Food Dyes and Our Children

by Trish Weese

When I was pregnant with my daughter, like most parents to be, I spent hours with my good friend, “Dr. Google,” looking for advice and information on how to best care for my child. I was particularly interested in diet, as I’d developed some pretty bad eating habits as a child, and I wanted better for my baby. Article after article, book after book, I kept reading about diabetes and childhood obesity and how many researchers and doctors believed that the increase in these two conditions were directly linked to the consumption of high fructose corn syrup (don’t believe me? consult Dr. Google yourself!). This stuff is in everything, not just the usual suspects, such as cookies and candy, but it’s also in pasta sauce, salad dressing, bread and crackers too. I was (and still am) shocked looking at labels in my cupboard and the supermarket and seeing how much sugar is added to items most of us would consider somewhat healthy.

So, while patting myself on the back for keeping high fructose corn syrup OUT of our diet, I recently discovered another dangerous ingredient, added to many of the foods we eat daily, that I was COMPLETELY unaware of. One morning, happy to have found a few minutes to catch up on Facebook, I saw my friend Jen had posted a new entry on her blog, I clicked the link, mostly because I wanted to see what cute story she might share about her kids. Instead I found a ton of facts about food dyes, the dangers they pose, and the effects they have on children and their behavior. While I was grateful to have found this information, I found myself once again wondering how I can keep these dangerous additives out of my child’s diet, while still letting her enjoy special treats like other kids do.

Like most children, Allison LOVES fruit snacks. You know, the ones that come in all kinds of fun shapes with a popular cartoon or animated movie character on the box. Scooby Doo, The Disney Princesses, Star Wars and so on. Not only do our children want these characters on their lunch boxes, but in them as well, in the form of these “fruit” snacks.  Unfortunately, these snacks contain very little (if any) fruit and contain mostly, you guessed it, sugar in the form of high fructose corn syrup. And those bright colors they come in that make them so attractive to children? Yep, food dyes. The two things I am desperate to keep out of her diet.

I have spent the last few weeks experimenting, trying to come up with a tasty, but healthy, recipe for fruit snacks. After a lot of trial and error, I have come up with the following recipe. I tried many juices and, by far, the best in my opinion was the Cherry Cider from Trader Joe’s. Also tasty were cranberry (make sure you get cranberry juice and not cranberry juice cocktail) and cranberry strawberry juice. I also tried white grape which was okay, Allison liked it but I thought it was rather tasteless. Apple juice got the thumbs down from both of us.


Trish’s Homemade Fruit Snacks

  • 6 envelopes (1/4 oz. each) unflavored gelatin
  • 2 cups fruit juice

Pour juice into a small sauce pan, and add gelatin. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until gelatin has completely dissolved (this will happen in less than a minute). Pour into a square baking pan lined with parchment paper, and let set until solidified (putting in the fridge will help speed this process).

Turn out onto a smooth surface (such as a cutting board or counter top), lined with parchment or wax paper, and use aspic or fondant cutters to cut into your favorite shapes.



P.S. – You may be thinking “oh, why not use candy molds??” As I type, I am staring at a stack of candy molds, all with varying amounts of gunk stuck to them, contemplating whether I should attempt to clean, or just throw them away. Trust me, don’t do it.

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