I have watched my children go from contented and happy to screaming with uncontrollable rage in the time it takes to ingest one red sucker. I will never forget the day I put it together. I watched my child transform from a sweet, happy little girl into a tortured soul right before my eyes. Since I have eliminated red dye (and most other artificial dyes) from their diets, the tantrums and emotional upset has significantly decreased. If you have kids, you’ve written all their Valentine’s Day cards to hand out at school and you have or will have received in return bags and bags of cute cards and loads of bright red candy. For those of us with dye sensitive children, Valentines Day is worse than Halloween. It is a bloody red nightmare.
Even a homeschooling family like mine has to be ever watchful because at every extracurricular activity or co-op class we go to someone is handing my child a bright, red heart-shaped sucker I have to rip out of their hands and either give back or hide in my purse. My 8-year-old is very conscientious about not ingesting anything red because she knows it makes her feel out of control and angry. But my 4-year-old is still struggling with impulse control and will devour any candy anyone gives her. Without the watchful eye of her sister, she won’t make a good choice.
I’m not one of these insufferable parents who lecture other parents about recycled diapers and the dangers of aluminum foil. In fact, I never bring up the dye issue unless someone asks but I’ve noticed more and more people are curious about what artificial dyes might be doing to their children.
There are lots of personal anecdotes of children with behavioral problems, including children diagnosed with ADD and ADHD, whose symptoms completely disappear when petroleum based artificial dyes are eliminated from their diets. There are some in my own family. My own children are sensitive to red dye 40 and yellow 6. There are easy ways to tell if your child suffers the same problem, but why even test them? Just take them off of it. If artificial dyes can cause some children to have fits of rage, inability to concentrate, temper tantrums for no reason, crying jags and emotional upset, do you really think that substance is one you want your kid eating?
Many of our big companies like Kraft and General Mills already make dye-free everything to sell in the European market because artificial dyes are illegal there. With more public knowledge of this fact, perhaps we can convince them to offer us the same healthier choice. There is no nutritional value to food dyes as they are used solely for aesthetic purposes and to sell brightly colored objects to children who, let’s face it, are like birds attracted to shiny objects.
This does not mean all foods must have no color and be boring to look at. On the contrary, natural food dyes are so similar to artificial colors I can’t see a difference. Rainbow Goldfish are now made with all natural dyes including beet juice and carrot juice among others. My children love them and there is no taste difference. Finding dye-free food is challenging but not impossible. The following are my four favorite finds for this Valentine’s Day.
These come in all the popular styles like jelly beans, sour worms, gummy worms, gummy hearts and lots more.
Do you like Starbursts? You’ll love TruJoy Sweets. All natural, no dyes and the lemon one tastes like fresh carnival lemon shakers. Yummmmm.
If you have not tried these go directly to the nearest Whole Foods and get some. You will not believe how good they are. I have never tasted licorice this good. My kids love red licorice and I was really worried we would have to give it up but there are plenty of dye-free options out there and they are delicious! As my 4-year-old says, they make her want to “punch herself in the face!” (Ok, it’s a strange thing to say, but my 4-year-old is strange and hilarious. To her this means “these things are great!”)
Try something new this Valentines Day and go dye-free!