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Why We Went Dye Free: my top dye free treats for children

I’m going to be straight forward with you. Up until about a year ago I was absolutely clueless about the negative effects that food dye had on people, especially children. As a mother, I have always strived to make health conscious choices regarding my children. I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself a full blown “crunchy” mom but I definitely learn more towards that category than not. Like myself, many parents are becoming increasingly aware of the impact of artificial additives in their children's diets. While food dyes add vibrant colors (and what child doesn’t like bright and pretty colors?) to various foods and beverages, they have also been linked to a range of health concerns.

Before I get into the good stuff, lets talk about the science behind food dyes and what risks that they cause because you may be in the same place that I was last year, completely clueless but more than eager to learn. So stick with me for a minute or scroll down to get to my favorite dye free alternatives. 

The Science

Food dyes are synthetic substances added to foods and beverages to enhance their color or make them more visually appealing. They are commonly found in a wide array of products, including candies, sodas, cereals, snacks, and even medications. These dyes are often derived from petroleum and undergo extensive processing before being added to food.

The Risks of Food Dyes

Research has shown that certain food dyes, such as Red 40, Yellow 5, and Blue 1, may have adverse effects on children's behavior and health. The top two risks associated with food dyes are:

1. Hyperactivity: Studies have suggested a link between the consumption of food dyes and increased hyperactivity and impulsivity in children, particularly those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). I for one can attest that Red 40 does 100% cause hyperactive behavior and outbursts in Isla. And to think why potty training with dye filled M&Ms as a reward wasn’t working makes total sense now. 

2. Behavioral Issues: In addition to hyperactivity, food dyes have been associated with other behavioral issues in children, including irritability, mood swings, and difficulty concentrating.

Tips for Going Dye-Free

We have been mostly dye free for about a year at this point. We do allow the occasional treat when we are out and about but on a daily basis we don’t allow dyes in our home. We have seen so many positive changes in Isla’s behavior after removing food dyes from her diet. Elliot is only 16 months old so he’s never really had an opportunity to be exposed to dyes except his birthday cake had red dye and it made him break out in an awful rash. I learned my lesson on that one.

Transitioning to a dye-free diet for your children may seem daunting at first, but with some planning and creativity, it can be easily achieved. Below I have listed my favorite dye free alternatives. While these options aren’t considered healthy food choices because they are still sweet treats, knowing that are free of artificial dyes is the goal I am looking to achieve for our family. 

My top places to shop for dye free products are Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Thrive Market, and of course Amazon. Dunkin’ Donuts is also usually dye free! Sometimes their seasonal donuts contain dyes but their everyday donuts do not. The most important thing is to read labels! Dye is always hiding in items where you wouldn't expect it.

Occasionally I feel guilty telling Isla that she can’t have something that contains dye, but she’s now understanding that there are better options that are also just as tasty and will make her feel better than the dye options. By eliminating artificial additives from our diets and focusing more on whole, nutritious foods, I hope to help set my kids on the path to a lifetime of healthy eating habits. I hope that they can feel and see the difference this change had made in their little bodies one day in the future. I am by no means an expert on this topic by any means, I am just sharing what I have found what works for our family. As always, I am more than happy to answer any questions you may have!


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