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?


  1. FYI, we had to get the liquid amoxicillin last week for an ear infection and it came dye-free (without special request) from Walgreens. I was pleasantly surprised as I didn't even think to request dye-free. So it's at least available upon request.

  2. Oh, that's wonderful (not the ear infection part!) We had to use another antibiotic recently and it was purple tinged, and the pharm tech looked at me like I was insane when I asked if there was dye in it... I believe Omnicef is dye free too (commonly prescribed for ear-infections.)