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.


K said...

"what you can gain is priceless. I have reclaimed my relationship with my children."

I agree so strongly with this statement. I have "found" my sweet little girl again after cutting out artificial dye from her food.
It's a bit overwhelming to start reading all the food labels, but after a few months it's second nature. And you're right about it helping when the kids ask - even my three year old knows to ask if something has dye in it.
I keep the lollipops in my purse too! It's amazing how many places they're offered candy - even at the doctors! I've found the yummy earth lollipops on amazon for much cheaper than the store. I've also found a decent selection of organic at Target. Most of their Archer Farms brand is okay but you still need to read labels. We're big fans of the insant strawberry and blueberry oatmeal. They also have a triple berry sauce for ice cream that I've been subbing for the "strawberry" red syrup.

Violets said...

About having kids ask...I find that my dd gets much better results since I got her an engraved bracelet. I put on there that she has a gluten free/dairy free diet, and no food dyes (If she were here I'd check the exact wording) I added my cell phone number, just in case. It gives her a little backing when flustered teacher's helpers think she's being picky.

And we found that Trader Joes has a good variety of dye free treats, even naturally colored candy coated sunflower seeds! The biggest thing I've learned from increased awareness is how many empty calories and junk food kids are really offered from various outlets. It really adds up. I prefer stickers!

food dye diaries said...

Thanks for the great comments. I also shop at Target and Trader Joes. I should have mentioned our favorite red licorice from Australia is sold at Target and it's dye free. We'll have to try the Archer Farms stuff too.

Ruby said...

Check out Naturally Nora products. SHe has all natural cake mixes and frostings with sprinkles that have no dye. We have been strictly dye-free here for almost 2 years. Luckily its getting easier with new products every day! Whole foods sells big bags of the Yummy Earth suckers now at Halloween time, and they also have dye-free gumdrops my kids love. One big surprise for us this summer was that most marshmallows have blue dye in them. We did find that the WalMart Great Value brand did not. Go figure!! You've got some great information on here. it should be required reading for everyone, I still cant believe how so many people have no idea what is in our kids foods!! Ruby

roberm01 said...

I just want to thank all of you for making this adjustment easier! My son, a first grader, has been having a hard time focusing and has had behavioral issues. Recently his teacher suggested we test him for ADHD. I began a great deal of research and the explinations of reactions to dyes were so right on. I took him off dyes completely a week ago and just met with his teacher again. She was not aware of this change in diet but reported that he has been a new child this week. It's like night and day! Although this is very scary, all of you make it seem doable. Thank you for all of the great info, tips, and food ideas!

Casey said...

Thanks for this, it's just what I was looking for. Many sites have lists of what you can't have but no healthy suggestions for what you can have.

Carrissa said...

Hi there, this is a wonderful site. I am Canadian, and out food laws are not any better than yours, full of color and garbage.
I discovered my oldest daughter's 'reaction' to dyes when she was about 3. She was diagnosed with ADHD and was a suggested medication case. Anyhow, after extensive research on my part, I was horrified to discover how bad our food really is for us. We have been a dye free household for 5 years now, and are doing wonderfully, My son also has this same reaction. Very extreme. Wall climbing, biting, kicking, throwing, screaming this horrible behavior continues for a few hours and ends in crying uncontrollably over nothing. My daughter even gets herself so upset and chants 'I hate myself' It's very very extreme. This extreme reaction has only started since I took her off the dyes, if she slips and eats a little icing at a party or a gummy at school ( given to her by another child) this is the reaction I get.
Again, I just want to say thanks so much for sharing. Here in Canada, we now have 'dye free' smarties. We are super excited to have an occasional treat like that, not to mention that Nestle is now using all natural ingredients in their smarties. There are several companies following in this 'healthy' change.
Ok, now I am really done :)

Ana said...

Fantastic blog. Thanks for the information, very helpful for those who are just starting to get info on this topic. Thank you!

Carla Cozort said...

I just started this process as well. I guess I really started Monday. My oldest(4th grade) went to a birthday party Saturday night(and had candy filled with dyes) and Sunday after church(not sure what he had although I'm sure there was candy). He got in trouble Monday at school(which I figured would happen, this naturally happens every other week.) Then he came home again today, Wednesday, having had to go talk to the assistant principal about his behavior. He told me today, "I try to control myself, but I just can't". It seems his teachers are so frustrated with him right now he's under a microscope with them and gets called out for everything. I'm trying to be patient with the process, praying all the time for God to give me wisdom and strength to help my son, and I believe this is the answer, but right now I need to know when his teachers are going to start seeing the behavioral change in him. I'm scared right now that my son just thinks this is a part of who he is and even when he feels calm and focused he'll do something to eliminate the good behavior! I sent his teachers an e-mail letting them know I was doing this and got no response back which makes me think they think I'm a crazy women trying to blame something else for my child's behavior! Any advice out there, please! Carla

food dye diaries said...

Carla, I'll write a new post with suggestions.

Sarah said...

Thank you so much for all the information. I have a child that is highly allergic to red dyes. We have to have an epi pen now due to this allergic reaction he has. We discovered this when he was 3 months old after giving him some tummy drops that contained red dye. They did not have his brand of little tummys at the pharmacy when we went to purchase more and ended up with the original gas drops. Within 2 hours he was solid in a rash and swelling. Very scary and they say its rare that someone reacts this way with Red dye..But I may have my doubts :)

SO THANK YOU so much for all this info!! He can now have a regular cake on his Birthday this year. Its amazing the things that have red dye. We have to read EVERY thing that he tries thats new anymore. Frustrating but for his safety its a must!

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have any information on milk powders (i.e., strawberry milk flavoring) that does not contain red dye? My son loves it and I can't find an alternative. Other than that, his diet is good. Any leads would be greatly appreciated.

Paula said...

Just wanted to let you know that Hot Dog/Sausage Casings do contain dye in please make sure the labeling state so as well. Applegate Farms Organic Hot Dogs supposedly do not have dyes in them. For more info on living dye free check out my website:

Anonymous said...

what vitamins do you use? i'm just getting on the band wagon youngest started getting hives with food coloring and the more research i've done the more i'm determined that everybody will be dye free...but i can't find vitamins! help!

food dye diaries said...

We have used Gummy Vites from Kroger in the past. We are currenty using Kid Neurovites from

Laura said...

I went online looking where I could get the Mr Sprinkles sprinkles and the nutritional label stated there were dyes in them.

food dye diaries said...

Oh I hope they haven't changed them. The bottle in my cupboard says All Natural, no artificial colors or flavors. They are colored with red cabbage powder, paprika, etc. I bought them at Kroger.

Anonymous said...

My son is a HUGE ovaltine fan, but it has red40 in it. In search for an alternative I found that Netsle Nesquick has no red40 or other dyes in it.
Posting this for the anonymous poster asking about powdered drink flavors.

quaint towns said...

I found invisible kool-aid without the dyes and whole grain hamburger helper cheeseburger macaroni without the dye.