If you're just joining us, you can read part 1 of the series here, which is the background information on why we decided to eliminate artificial food dye for Jake.
As I said in my last post, I was very skeptical when the doctor first suggested to us that the food dye could be contributing to Jake's behavioral issues; one, I hadn't really heard of such a thing, and two, I didn't think that he really consumed that much food dye to make a difference. I knew food dye was in the obvious items, such as cake, candy, mac and cheese, etc, but since he wasn't eating that kind of stuff everyday, I didn't really see how it would be affecting his behavior.
I was surprised when I starting to go through our food at home. Some of the foods that Jake was consuming everyday contained food dye! The biggest culprits that I found (that didn't seem obvious to me) were:
-Nutrigrain bars: the only safe ones I've found are the apple cinnamon flavored kind
-Eggo blueberry waffles; I guess it makes sense since we all know those aren't actually little blueberries in the frozen waffles (we've since started to just purchase plain or cinnamon waffles, he didn't seem to really care/notice)
-Peanut butter crackers; you know, the kind that are yellowish/golden crackers with peanut butter in them, come 6 in a pack? we always had these on hand (I usually had the Austin brand) to throw in my purse if we were going to the zoo or taking a car trip....I was very surprised to find these had yellow dye in them! I guess to make the crackers more golden? However, I was able to find some other brands (Market Pantry by Target, Keebler, etc) that do not contain the dye, so we just switched to those instead.
-Popcorn: not that we were eating this everyday, but it is one of their special treats that we enjoy while having movie nights. I was able to find an Orville Redenbacher "simply natural" option with no artificial coloring.
Those are the few biggest culprits I can remember off the top of my head, at least the ones that he was consuming on a semi-regular basis. There were some other things that I noticed it in but that we didn't eat as often (for example, the little packets of blueberry muffin mix....the brand I had contained food dye, but when I started reading labels I found that Betty Crocker did NOT contain the dye, so if we want those as a special weekend treat, I just pick up that brand instead) And some other things that I've noticed had it in it, but fortunately we weren't using them anyway (certain types of syrup, spaghetti sauce, yogurt, even things like whole wheat pizza crust...it really was shocking when I realized just how many things contained it!)
Something else to note: it is found in many children's medications, both prescription (if you have them flavor it) and over the counter. You can find liquid ibruprofen and tylenol without the dye, but you do have to carefully read the labels. It is also found in some gummy vitamins for children (fortunately, it was not in the brand we had been using, so we didn't have to make a change there)
I will say, it was a lot of time spent in the grocery store reading labels when we first found out. There were other things that I avoid (certain snack crackers, some cereal, etc) but for the most part, we've been able to carry on by substituting some items. Here is a full list of how artificial dyes may appear on various food labels, courtesy of 100daysofrealfood.com:
The bigger challenge has been places outside of our home. Here is what we've done for those:
Once we decided to eliminate, I contacted Jake's teacher to discuss it with her, and she was fantastic about it. She went over the school lunches with me (surprisingly, anything that he would be selecting off the menu was already dye-free so I didn't need to worry there), and we discussed snack time, which takes place in the classroom every afternoon. She told me some of the more common snacks (snacks are sent in by parents and while the school does give guidelines, there are still some items that wouldn't work for him...fruit snacks for example....which to me shouldn't even be on the allowed list of foods, but that's a rant for a different time) Anyway, we covered the ingredients he can't have and she agreed to scan the list of ingredients and if there was something he couldn't have, he would be provided with his alternative snack (I sent in a bag of pretzels and a bag of goldfish, that way he'd have something to eat instead) They aren't allowed to send in cake or sweets for birthdays, so that's not an issue there.
This was the hard one, and it's the one that is still a little hard for me because I don't want him to feel sad or left out at social events. When it's a family thing, it's much easier....our parents have been great about it (my mom got her birthday cake from Whole Foods so that Jake could eat it with the rest of us, and my mother in law made him brownies and had plain vanilla ice cream on hand for Easter dessert) For his own birthday party, the place we had it provided a cake, so I just brought brownies to supplement and he was fine with that (actually, even pre-dye elimination, he preferred chocolate/brownies over white cake anyway, so this is working out better for him!)
But when we are at non-family birthday parties, I obviously don't expect for special food to be made for him. We started this elimination back in December; that same week, we went to a birthday party and I honestly just didn't even think about the cake. It was chocolate cake with purple icing, so I scraped off the icing and he ate the cake....the chocolate part could have contained food dye, but since we were just starting this thing and Jake didn't really understand, I took the risk.
He was at another birthday party a few weeks ago, and they had ice cream to go along with the cake, so he had that instead. I'm not sure what we'll do for other places. There is a Trader Joe's set to open right by our house very soon, and I've heard they will carry individual cupcakes with no artificial ingredients....I'm thinking that might be a good option to have, to swing through there and bring something? I don't know. I don't really know how to approach this. If you are a parent of a child with other food allergies/sensitivities, I would love to hear from you. Do you bring your own stuff to parties, or does your child eventually get used to it?
All of that being said, Jake has been amazing about the whole thing. Really, he has. We told him that the food dye isn't good for anyone, and for him especially, it can make him feel yucky. He caught on quickly to the fact that bright colored things have it in it, and he's even avoided it on his own a few times without us there! They don't normally have cookies in the lunch line, but they had flower shaped ones for the first day of spring a few weeks ago....he told me about it and said that he asked the person working the lunch line if it had dye before he took one....they looked at the packaging, told him it did, and he said "no thank you, I can't eat that"
So it hasn't been easy, but it also hasn't been terribly challenging either...and I'm hoping that it will all be worth it. Next up in the series: a review of the progress so far!