Monday, November 28, 2011

The nightmare that is Thanksgiving (or, you'd think I'd learn...)

I should know by now how there are dyes in everything, but there are still things that sneak up on me. I should know to read the labels on everything, regardless of if it doesn't seem like something that could be stuffed chemicals....

I gave myself a pretty decent guilt trip about the pumpkin pie from Walmart that had Yellow #5 in it. Then I felt even worse once I found out that the Boy had a slice. He didn't seem to be affected the way he usually is. He's been a little lethargic since Saturday, and it's unusual for him. It's Monday, and he was still sleepy and snuggly today. Who knows if he's getting sick or if he's actually reacting to the pie, but why on earth would someone put Yellow in a pumpkin pie? It's main ingredient is orange, and it's full of delicious yellow-ish ingredients. Seems like a no brainer. A naturally made pie is perfectly beautiful and appetizing, and this Walmart pie has basically just pissed me off. 

Here's another Thanksgiving horror story: Marshmallows have blue dye. Actually, wanna know *exactly* what's in them? The ingredients in Kraft marshmallows are: corn syrup, sugar, modified food starch, dextrose, water, pork-skin gelatin, tetrasodium pyrophosphate, artificial flavor, natural flavor, and blue #1.  As a reference, I'm including Smitten Kitchen's recipe for springy, fluffy marshmallows- her list of ingredients are confectioner's sugar, unflavored gelatin, granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt, egg whites, and vanilla. Big diff, eh? They put Brilliant Blue #1 in there just to make my blood boil.

Oh, and we got to do something really awesome this holiday weekend with our family- we went to the Shrine Circus! It was super fun, and I was impressed with the quality of the acts, but that place was oozing with red sno-cones, blue cotton candy, lollipops, sodas, nacho cheese... well, you know, circus food. No surprises there, but still evidence to the pervasiveness of food colorants marketed toward children. 

I know there was a lot of bitching in this post about a holiday that's supposed to be about thankfulness and gratitude, so here's my attempt to win you over and make you think I'm a human... with a beating heart. 
  • I'm grateful for the health of my family, for two healthy, happy kids and a husband whose only health affliction is stubbornness (but there doesn't seem to be any remedy for that.)
  • I'm thankful for the opportunity to raise my kids in the comfort of my own home, and am grateful that as a result, I have two happy, well adjusted and securely attached babes. 
  • Obviously, the internet, chocolate, and wine. 

I'll let you know how my homemade marshmallows turn out, and if I win the war on food dyes as Christmas approaches!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Dye Free Food, Meal by Meal:

If you're considering making some changes in the way your family eats, let me throw you a bone and give ya' some tips (i.e. very basic info.)

There's usually a dye-free version of anything you want to eat. Just because you're craving jellybeans doesn't mean you have to go without, you just have to look a little harder. This Easter, I found the most delicious jellybeans at Trader Joe's, and they tasted so much better than my usual favorites. They actually had flavor. I didn't feel like I was popping pure sugar in my mouth (and I saw them yesterday- apparently they aren't just seasonal!) I think an added benefit of eliminating artificial dyes is the surge of flavor that inevitably comes with better, higher quality food.

So, I think the best way to grocery shop is to make a list. Go through your week and make a meal plan, including breakfast and lunch, and list each ingredient you'll need. This makes it easier to see where dyes are sneaking up on you.
  • Some common breakfast offenders are yogurt and cereal. Oatmeal that comes already flavored and cereal bars often have dyes. In general, you can purchase deceivingly unhealthy yogurt, cereal, and breakfast bars, so buying ones without dyes will probably ensure that you are eating whole grains, fiber, fruits, and generally less processed food. Juice can have hidden additives as well, so be careful. The Boy likes Berry Berry Kix- I was surprised it was dye free. We buy Simply GoGurt, although there are several other dye-free brands. If you like canned cinnamon rolls (and who doesn't!) just a warning that Pillsbury puts red dye #40 in theirs- it makes me so sad, because I believe that cinnamon rolls look beautiful and delicious without the added chemicals.
  • Hot dogs can contain red dyes too- and lunch meats have ridiculous amounts of additives, so avoiding those are usually a good idea. Jellies and jams sometimes have extra dyes, so we buy All Fruit brand jelly usually. So many chips and snack foods have dyes- Doritos and Cheetos are common offenders, but oddly enough Fritos have a surprisingly noble list of ingredients (much healthier than Rold Gold Pretzels, for example.) Avoid Jell-O (but we LOVE these SmartGels from Kozy Shack. They're really good and I am a fan of the ingredients list.) Macaroni and cheese can create some major hurdles, but we like Annie's Homegrown products
  • Dinner food seem to have fewer issues with dyes, since savory foods are often colored with spices instead. Although, one that I forget pretty frequently (because it doesn't make sense!) is Pillsbury brand items- you know, crescent rolls, stuff like that. I bought some garlic bread that comes pre-schmeared with garlic butter, and had my oven pre-heated before I realized it had yellow #5. I gave it to a neighbor but I still felt guilty for giving her chemical-laden food to feed her kids. I know not everyone has a problem with it, but I do, and it weighs heavy on my mind most days. 
  • There are obvious snacky offenders, but I feel that I should list a few in case you don't know about them yet- foods like brownies, cake mixes, frosting in a can, sodas, candies, fruit snacks, and chips sometimes have dyes, but do you see a common thread here? They're all fake, crappy foods. Make your own cake and frosting (it's easy!) and in general, make better choices about what you put in your shopping cart. I enjoy lemon curd with gingerbread cake, and can't buy it from the regular supermarket anymore. Lucky for me, I found it at TJ's recently!
  • Here's a shocker- I had to throw out my kid's toothpaste because it was full of blue dye! We switched to Burt's Bees toothpaste, and we've been very happy with it- the boy loves to brush!
  • Most medications contain harmful colors as well- Benadryl, Advil/ibuprofen, and  Tylenol/acetaminophen all make dye-free versions. One time I looked at the Tylenol website to see if they made chewables that were dye free (they don't), and they seemed to think that parents choose their dye-free products to avoid messes and stains on children's clothing. They're clueless! I've heard that you can get dye-free amoxicillin from a compounding pharmacy but I've not tried that yet. 

Alright, those were just a few... I have lots more to tell you but I don't want your brain to explode just yet. Have you ever been shocked by the ingredients of something you frequently buy?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Twitter- I'm kind of a big deal

Hey y'all, I made a Twitter to keep up with the allergic, food sensitive world: follow me @dyefreefam !!!

Halloween. It happened, and I lived to tell the tale.

Buzz and Chicken
I was fairly certain having a child with dye sensitivity on a candy filled holiday like Halloween would send me to the psychiatric ward. At the very least I expected a migraine, or permanent eye twitch, but none of that happened!

Here's how the night went down- we went to a friend's house. We put costumes on the kids. We went trick or treating. No one got hurt. Nothing crazy. The Boy somehow resisted the temptation of all temptations and did NOT open the full-sized bag of Skittles, nor did he dig in to anything else- in fact, he ate ONE piece of candy all night! It was an organic TJ's lollipop, and the odds of that happening peacefully are like a bajillion to zero. I should have gotten a lottery ticket on the way home last night.

I was fully prepared to whine and complain about this holiday, but it was actually a really good time! I'm looking forward to next year, especially since the focus for the 3 year old seemed to be the people he spent the evening with, "I have some really nice fwiends, Mama." Amazing.