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.