How to Avoid Artificial Dyes

Artificial dyes in foods can cause hyperactivity in a child with attention deficit disorder (ADD or ADHD). Here are healthy substitutes.

Today we continue a portion of the article by Laura Stevens from the January/February 2008 issue of ADDitude Magazine.

Here are some helpful tips about what foods to avoid and what to serve in their place:

* Substitute 100 percent fruit juice for soft drinks, fruit drinks, and fruit punches — all of which are typically artificially colored and flavored. If the child must have a soft drink, try 7-Up, Squirt, or Sprite. These brands are naturally flavored and free of dyes—though they all contain sodium benzoate. Even better, buy natural sodas or fruit spritzers sold at health food stores.

* If you have time to bake, make muffins, cakes, and cookies from scratch. Cake mixes contain red and yellow coloring. Use pure extracts instead of artificial vanilla (called vanillin), almond, peppermint, lemon, orange, and coconut flavors. Bonus: Pure extracts taste better, although they are more expensive. No time to bake? Try Pepperidge Farm Chessmen cookies, which are free of dyes and low in sugar.

* As you would expect, the more colorful the cereal, the more food dyes it contains. Cap’n Crunch, Trix, Fruit Loops, Lucky Charms, and Apple Jacks are full of food coloring. Look for breakfast cereals that are free of dyes — like Cheerios, which doesn’t contain artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.

* If the kids love barbecue sauce, or if you use it to spice up everyday dishes, read the label before buying a bottle. Many brands are loaded with Red #40. Hunt’s Original, however, is free of food coloring. Does your child enjoy Popsicles? Buy Welch’s Fruit Juice Bars, one of the few brands without dyes or preservatives.

* Avoid Jell-O and other gelatin mixes are loaded with artificial coloring and flavors. Make your own gelatin salad or desserts by dissolving plain gelatin in 100 percent fruit juice for a pretty, and nutritious, dessert.

Click here to see the entire article.

Tomorrow: Effects of dyes and preservatives in personal care products.

Have you ever cared for a child that was sensitive to food additives? What foods or chemicals created the sensitivity?


  1. I'm sensitive to the additive nutra sweet. Gives me migraines. Learned long ago to shy away from the junk with kids because of it. The nice thing about baking from scratch too is you can put in healthy ingredients for those picky eaters. Into chocoate cake I've added zuccini for example. This way I don't wince when they don't eat all their veggies and still want dessert.

  2. It is frustrating as a nanny thinking these changes might help the hyper kid I care for but the parents haven't the desire or time or energy to change. I personally can't get them to stop eating Lucky Charms to eat unfrosted cereal. change from cow's milk to Lactaid, or soda to water. I've tried. The child has the worse gas, eszema, and is hyper. I don't see why it would hurt to make healthier choices but I can't do it alone. The kids are fed pretty healthy meals but still a far way to go when you have a child you think is lactose intolerant, has eczema, and can see reacts to sugar. He's hyper, get's in some trouble at school for it, but not diagnosed so parents aren't concerned. Very frustrating for me, but I'm not the parent. Why I lke anonymous posts sometimes so no one need know who I am speaking of, they are caring parents, just haven't the time or energy or concern to make the dietary changes.

  3. I think if you come from a place of happiness, love, and concern the parents won't be mad. If you are willing to do the shopping and try recipes yourself they might be willing to let YOU try. But having them change would be harder. See if they are willing to let you do it. If they don't want you to then respect their decision as the parents.

  4. You have to approach parents with a win/win attitude. Just like any negotiation you have to be positive and figure out how to make all parties happy. Obviously if you can serve healthier options for the children it's a win/win/win. Win for parents you help their kid, win for kid you've made him healthier, win for you the family is grateful to have a caring, motivated nanny.

  5. We would all benefit from this advice. Nanny MelissaSilver Spring MD

  6. R U kidding me? Offering Sprite as a healthier alternative. Seltzer and fruit juice is the only carbonated beverage the kids should ever have, and only sparingly!

  7. SUGAR IS A HUGE ISSUE! chocolate any kind shape what ever!Cookies all the fruit juices loaded with sugar! Yes light color soda's are better!I dice strawberries, watermelon, and put them in icecube tray with cold water over! Freeze for several hrs 2-3 hrs frozen! Take a few in a container for a child and throw in a straw! great drink! Only natural sugar is in this! Next slice a piece of orange and put into container with plain ice cubes with cold water! GReat!

  8. Food dyes pose a health risk to many consumers, but no health benefit whatsoever to any consumers.Live in Nanny Alice TRhode Island

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