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The Truth About That Easter Candy

There are only 54 days between Valentines day and easter this year. Thats under 2 months that you had to eat up all of that valentines day candy and will be restocking for easter. Thats under 2 months to rid your household of all the heart shaped chocolates, candies and m&ms and make way for the Cadbury eggs and sugar coated chick shaped marshmallows. Have you noticed how almost all of our holidays revolve around candy or treats in some way– especially here in the U.S.. With Easter fast approaching on April 9th I wanted to use this episode to talk about food dyes, which is especially prevalent in the candy & treat industries. As with every episode of the podcast my intention is not at all to shame anyone or make you feel bad or guilty for how you are raising your children, but to provide you a different perspective and offer you information that maybe you haven’t heard before or have heard but haven’t really understood.

I am not in any way saying that you should not consume even one of those cute little marshmallow chicks or indulge in some of those delicious Cadbury eggs (I will be 100% honest here and admit that I have already been suckered in to having those little Cadbury eggs because they ARE so good)!! I don’t want us to feel like a healthy lifestyle is an all or nothing kind of thing, but I want you to be aware of what you are eating so you can make a well informed decision. And honestly, its the daily lifestyle changes that make the biggest differences, those one off’s or treats are not going to make or break our health.

So let’s just dive in here and talk about a few interesting facts that I found about artificial food dyes. Americans are consuming five times as many food dyes as they did in 1955. Red 40, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 are the most widely used dyes. FD&C lakes, citrus red and “artificial color” are all hidden names for food dyes as well. These artificial additives are made from petroleum. Food dyes are used solely to improve the aesthetic of food and make it look more appealing (and catch the eyes of kids and us). Food dyes are found in way more things that just candy. Food dyes are commonly utilized in: ​​baked goods, packaged foods, cereals, yogurt, pudding, ice cream, popsicles, soda, sports and energy drinks, snack foods and protein powders. Have you ever wondered how kraft gets their mac and cheese to look so yellow? It also is found in vitamins and supplements as well as other medications. So you can see that more than likely we are consuming way more food dyes than we actually realize. FD&C lakes, citrus red and “artificial color” are all hidden names for food dyes. Many countries banned the utilization of food dyes in food products because of their known harm. There are literally tons of products on the market that have two versions, one for those countries and one for ours. With food dyes not being the only thing left out of the U.S. or non banned countries version–there are alot of food additives that are banned in other countries due to safety and deemed okay for others. This is a topic for another episode though. One disturbing thing is that Red Dye is banned in the U.S. cosmetic industry for the cancer causing links that have been found, however, they have deemed it safe for consumption in our foods.

Let’s shift gears here now that you know a little more about food dyes and talk about what they have been found to do to our health. The greatest link that has been found for our children is with their behavior. Artificial dyes have been linked with worsening of hyperactivity and ADHD symptoms in some kids. Other behavioral changes including irritability and depression have also been noted. Allergic reactions, hives, asthma, sneezing, watery eyes, skin irritation and even migraines are all side effects of consumption of these artificial food dyes. Just think about it. If the food dyes have even the potential to affect our behavior, then do you really want to be consuming them knowing that they may have a cancer causing effect as well? A lot of the research has been done on Red dye 40, but they are all created using very similar processes and are best decreased or eliminated in general.

So how do we go about eliminating these dyes? Unfortunately, you've got to do your homework when making purchases. You are going to need to read labels and look for those other sneaky names that I had mentioned. A lot of products put it right on the label that they do not use artificial dyes. Make sure to purchase dye-free versions of over the counter medications like cough syrups, vitamins, fever reducers and pain medications. Start with the foods and products that you use on a daily basis and then once you start to see how they are hidden in so many things, you will become much more aware of their presence. Remember, progress not perfection.

So you may be thinking now, Dakota, what in the world am I going to do for this easter basket or easter egg hunt! Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. I want to finish out this episode by talking about some alternatives to candy that we can do for Easter.

First, if you still want to go the candy route then try to find brands or options that do not contain the dyes. Smart Sweets and Unreal are two of my favorite brands and can be found at most of the big box stores. Thankfully, more and more clean brands are hitting the market and becoming more accessible. With Easter kicking off spring, this is a great way to stock up on all those fun outdoor activities like kites, chalk, bubbles, jump ropes, balls. Art activities are also a great easter basket idea– coloring books, markers, crayons or paint. One of my favorite things to give in an easter basket is a new book! If you are celebrating the resurrection of Jesus then this is the perfect opportunity for a new bible or other book that talks about the meaning of Easter. Another thing to keep in mind is that kids honestly just like the excitement of having an Easter basket (if thats a tradition your family practices) so you do not have to spend excessive amounts of money or buy unnecessary toys or things. You can also use this as a chance to get them something that they need like a new pair of spring pajamas or an outfit. Or a new pair of rain boots or other spring shoes. Even a new swimsuit is an easy thing to do. These are things that you likely were going to do anyways. I also love the idea of some new bath products or toothbrush/toothpaste. Use this as a time to swap out their products for a more clean brand! We really like Tubby Todd!

Sometimes we let the consumerism aspect of these holidays overshadow the real meaning. When all else fails, ditch the gifts and shopping and plan a fun activity together as a family, bake a special dye free treat and get outside and express gratitude for each other!

I hope your walking away learning something new and can make a well informed decision about food dyes and your family! Happy Easter friend, join me here next week for a new episode.


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