My kids still tell stories about the house rules on healthy eating, which I strictly enforced while they I were growing up. When it came to eliminating sugar and artificial ingredients from their diets, I was the ultimate Supermom. Of course, they were not impressed with my efforts. They were quick to turn my nutritious, whole-wheat pineapple muffins into pretend hand-grenades the first chance they got. But there was a good reason why I never served Kool-Aid and recently I learned that I had been vindicated. A new large-scale British study has revealed that food colorings and additives trigger hyperactivity and decrease attention spans in children. Young children are especially vulnerable to chemicals that affect the central nervous system, and it is no accident that one by one, artificial dyes arc taken off the market as they are discovered to cause cancer or to be highly neurotoxic.
Although parents have long-suspected a link between foods laced with synthetic additives and behavioral challenges in kids, this is the first research study to conclusively and scientifically the link As a result of this study and others, a renewed interest has been ignited among scientists and parents. The Center for Science in the Public Interest has petitioned the FDA to ban the use of certain dyes. Some U.S. companies have even experimented with replacing artificial colors in certain products but changed their minds when they knew they would have to charge more (it is more expensive to use natural pigments and it costs more for re-packaging to say ‘no artificial colors’ on the box.
Some scientists believe that the majority of food makers won’t act unless the FDA moves to ban die colors, or they are required to put a warning label on the package. Rcd-40, a chemical dye found in many common foods, drinks and children’s vitamins is one chemical under scrutiny. Some children are allergic to the dye and may be misdiagnosed with attention deficit disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and other behavioral problems. Although the Food and Drug Administration maintains that red dye is safe, you can be die final decision-maker about what your child ingests. You don’t have to serve treats which contain sugar, dyes or other unhealthy additives.
Fortunately, making Valentine’s Day fun and special for children is not dependent upon the use of Red # 40. Even though we live in a world of instant gratification (it’s just so easy to grab a pre-packaged bag of candy or a box of cookies), with a little planning, you can make treats for your children that aren’t full of unhealthy chemicals! You can make cookies, cakes, and candies-using juice dyes instead of store bought artificial food colors. Here is how to make your own juice dyes
One or more of the following: frozen berries, canned beets, or 1/2 cup plant material (blue-berries, cranberries, strawberry). Water as needed. Use the juice straight from thawed berries, or juice drained from canned beets. Mix colors for hue variations. If using fresh berries, or fruit, combine the plant material with 1 cup of water in a pan and sim-mer over low heat for 1/2 hour or so, adding more water as it evaporates.
Plant suggestions include blue-berries, purple grapes, cranberries, beets, and turmeric (for yellow)! To safely dye Valentine cookies and cupcake frosting red, simply take any of the juice of red fruits and vegetables that stain clothing, such as that from beets, strawberries, raspberries and cherries, and use that to dye the frosting or baked goods. Below are some recipe ideas that will help make Valentine’s Day special (and yummy!) with-out a lot of effort.
Jello lovers adore these treats and there’s no added sugar and dyes to worry about
1 packet unflavored gelatin
1 cup grape juice – no sugar added
1 cup hot water
Boil 1 cup of water, add 1⁄2 cup of grape juice, gelatin packet, and stir. Allow to cool a little, then stir in the remaining grape juice. Pour into heart shaped candy dishes and refrigerate until firm. You can also pour into a baking pan, filling about 1⁄2 inch. Cut out heart shapes after refrigerated.
Little hands will love making these finger sandwiches. They are yummy to eat and fun to make! Simply take some strawberry jelly-no sugar added and bread of your choice.
Make a jelly sandwich and take heart shaped cookie cutters to make various Valentine sandwiches of all sizes!
Mix these ingredients together in a blender to make your very own:
1⁄2 cup frozen strawberries
1 cup milk
1 very ripe banana
honey to taste
splash of orange juice
a touch of ginger ale or 7-Up to make it sparkle
Wishing you a Happy Valentine’s Day full of love and healthy treats!
Martha Ogburn, RN, MS is a nurse, author and mother of three grown children. Currently, she is resident resource and owner of the Barefoot Baby Boutique in historic downtown Princess Anne, Maryland. She may be reached through her web- site: www.barefoot- babyboutique.com or by calling (410) 621-5398.