Why and How to Avoid Artificial Colors in Food

This week's post will be about artificial colors in foods and why I choose to avoid them as much as I can for myself and my family. And then some easy ways to avoid them when out shopping. The topic was spurred by a recent need for Pedialyte and how I was annoyed that something that was supposed to help a sick kid keep from getting sicker (dehydrated) was filled with artificial colors and flavors. This shows the ingredients for the Pedialyte Freezer Pops we purchased until I could come up with an alternate (see the end for alternates to Pedialyte.) IMG_0040

So first, I'll answer the "Why" I try to avoid artificial colors. Well, artificial colors have been linked to ADHD symptoms, allergies, asthma and even cancer. Definitely diseases I'd like to avoid for a better quality of life. As most health experts would agree, the key to good health is to stick with eating "real" food which excludes artificial anything.

If you don't already read package labels for the ingredients, take a look at a few in your pantry or freezer. Seems everything these days includes Red 40, Blue 1, Yellow 5 or Yellow 6; the most common artificial colors used today. Why is this? Well, food manufacturers engineer foods for taste, sight and likability to make you want to eat more to ... drum roll... generate more sales. They don't necessarily have your health in mind. The above mentioned artificial colors are manufactured from petroleum. Eww. No thanks.

What is the easiest way to avoid artificial colors without reading every ingredient label in the store? Buy organic. In order for a food to have the USDA Organic seal on it, it must meet certain criteria including no artificial ingredients. But that can be expensive and sometimes unnecessary to spend the extra money depending on your overall nutrition goals.

Several stores have pledged to only carry items that are free of artificial colors among other things. These stores are local to me in the Tucson area, but I'm sure there are many others out there. Click on the links to read their respective stances on artificial colors and ingredients.

Whole Foods

Trader Joe's

Natural Grocers

Another place to get this kind of stuff if you don't have local access to a health food store is Thrive Market. It is an online membership site with comparable or even cheaper prices to these stores.

As a last note, artificial colors aren't just lurking in packaged foods, but can be in the meats in your grocery store or even on orange peels. Crazy. Also, look at medicines and personal hygiene products. Although you aren't eating that eye shadow, your skin is still absorbing some of it.

So, there are plenty of options out there that use natural ingredients for coloring agents (think beets for red, annatto for orange, turmeric for yellow, chlorella for green, red cabbage for blue, etc...) Nature is full of wonderful hues to make your food more appealing for the eye. I have referenced this post here for natural dyes for coloring Easter eggs and making homemade Playdoh, for example.

Lastly, here is a recipe for a homemade electrolyte replacement drink you can make at home. Easy, cheap, no need to run to the store with a sick kid... perfect! See more information on Oral Rehydration Solutions here.

  • 6 tsp sugar (or molasses which gives more potassium)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 liter of water (4 1/4 cups)

       Dissolve sugar and salt in water. Add fresh orange juice for extra potassium and flavor.

As always, let me know what you think!

With love, hugs and smiles,

Carolyn