In 4th grade, E did a science experiment involving mice, a maze and red food coloring. At the end of it, he had proven that the food coloring, as benign as it may seem, had a definite effect on the behavior of the one mouse who drank water with the red dye. The mouse had become aggresive, sluggish and had forgotten how to run the maze that just days earlier he had mastered with a time of about a minute. At the end of 7 days of drinking the water dyed red (with FDA approved food coloring), his time for the maze was over FIVE minutes, while the control mouse still had a very low finish time and who's behavior had not changed. The mouse (Chesterfield) died a couple of months later and, while unconfirmed as to what exactly it was, he had some type of growth in his belly area, which we believe to have been a tumor. The other mouse (Phineas) only lived a few more weeks but we were told by the pet store that they would probably only live a few months anyway. The point was that the food dye, after a short time, had a visible effect on that tiny little mouse.
Shouldn't food dye be safe? If it's approved by the FDA for consumption, surely it is, right? Also, I know, we are not mice, we are larger and eat less than that mouse did, right? Are you sure? Have you actually checked your food's labels lately. There is food dye is SO many things, even marshmallows! Did you know that is made from petroleum?? YUCK!
So how do I avoid food dye? Well, I don't always. But I'm trying a lot harder to.
Check every label. Read every ingredient. There are so many things we really should avoid eating, things that aren't food and that shouldn't be in our food.
The first and best option is to avoid anything with ingredients you can't identify or wouldn't cook with in your own kitchen. Organics are a better option for prepackaged foods, at least when it comes to avoiding dyes. I'm not saying they are always healthier. There are, for sure, a lot of unhealthy prepackaged "organic" foods. Fresh fruits and veggies, meats, and rice. Bake from scratch as much as possible.
There are choices for candies that use natural food dyes made from vegetables and fruits.
Capri sun is a "better" drink choice than others, except you have to be careful if you avoiding HFCS.
Watch out for canned/jarred cherries and pie fillings, there are almost always dyes, especially red #40 in cherries. Even in the little cups of mixed fruit. I avoid those for the kids.
Real juice or even water and milk are great choices. If they really want pop, and you aren't opposed to it, try sierra mist (it doesn't have dye or HFCS).
Check out blogs and facebook pages: Die, Food Dye; 100 days of real food; Feingold diet; and many many more.
Gluten free is hard too but some keys to truly going gluten-free: Use a separate, NEW toaster for gluten-free bread. Watch for cross-contamination. It really can be easier to just have everybody go GF. It truly does NOT have to be super-expensive. Avoid the majority of processed GF foods except for occasional treats. Look for hidden gluten, like in lunch meat and hot dogs. Make your own GF pizza crust using pamela's bread dough mix (seriously it's some of the best pizza we've ever had, when we were GF). Eat fresh fruit and veggies, meats and rice and potatoes. Quinoa, and other unique grains. Avoid wheat, barley, rye, spelt, and only eat oats if they are certified gluten free. Try to make your own bread or buy gluten-free wraps for "sandwiches"/roll-ups. Use corn tortillas or corn taco shells (check for hidden gluten). Also there are a ton of internet resources for going gluten-free.
Annie's makes really yummy, naturally flavored/colored (organic!) fruit snacks as well as cheese "bunnies" and chocolate "bunnies". There are store brands of dye-free items (mostly organics) and also GF items. Kroger and Meijer both have a decent selection of each.
Not sure what else to write on the subject. As you start to avoid the dyes though, you will see yourself avoiding other additives and hopefully start to feel better, to notice a change in your kids. I know, for us, when our boys have stuff with red #40, especially when it's a lot or a few things over several days, or even other dyes/additives/HFCS, there are more meltdowns, more behavior issues, more frustration, more whining even. They seem more tired, or more hyper, depending on the child, LOL. I feel more on edge, less patient, meaner for lack of a better description. I even have a brain fog type of feeling. Depending on what and how much I've eaten, I have physical symptoms, ranging from stomach/digestive issues to headaches to more/longer colds and respiratory illnesses. I can say, when we eat better, I truly, truly feel better.
I love this phrase: When we know better, we do better. That is what I'm working towards. Slowly but surely. Another favorite: Don't throw the baby out with the bath water. If you slip up and eat something not so good for you, it's ok. Move on. Do better next time. Don't just give up and go back to that not so good way of eating. Follow the 80/20 rule. Plan to eat really good 80% of the time so when the other 20% of unexpected happens, it's really ok.
I will try to post later with some actual links if I can find them ;)