, smart, considerate, polite, responsible boy turn into a sobbing, cranky mess over little things like, "I can't find a ruler to do my math homework." So, here's hoping for a better dye free weekend.

Happy Mother's day to all the moms who follow.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Crystal Light at Little League

The coach's wife was thoughful to bring a big jug of Crystal Light for the kids to drink. My kid who usually knows better was thirsty. Need I say more? Morning hysterics to beat all morning hysterics. Sigh. At least they won.

Friday, May 1, 2009

What does "color added" mean?

I was asked this question by a reader who follows my blog and I thought it would be a good discussion topic. I found a link to the FDA requirements for added colors. My understanding of the topic is that food manufacturers have to list the numbered dyes (red#40, yellow #5, yellow #6, etc) What bothers me is that it sounds like we are trusting the honesty of the food companies to disclose the numbered dyes. I have called various food companies to ask what "color added" means. I often find that those answering the phones do not understand what I am asking, do not know how to pronounce the names of the ingredients I am asking about, and have generally not been helpful. I have been assured that it is not a numbered dye. I have often been told that the person on the phone cannot access further information about origins of the added color. Hmmmm. I guess my take is that if they can't tell me what the real ingredients are, I'm not feeding it to my family.

The Feingold folks also mention this as a concern. In their Feingold Program Details they and suggest avoiding anything listed as "color added" as well as artificially colored or other such terms. Further surch of the Feingold site brought up answers to this question from a 1987 newsletter. Doesn't anyone else wonder why they never tell you this at the pediatrician or when you start reading all the baby toddler books about what is best for you child?

After googling I found another link about color added to Alaskan salmon.

If you really want all the nitty gritty denials from the FDA on color additives you can check the link. But they also deny any risk of color additives exists. So don't read what's there if you aware of any of the recent research because you'll only end up more frustrated. They seem to think thousands of parents just don't know their kids and suggest that removing of additives or going on elimination diets should not be a standard approach for treating ADHD. Hmmm. Do you think anyone paid them off to say that?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Letter to the Food Service Director

I wrote last week about sending an email to the food service director for my school district. I got on the district web site and looked up her email. If you are interested in sending something similar, here is what I sent:

I am writing as a parent who is very concerned about nutrition and how foods affect children's behavior. I would like to request that (school district) consider reducing or eliminating artificial food coloring and preservatives from the school lunch menu. I realize this is a large undertaking, but I feel the benefits, both financial and health related, could far outweigh the difficulties. I have been gathering research, parent testimonies and sharing my own experiences on my blog: Please check it out for further information about the effects of food dyes on behavior.

I have also included a link to a slide show about the benefits of healthier school lunches that I received from the Feingold Association click here to access it: I would like to encourage you to consider the information on both links as I feel it could hugely benefit children in the entire district. I would welcome a chance to talk to you more about this. Please feel free to call me. Thank you for your time.

You are welcome to cut and paste the text and send it to any school you want. You may want to undue the italics. The links may not copy over (I had to re-do them to get this on the blog). I think it is wise to make it as easy as possible to click right on the information and get folks there easily. Feel free to comment if you send it on to someone else.

Does a little petroleum help test scores?

My kids' school seems to think so. Our school has been doing achievement testing this week. So my son came home a little down that he was the only one who didn't get a mint during the tests. You know, the nice RED and white ones. Seriously, they gave each kid red #40 on purpose to help them on their tests.

Now I know there is research out there about oral stimulation, such as gum, to help with focus, concentration, and test scores. I found a link about it here. But come on folks, red 40?! We still have sooooo far to go with this thing.

On the bright side, my son did not take a mint, as he knows how it would affect him. The hyperactivity or irritability has often shown itself within 20-30 minutes of consumption in my children. So, while I'm disappointed with my school's lack of knowledge on the matter, I'm so very proud of how often my son is able to do what is right for himself, even when the whole rest of the class does something different. He does so well, even under peer pressure. That's pretty good for 9 years old!

busy week so far

I've barely had time to get on the computer the last few days. Baseball season is always crazy for us. As I commented on another post, I also think we had some "dye exposure" issues. My son was an irritable mess all weekend. It times out back to the "take your son to work" day. The chocolate Tootisie Roll pop is my likely culprit. The label doesn't indicate any colors, but since it comes from a factory with lots of other colored stuff, it probably gets in there. I should have known better. It was sad to watch. It started with a very hyper day. Then all the frustration, the "I can't do this" and "everything's going wrong" feelings really persisted for the next 2 days. But as usual, he's much better now. Thank God! It's achievement test week at school.

As for other updates, I heard back from the food service director for my school district. She thanked me for not yelling at her or making outrageous demands. She explained that ordering foods without dyes is pretty feasible, but needs to be handled by each individual school. She planned on talking to the food managers for each school and was going to pass along my email with links to the information. She said they can definitely try to pay closer attention to the dyes. I was not the first person to make her aware of the issue. She said that getting rid of the preservatives was a much harder issue to address and not likely to happen soon.

So, all in all, I was pleased with what I feel is a good start. At this stage I want to get the information to key people and hope that they begin to make informed decisions. I requested that they pay attention to some specific foods such as yogurts, cookies, etc. and try to have dye-free options whenever possible. I explained that my children don't buy many school lunches because I don't want them to have the preservatives or dyes. I also explained that I don't think decorated holiday treats are good for children and could they just stick to the basics like plain old chocolate chip cookies. I tried to emphasize that I don't think this is just a problem for my kids. It may affect all kids to some degree. I should have added that Maryland recently had legislation to ban dyes in all school lunch food. She said that it should be possible to buy more dye free foods. So, I guess I'll wait and see.

If anyone wants to forward the same information to their food service director, feel free to contact me. I'll send you a copy of the email I sent.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Colored candy bliss, or nightmare

As we wind down the week with beautiful weather, I am absolutely grateful for thinking ahead. My son was set to go to "take you son to work day. " I encouraged my husband to ask what snacks they were going to have for the kids. You would not believe the colored sugar bliss that awaited! There was a whole bag of candy for each child. There was so much Red 40 and the like I had to take a picture of it all. On the left were the ones without dye, then the obviously dye laden lot on the right

Luckily, since we got the bag a day ahead and knew the other kids would have candy galore, I was able to make a quick trip to Trader Joes and get lots of safe choices for my son. We replaced the "bad stuff" with with natural candies. He had Trader Joes' Gummy Tummies, rolled candy and organic lollipops. The funny part was, he didn't even eat half of the candy I sent. Most of it came back home. He's never been one to overdo it on the sweets. I was just so glad he didn't have the disappointment of emptying out a whole bag, only to end up with one or two allowable things.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Quick response!

Wow! I heard back from the food service director. She is in meetings this week, but indicated she would like to talk to me next week. It is so nice to have someone even remotely interested! There are about 7700 students in our district. Changing even 1 school at a time could affect hundreds of kids. I hope we can really get some positive changes going. All kids deserve a healthy lunch without additives like food dyes and preservatives.

Protect and nourish the earth

Happy Earth Day

I've been trying to decide what to do today to celebrate Earth Day. I was looking for something food related, so I finally took the leap and sent an email to the director of food services for my school district. I requested that they consider reducing or eliminating artificial colors and preservatives in school lunches. I sent a link to a slide show about school lunches. Check it out if you want. It's from the Feingold Association.

I feel really strongly that we need to work harder to reduce petro-chemicals not only in food but in general. I think there are lots of things the little people in families all over the globe can do. I thought it was a good day to post this video about the effects of plastic bags. We made the change to re-usable canvas bags several months ago. We use them just about every time we go to get groceries. They actually work so much better than plastic: easier to carry, fit more stuff, and they don't roll around or spill in the car as easy.

So celebrate the earth today.

Monday, April 20, 2009

I can only imagine..

...what my life would be like if I had not figured out the connection between food and behavior. We used to have tantrums over nothing, defiance over the basics, and all out war over the biggies like homework and chores. My children used to have wound up, hyperactive, crazy days where their ears were blocked to the sound of my voice and their engines burned at full tilt from dawn til after dusk. I used to naturally try to raise the sound of my voice to be heard over all the buzzing chaos and wound up frustrated and hoarse without any better results than if I had sat on the couch doing nothing. My oldest often hated my guts and had no qualms about telling me to my face.

Then, I started taking away the food dyes, and it got better. Now I have completely removed food dyes and I also keep 2 of my kids off apples and grapes. The salicylates (chemically similar to aspirin) seem to wire them. Now, we have an unbelievably different picture. Life is smooth. My oldest is polite, helpful, cooperative and affectionate. I can't remember the last tantrum. He appreciates little things and thanks me for them. He will hug me spontaneously and say "thanks of buying the granola bars I like" or something similarly sweet.

So in choosing the title of this post, I was absolutely thinking of the song by Casting Crowns. Freedom from food dyes is a gift from God, a kind of redemption, for my family. We live in light and peace now. No, we're not perfect, but things are soooo much better. And I really do think food dyes are a direct work of evil trying to erode families everywhere. What you do with the information is up to you. Dismiss me as crazy if you need to. I know it probably sounds too good and simple to be true. If you are skeptical, click on my links to the right. Check out the research or the other parent testimonies. Sometimes the truth is simple. If you have not tried avoiding food dyes, then you can't even imagine how much better things can be.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

don't keep it secret-- a challenge to moms

I was inspired today by another mom whose story is surprisingly similar to mine. Another amazing turnaround happened just by taking the food dyes out of the diet. We agree that we need to work harder get the word out. She sent me a link to another article about food dyes: The truth about food dyes from CBS. I like this one because of all the comments at the bottom from other moms. Be sure to go all the way down and read those.

Because of this, I want to challenge other families to get the word out. Don't just tell your friends, have a talk at your school PTA meeting. Start a group at your church. Talk about making changes to the school lunches. Do something to let bigger numbers of people know about the importance of food dyes and how bad they can be for children. We can't keep this a secret. We need to become warriors, fighting for the well being of all the children in our country.

We can do this. We can make a difference, but we need to make the information better known. We need to put pressure on food companies by using our wallets to buy only natural foods and convincing enough others to do the same that it starts to make a difference. If you haven't tried taking the food dyes out of your diet, you have no idea of the child you might be missing out on knowing. Doesn't every child deserve to have their real, un-chemically altered brain working on a regular basis?

More petroleum in food?

My friend and fellow food dye avoider called me to say she noticed Heinz advertising on their vinegar that they are the only one guaranteed not to contain petroleum. WHAT!? Now it's in the vinegar too?! I did a quick Internet search and found this article about vinegar and petroleum. Once again, it pays to know what you are eating. Something else to ponder, I guess.

By the way, I think the vanillin (another petrochemical) in the easter chocolate has been affecting me this week. Maybe that's why my daughter is a little on edge too.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter

We seemed to avoid food dyes this Easter. I was really happy when they gave out brightly colored shoe strings at church, rather than candy. The kids had fun looking for eggs inside. We ended up putting puzzle pieces in most of the boys' eggs. We added some erasers, jacks, and "squishy bugs" and they enjoyed it quite a bit. We had limited amounts of chocolate eggs and jelly beans (Sweet treats brand). All in all it was a good day. I've been wanting a better picture of my kids and they manged to stay dressed up just long enough to oblige me after church.

Friday, April 10, 2009

food dyes and bugs

I've had some recent emails and comments about dyes made from bugs. I don't think my kids have a problem with the bug dyes. These are different than the numbered dyes that I avoid. I avoid the chemical dyes commonly called red #40, yellow #5, yellow #6 and blue #1. My understanding is that the numbered dyes are manufactured from petroleum. They are synthetic chemicals that do not commonly occur in nature. Thus, our bodies are not well equipped to digest them. I've seen repeated references to artificial colorings being neurotoxins that excite the brain (not in a good way). While they are very prevalent in food marketed to children, research shows more and more that they cause increased behavior problems.

The bug dyes, on the other hand, are made from ground up bug parts, which is considered a natural product. They are referred to as carmine, or chochineal. They come from the chochineal beetle. Here is link to an article about the differences in bug dyes and artificial dyes that explains it better. Allergies to carmine are not as common, but I've seen many discussions of more life threatening problems to carmine such as anaphalatic shock.

I guess the bottom line is still the same, know what you are eating and know how it makes you react.

Food dyes and Easter

I have not looked into dye free Easter candy much this year as one of my children is on a pretty strict "sugar free" diet. We are going to do more stickers, tatoos and small trinkets for Easter baskets and eggs. The last few years I've filled eggs with things like plastic soldiers, plastic butterflies, etc. If you want jelly beans, Jelly Belly and Surf Sweet brands both have some dye free jelly beans. We'll stick mostly to chocolate. Watch out for the inexpensive foil wrapped chocolates as they sometimes contain red #40 if they don't contain much of the real chocolate. You are pretty safe if you stick to known brands like Hershey, Dove, etc.

I think I'm skipping the coloring of eggs, unless I can find some kind of kit with stickers and decorations rather than dyes. I'm thinking my boys' contact with eggs at school has them both reacting somewhat today. I've been wondering if skin contact is a problem, now I may have my answer. I think my kids react to skin contact with artificial colors as well as eating it. I've been getting the dyes out of lotions, tooth paste, shampoos, etc.

We're also on day 3 of the shrieks and screams after Lindsey came home from preschool telling me she ate a blueberry muffin. The staff clarified that it was put on her plate but quickly replaced by her organic blueberry cereal bar that I provide. Well, if she even nibbled at the fake blueberries or if it rubbed off on her plate onto her food, then it doesn't really matter. She might as well have eaten the whole thing. She's reacting like she did. It's so sad to see my sweet, affectionate child turn into a little maniac for a few days. It should run it's course tonight.

I've also had a few more requests for my list of dye free foods this week. I am still willing to send that out if anyone is interested. When I have tried to post it, the table doesn't copy over and it gets all messed up. So, I just email it to anyone who asks. I want as many people as possible to know about food dyes and be able to avoid them. It still stuns me that this is not common knowledge to most people.

I think many doctors do families a huge dis-service by prescribing medication to children with behavior problems and not ever telling the parents that they may be able to fix the problem just by making some simple dietary changes. The problem is that it is sooooo hard to be consistent in avoiding dyes that many mom's I've talked to are reluctant to even try it. I wish other moms could see for even a few days how much smoother life goes when kids don't have dyes in their systems

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Signs of progress today

I found some pleasant surprises today. We read the labels at the grocery store and found out that Dannimals smoothies and crush cups of yogurt are actually dye free. I had not checked Dannon yogurts for a while as the last time I looked they had red #40. Now they are colored with fruit and vegetable juices. My kids were so excited. I also found a dye free Suave kids shampoo. I've been slowly trying to get rid of dyes and for once it seemed like the task was easier than usual, right off the shelves at Kroger rather than the health food store. Maybe companies are finally starting to realize that many of us want to be dye-free. Let's hope the trend continues.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

How do you convince people that food dyes are a problem?

I found myself in an interesting conflict the past couple of days. I attended a professional training conference for Play Therapists. (when I'm not blogging about my housewife days, I'm actually treating traumatized children at my private practice a couple days a week.) The conference was really excellent and I learned quite a bit. There was a tremendous focus on brain research that indicates that the use of multiple senses helps heal trauma.

There were lots of great examples of how to do this. However, it was frustrating that the suggested foods were almost all with dyes (M&Ms, colored and flavored marshmallows, gum drops, etc.) Then there were the conference snacks which also contained food dyes. I found myself repeatedly tempted to eat things I know could make me react. I didn't give in, but I wanted to. I was also pondering how to use the activities with my clients. I have set a new rule for my therapy sessions that I do not give out anything containing food dyes. I decided that if it's bad for my own "sort of normal" kids, it can't be good at all for children who have abuse histories and behavior problems.

Luckily, my friend is a "dye free mom" and fellow play therapist who attened the conference with me. We brainstormed and really ended up with good substitutes: mentos candy (only some flavors are dye free), Brachs fruit chews, Sundrops (dye free M&M like candy), chocolate candy. But I couldn't help feeling like there is so much further to go with getting the word out.

So, tell people about the research. Talk to them about what you see. Send them a link to this blog or other links on food dyes. Please keep spreading the word so that other families can feel the difference of being dye free.

return of the calm orderly family I know and love

I can barely describe the difference I saw in a 24 hour period with my son. He was wild and impulsive all day Wednesday. It was wearing me down quite a bit. I was easily frustrated and irritalbe too (my reaction to dyes). Then by Thursday afternoon it was like the cord got unplugged and all the wild stuff just went away. Life was normal again. I've seen this so many times. We eat food dyes, everyone goes a little crazy for 3 days. Then we are all normal again. I'm breating a huge sigh of relief that my oldest didn't have as much of a reaction. Maybe there is hope that one can outgrow it a little.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

2 out of 3 hyped again

Well, we tried to get away to an indoor water park for a few days since the kids are on spring break. That's why I haven't posted in several days. It was really nice to get away, but I'm pretty sure we've had another "food dye mishap." It's been harder to narrow this one down since we were eating out for several days. My best guess is that the spicy curly fries from the hotel restaurant may have been the culprit. I'm not sure if it could have been the orange batter or the seasoning, or both. I should have been suspect of orange fries anyway.

All the same behaviors have returned in 2 of my kids. The hyperactivity, the impulsivity, the yelling, it's all there full force. It's amazing the complete difference in their demeanor. I hope for my husband's sake it wears off by Friday. He gets to stay home with the kids while I go to an all day training.

I'm tempted to go back through all my posts and count up how many times we accidentally get food dyes in restaurant food. It seems to be a trend now.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I wish

I wish more people understood the negative effects of food dyes on children. I wish my kids were not the only kids in their classes who are not allowed to have food coloring. I wish food companies would stop putting chemicals in everything. And I really wish I could make a meal for my son that didn't need to be free of wheat, dairy, and sugar. Sigh, it's only temporary.

OK, that said, I can move on to the good cooperation from teachers. The 3rd grade teacher sent an email asking for Trix and a few other things for a math project. I emailed her and offered to send in an organic equivalent, Barbara's Wild Puffs that are dye free but still colorful and good tasting. They even come in fruit shapes. My son spotted them at Kroger a few months ago and read the ingredients to check for the forbidden stuff. I sent a whole box in to the teacher so this time around everyone eats the same thing.

I also got an email from the 1st grade teacher. Their class is doing a fun map activity decorating sugar cookies with blue frosting and green M&Ms to make little edible earths. Poor Alex, being on the "no sugar, kill the yeast" diet is going to get a rice cake with blue berries and Snap Pea crisps. The Snapeas sound strange, but are surprisingly salty, crunchy and tasty like a potato chip. Then he'll get a few Xylitol candies to round it off. Not quite the same, but it's about the best I can come up with.