Monday, September 13, 2010

The Rainbow Connection

One of our local supermarkets has an ongoing kid’s program in place called “Eat a Rainbow Everyday”. This “rainbow” refers to the variety of fruits and veggies that should be incorporated into our children’s daily diet. It does NOT include FD&C Red 40, Brilliant Blue or Tartrazine.

Unfortunately, artificial food colorings have made their way into our daily lives – sometimes in places we wouldn’t expect. If you take a stroll through the supermarket and look at the items that are specifically marketed toward children, you’ll see a lot of scary options such as: Cotton Candy yogurt, Rockin’ Red oatmeal, and blue raspberry juice blast. Sometimes I wonder if kids even know that blue raspberry is not even a real fruit. Okay, so it is actually – but unless you live in a remote part of Montana, chances are you have never seen one.

Numerous studies have been done on the effects of artificial colors on children’s health and behavior. The results are a bit alarming. Artificial food coloring has been linked to: allergies, asthma, attention deficit disorders, and even cancer. In fact, some countries have even banned certain common colorings that the US continues to use.

Take a look through your pantry and read all the labels. You may be surprised. Now – take a look through your medicine cabinet. Artificial colors can be found in vitamins, pain relievers, cough medicines, toothpaste, fluoride rinses, and even allergy medications.

And how’s this for ironic – studies strongly suggest that food coloring (especially certain greens, reds, and yellows) are connected to an increase in ADHD symptoms. And what color do you think many ADHD medications are? Exactly. Sometimes I wonder if the folks making Skittles (taste the rainbow) are in cahoots with the Ritalin people. A win-win situation for them, no?

What can you do as a parent? Continue to read food labels carefully. Just because something isn’t obviously colored doesn’t mean it’s free of dyes. This is a great resource on the subject

It’s not always realistic to eliminate artificial colors from our diets entirely, but knowing what you are dealing with is a good start. Encourage your kids to eat the right kind of rainbow. There are so many options out there these days and many companies are recognizing the desire to steer toward more natural choices, without having to visit specialty food shops and paying double. Just keep reading those labels.