This post about food dyes contains affiliate links. If you click one of them and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. However, you can be confident that I will only recommend those products I truly believe in. See my full disclosures here. In part 1 of this series, I shared some of the research I have done about food dyes and the effects they can have on our health. I also shared our story and why we made the decision to eliminate them from our diets. In this post, I am going to share some of the practicalities, the "how-to" of eliminating dyes altogether.
Step 1: Read the Labels.
Seriously, read every label of every product you have in your home. Read the ingredient list of every label you plan to buy. Read every label, every time.
I have been shocked on several occasions to find that there were dyes in products that I never would have imagined. Caramel color in cinnamon bread? Yep. Blue dye in vanilla icing? Check. Food dyes in deli meat? You betcha. Nearly all medicines and cough drops contain food dyes.
When you read the labels, you are looking for anything with a number (like Yellow 5, Blue 1, E133 etc.). If it has a number like this, it is almost certainly a food coloring. You are also looking for the words "Caramel Color," or "Carrageenan." (Some experts consider these last two to be safer then synthetic colors. We choose not to consume them. I have provided links for you to do your own research.)
Dyes are everywhere, in many of our everyday products. Read your labels.
Step 2: Purge Your Pantry.
Depending on the sense of urgency you feel in this area, you can do this one of two ways. You can choose to use the products you have, then purchase dye-free replacements. Alternatively, you can immediately remove them from your home and start fresh (please consider donating purged food! For a hungry child, dyed food is better then no food!). Regardless of which method you choose, it will be helpful to jot down a list of your frequently used products that contain food dyes. That way you can research some replacement options before you go shopping.
Step 3: Research.
There are a few good resources out there for finding dye-free replacements. If you know someone personally that has gone dye-free, they will likely be a wealth of knowledge. There are also good resources on Pinterest. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Learn the lingo. "All Natural" normally means dye-free. "Naturally flavored" does not. Organic foods have been largely dye-free in my experience. Still, read the labels!
- Search for Dye-free items on Amazon. I like that I can usually zoom in and read the ingredients list for myself on Amazon. For example, if you search for dye-free Benedryl, there are several good options, even for kids. You can buy from Amazon, or jot down the brands and prices to check your local store. This will save you lots of time in stores (especially helpful if you have to shop with kids). In most cases, I have found Amazon to be competitively priced, but it never hurts to compare.
- Source things that you might not use all the time, but will want on hand or at least have a note of which brands/flavors you'll want if illness arrives. Cough drops, medicines, seasonings, mixes, etc. Anything pre-made or processed is a candidate for food dyes. Should you need antibiotics or other prescription drugs, you will have to ask your doctor to specify that you need a dye-free prescription. Just because a medicine is clear or white does not mean it's dye free!
- Think about treats. One of the toughest things will be going to parties and events where there are treats containing food dyes. I recommend deciding ahead of time whether you're ok making an exception. If you aren't, ask the hostess if you may bring your own treat (especially for kids). Sometimes I will send my highly reactive child to a party with his own cupcake or slice of cake. You can also find natural food colorings for your own parties and treats.
- Consider toiletries. Most toothpastes have food dyes. So do many other products easily absorbed through the skin. You will need to decide if you're ok with that, or if you want to switch to dye-free alternatives. Our family uses Earthpaste, but there are several options that are available in health food stores.
- Dye-free candy will not be available in your average store, so this requires a bit more research. Amazon has some good options, as do health food stores. I keep these suckers and gum handy for times when someone hands my kids candy. I replace it with one from my purse so they don't feel slighted.
Next Step: Shopping!
In Part 3 of this series, I will walk you through shopping dye-free. I'll tell you where to go, what brands to look for, and share an extensive list of my families favorite products. I'll also be giving away a free printable cheat sheet to take with you to the store!
Miss something? Here is Part 1 of this Series. Part 3 is coming soon!
Do you know anyone who is dye-free? What questions do you have for me (or other readers?) You can like us on Facebook to join the discussion, or comment below. I'd love to hear from you.