Safe Fast Food: Dye-Free Dining at Starbucks

As a former locally-owned coffee shop manager and barista, I use to be a Starbucks hater.  Until I had kids and they were the only coffee place on my side of town with a drive thru.  Desperate times…  😉

I’m thankful I finally gave them a try, because Starbucks actually has one of the most dye-free menus of all the fast food restaurants.  Plus, there are apparently more Starbucks than McDonald’s in America now – so you should be able to find a good dye-free option on just about any outing.  Woooo!

I love what they have to offer, but for some reason Starbucks has made it extra difficult to look up food ingredient information on their website.  They also don’t list any drink ingredients.  I even contacted the company asking for a list, but they claimed that they did not have a more concise listing than what was on the website.  *sigh*  So I spent quite a bit of time digging through their online menu and searching the internet to determine safe foods for our list.  Frustrating…but totally worth it!  So many yummy choices!

Here are Starbucks’ dye-free foods:

Bakery Foods
Banana Nut Bread
Berry Croissant Blossom
Blueberry Scone
Blueberry Yogurt Muffin with Honey
Caramel Pecan Sticky Bun
Carrot Cake Muffin with Pecans
Cheese Danish
Cheesecake Brownie
Chocolate Cake Pop* (BHT)
Chocolate Chip Cookie
Chocolate Croissant
Classic Coffee Cake
Cranberry Orange Scone
Croissant
Devil’s Food Doughnut
Everything with Cheese Bagel
Evolution Harvest Bars (all kinds listed online were dye-free)
Flourless Chewy Chocolate Cookie
Gluten-Free Marshmallow Dream Bar
Greek Honey Parfait
Greek Yogurt Raspberry Lemon Parfait
Ham & Cheese Savory Square
Iced Lemon Pound Cake
Michigan Cherry Oat Bar
Morning Bun
Multigrain Bagel
Oatmeal Cookie
Petite Vanilla Bean Scone
Plain Bagel
Pumpkin Bread
Reduced-Fat Berry Coffee Cake with Lemon Crumble
Salted Caramel Cake Pop* (BHT)
Sausage Croissant Roll
Seasonal Harvest Fruit Blend
Strawberry Blueberry Parfait
Tomato & Cheese Savory Square
Wheat Spinach Savory Square

 

Breakfast Foods
Classic Whole-Grain Oatmeal
Hearty Blueberry Oatmeal
Reduced-Fat Turkey Bacon Breakfast Sandwich
Slow-Roasted Ham & Swiss Breakfast Sandwich
Spinach & Feta Breakfast Wrap

 

Lunch & Dinner Foods
Chicken & BLT Salad Sandwich
Chicken & Hummus Bistro Box
Chicken Santa Fe Panini
Ham & Swiss Panini
Hearty Veggie & Brown Rice Salad Bowl
Protein Bistro Box
Roasted Tomato & Mozzarella Panini
Turkey & Havarti Sandwich
Turkey Pesto Panini
Turkey Rustico Panini
Zesty Chicken & Black Bean Salad Bowl

 

As I said earlier, Starbucks doesn’t list their drinks’ ingredient information.  Here is their legal disclaimer about it: “Allergen information is currently unavailable online for our beverage selections.  If you have an allergen concern, please feel free to ask our baristas to check the ingredient labels or call 1-800-235-2883 for more information.  Please note: we cannot guarantee that any of our beverages are allergen free because we use shared equipment and handle allergens throughout the store.”

I was still able to scour the internet and figure out the ingredients for the majority of their drinks.  But it’s always best to double check.  In my experience, Starbucks’ baristas are very understanding and accommodating of my kids’ “food dye allergy”.  Don’t be afraid to ask about what’s in your drink! 🙂

Bottled Drinks
Starbucks Discoveries – Caramel Macchiato, Caffe Mocha, and Vanilla Latte
Starbucks Doubleshot Espresso
Starbucks Frappuccino – Caramel, Coffee, Mocha, and Vanilla
Starbucks Frappuccino Limited Editions – Mint Mocha
Starbucks Iced Coffee – Coffee + Milk, and Vanilla
Starbucks Refreshers Energy Drinks (Dye-Free, but these have Questionable ingredients – I wouldn’t buy them)
Tazo Teas – all are dye-free

 

Hot Beverages
Brewed Coffees
Caffe Americano (espresso + water)
Caffe Latte (espresso + milk)
Caffe Mocha (espresso + milk + chocolate sauce)
Cappuccino (espresso + milk)
Espresso Macchiato (espresso + steamed milk foam)
Espresso Shot (just espresso)
Steamed Apple Juice
Steamer (steamed milk, usually with a syrup)
Tazo Brewed Teas – all kinds are dye-free
Tazo Tea Latte – Awake, Chai, Chocolate Chai, and Green Tea
Teavana Brewed Teas – all kinds are dye-free
Teavana Tea Latte – Oprah Chai
White Chocolate Mocha (espresso + milk + white chocolate sauce)
White Hot Chocolate

 

Cold Drinks
Apple Juice
Fizzio Handcrafted Sodas – Golden Ginger Ale, and Lemon Ale
Frappuccino – Coffee, Double Chocolaty Chip, Espresso, Hazlenut, Java Chip, Tazo Chai, Tazo Green Tea, White Chocolate Creme, White Chocolate Mocha
Iced Caffe Americano
Iced Caffe Latte
Iced Caffe Mocha
Iced Coffee
Iced Tazo Teas – all are dye-free
Iced Tazo Tea Lattes – Awake, Chai, Chocolate Chai, and Green Tea
Iced Teavana Lattes – all are dye-free
Iced White Chocolate Mocha
Milk
Shaken Teavana Lemonades – all are dye-free
Smoothies – seem OK, but couldn’t find ingredient listings for these anywhere online (I would avoid them!)

 

For almost any drink at coffee shops you have the option to add in flavors.  Here’s a list of all the syrups that Starbucks allegedly uses that are dye-free.  If you add these, please make sure you have your barista double check the brand and ingredients.  Should be quick and easy for them to figure out. **Please note: all syrups and sauces contain the preservative potassium sorbate, which has been linked to some skin allergic reactions.**

Safe Syrups/Powders
Fontana Almond Syrup
Fontana Bittersweet Chocolate Mocha Sauce (not syrup)
Fontana Caramel Sauce (not syrup)
Fontana Coconut Syrup
Fontana Semi-Sweet Chocolate Mocha Sauce (not syrup)
Fontana White Chocolate Mocha Syrup (not syrup)
Starbucks Classic Syrup (basically just sugar water that mixes more easily with beverages than plain sugar)
Starbucks Mocha Powder
Starbucks Hazelnut Syrup
Starbucks Peppermint Syrup
Starbucks Toffee Nut Syrup

 

Starbucks in my go-to place for getting dye-free food on the road.  My kids’ favorite things to get are the oatmeal cookies and slow-roasted ham and swiss breakfast sandwich.  Personally, I love anything that involves coffee.  It’s a win for everybody!

Click here to find a Starbucks near you (if you there isn’t one on every other street corner in your town).  😉

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**UPDATE**

I wanted to add that you should beware of buying the “skinny” version of Starbucks drinks.  At most coffee places, skinny just means you want skim milk instead of 2% or whole.  However, some of the skinny drinks listed on Starbucks’ menu use sugar-free syrups and powders too.  Anything with those low-calorie or sugar-free syrups contains the artificial sweetener sucralose (aka Splenda) instead of real sugar.  Sucralose is bad news.  I say skip the syrups all together if you’re that worried about calories.  It’s not worth the risks associated with ingesting sucralose.  Dr. Mercola has a good article on the potential harmful effects of sucralose.  Note that his article is from 2009.  There’s been even more evidence stacking up against sucralose over the past 5 years.  A simple Google search will prove it.  Moral of the story: If you ask for something “skinny”, make sure the barista knows you just mean skim milk.

Feeding the Kids: Easy Dye-Free Lunches

Other stay at home mamas will feel me on this one.  It’s 11:45 AM, you’re going about your morning doing all your usual mama stuff (folding laundry, wiping butts, splitting up fights, picking up toys, making appointments, feeding the baby, washing dishes, answering your 100th “why” question of the day, possibly even getting ready yourself).  Suddenly you’re bombarded with urgent cries of I’m hungry! When are we going to eat??

Yep, it’s lunch time.  How does it always sneak up on me like that?  I never have anything planned.  Shoot….  BUT, the beauty of going through all the work of creating a dye-free kitchen, is that anything I dig out and throw on a plate for the kids is going to be safe for them to eat.  Saves a lot of time and worry if you don’t want your kids to have food dyes.

If you’re new to dye-free living, hopefully this will give you some ideas.  You might notice that some of the things we eat for lunch overlap with my list of dye-free snack foods.  That’s because I’m literally just grabbing whatever we have on hand and putting it on a plate.  We have lots of snacky foods on hand.  🙂

Here’s a sample of what my kids have been eating the last couple weeks.

lunch

Turkey (Simply Nature uncured turkey from Aldi’s) and provolone with mayo, carrots and strawberries, Annie’s Chocolate Bunny Grahams, and almonds.

lunch

Turkey and salami (Hormel’s uncured hard salami), carrots, cherry tomatoes, a strawberry, ranch dressing (Marzetti organic ranch veggie dip from Hy-Vee – no MSG like most ranch), mixed nuts, and Simply Cheetos white cheddar puffs.  We also had some Greek yogurt on the side.  If you manage to arrange their food into a weird face or picture, even better.  My older boys are 5 and 3, and they think this is hilarious.  So if you want to impress your young ones…. 🙂

lunch

Hebrew National hot dog with ketchup (we use the Hunt’s brand without high fructose corn syrup), cherry tomatoes, a clementine, some pecans, and a handful of Parmesan Goldfish.  Again, we had Greek yogurt on the side as well.  (We go through a lot of yogurt!)

lunch

Turkey, Ritz crackers, almonds, carrots, blueberries, and some cottage cheese.

lunch

Peanut butter and jelly, salami (because they LOVE it and always ask for “just one piece!”), a clementine, cherry tomatoes, blueberries, and some Stauffer’s animal crackers.

lunch

Alright this lunch was from the weekend, which is why it’s a little (but not much) more time intensive than our other lunches.  🙂  Van de Kamp’s fish sticks, cantaloupe, mixed nuts, and a Nature Valley Oats N’ Dark Chocolate granola bar.

lunch

Peanut butter and jelly sandwich (yes, again…it’s easy!), a mozzarella cheese stick, a clementine, and a bunch of mixed nuts.

By now you’re probably getting the general pattern of what I throw on a plate for the boys.  Nuts, fruit/vegetables, a sandwich or some meat, usually something from the dairy group as well for protein.  They may not be fully balanced meals, but I think overall they’re healthy.  My kids also have a mid-morning snack with fruits and nuts and proteins, so their lunches aren’t usually huge.

lunch

This was our Valentine’s Day lunch.  A heart shaped Nutella and raspberry jelly sandwich, heart shaped bananas, strawberries, mozzarella cheese stick, almonds, a Fit & Active fruit strip (from Aldi’s), and some Brookside dark chocolate candies.

I don’t have a picture of it, but my kids really like having scrambled eggs for lunch.  It doesn’t take too long to cook some up.  So if you’ve had PB&J a few days in a row, you can always give eggs a try.  🙂

I know it’s nothing revolutionary, but I see that as a good thing.  Just more proof that going dye-free doesn’t have to be complicated.  Anyone can do it.

Dye-Free Discovery: Thai Soup

I just had to share this.  It was too good not to share.  I’m talking about Swanson 100% Natural Thai Ginger Broth.

I happened across this new dye-free convenience food while grabbing some beef stock for my French Dips the other day.  My husband lived in Thailand for a while, and is obsessed with the food.  So I had to give it a try.

I promise this is not an ad.  I am in no way affiliated with Swanson’s or Campbell’s.  🙂  I just genuinely LOVED this soup.  And it really is all-natural as advertised.  Check out the ingredients list for yourself.

ingredients

My husband, being the Thai food connoisseur of our household, was a bit skeptical that it would taste authentic.  We tried it tonight.  He gave it a big thumbs up.

Even the kids liked it, though they complained that it “hurt their tongues” a little at first.  It was spicier than most other foods I make, but I wouldn’t categorize it as spicy.  Had just the right amount of heat to it.  They still ate it, and even said they liked it afterwards.  So good job, Campbell’s.

It was also really easy to prepare.  I happened to have all the ingredients on-hand, so that worked out nicely.  Plus it was an excellent way to use my leftover shredded chicken.

ingredients

Took about 20 minutes altogether to prepare.

Sorry for the slightly blurry picture. Oops...

Sorry for the slightly blurry picture. Oops…

Here it is in all it’s delicious goodness.  Mmmmmm…I can still smell it.

thai soup

If you’re not in the mood for soup, you can use this broth to make other recipes too.  The Campbell’s Swanson website has more recipes.  Apparently, they also make two other flavors: Mexican Tortilla, and Chinese Hot and Sour.  Looking forward to trying those.

If you like Thai food, give this one a try.  It made a great dye-free dinner for us.  🙂

The Easiest Chicken You’ll Ever Make

Seriously, I can’t imagine cooking chicken being any easier than this.  I feel like it hardly qualifies to be called a recipe; it’s only two ingredients. The best part is you can use the meat in lots of different meals.  And, of course, it’s dye free.

Let’s get to it.  Gather your ingredients: a bag of frozen chicken and some salsa.  We usually do three pounds of chicken and use a 16 oz jar of salsa (all the salsas I’ve seen are dye free, but always double check).  I’ve also done only two chicken breasts with a 1/3 cup of salsa in a tiny crock pot and it works just fine.  Tailor it to your needs.  I, personally, love having leftover meat to quickly throw into a dish later in the week, so I make a lot at once.

ingredients

Get out your crock pot.  Pour in the frozen chicken.

frozen chicken

Now cover the chicken with the salsa.

addsalsa

Put the lid back on and set your slow cooker for however long you want.  I’ve done it on high for 4-6 hours and on low for 8-10.  Everything turns out the same.  Time it so it will be done cooking a little before you want to eat.  I threw this together at 9:00 AM, so I did 8 hours since we usually eat around 5:30 PM.  But I’ve also started it at 1:00 PM and cooked it on high for 4 hours and it was perfectly done in time for dinner.  Don’t be afraid to try it at the faster cooking time.

I won’t lie to you.  This doesn’t look extremely appetizing while it’s cooking.  After a couple hours it’ll look like this.

cooking

It does smell pretty good though.  So trust that and just try not to look at it until it’s done.  🙂

When your chicken is done cooking, it’ll look like this.  Still looks a little weird, but hang in there things are about to get pretty.

donechicken

Now get out a bowl and a couple forks.  You’re going to shred your meat directly into the serving bowl, because why make extra dishes?

serving bowl

Use the forks to carefully transfer a couple chicken breasts to the serving dish.  I usually scrape the chunks of salsa off ours a little while it’s still in the slow cooker, but you don’t have to.

movechicken

Now use your forks to pull the meat apart.  When the chicken is warm it shreds easily.  I shred all of mine and then store any leftovers in the fridge for later.  It’s not as fast to shred it once it’s been refrigerated.

shredded

That’s it!  Use your shredded chicken however you’d like.  The first night I usually make chicken tacos – set out some fixin’s and tortillas and you’re good to go.  I like making pasta dishes or sandwiches with what’s leftover later in the week.

The meat has a really nice flavor, but you can also spice it to your taste as it’s cooking.  For example, if you want to make ALL of it into taco meat, you could add a package of taco seasoning (a safe, dye-free option is McCormick) along with the salsa and then cook it.  If you make three pounds of chicken taco meat, you can easily feed a large group.  It’s great for a quick dinner when you’re having company, but have tons of other things to do (like clean your house, take care of the kids, etc).

Here’s a glimpse at the delicious chicken tacos we had for dinner last night.  Taco nights are the best, because the kids eat so fast.  No complaining, no stalling; just the beautiful sounds of chewing.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

chicken tacos

Kid Approved Dye-Free Snacks

When we cut out food dyes, I wasn’t sure what the heck I was going to feed the kids.  Especially for snack time.  My boys are big snackers (as am I!), so it was kind of an important thing to figure out.  Obviously, whole foods like fruits, vegetables, eggs, and plain meats (i.e., not spiced/marinated/processed – otherwise not guaranteed to be color free) are going to be dye-free.  These foods probably make up the majority of what we eat these days. However, we do eat our share of convenience foods as well.

As much as I love to cook, the reality is I don’t have the time or the energy or the desire to make from-scratch food all the time.  I purposely choose not to.  I like knowing that I could, so I’ll try various from-scratch recipes from time to time.  I think self-sufficiency is important.  But I love that we live in an age where I don’t have to make everything if I don’t want to.  It’s one less thing to worry about doing every day; convenience foods save sooooo much time.  More power to you if you make all your food all the time.  I respect and admire that.  But I’m guessing that most of you out there are probably eating some amount of convenience foods. Unfortunately for you and me, a lot of those foods are going to have artificial colors and other junk in them.

While this isn’t by any means an exhaustive list of dye-free snack options, it’s a good place to start gathering ideas. If you have any favorites you’d like to share, please leave a comment so we can all benefit from the collective knowledge.

Please note that dye-free is not my only criteria for choosing snacks.  I won’t buy items with artificial preservatives (TBHQ/BHT/BHA), artificial sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose), MSG, olestra, nitrates/nitrites, sulfites, or potassium bromate.  I try to avoid trans fats too; but it gets tricky because companies can legally label something “0 grams of trans fats” when, in fact, it only contains less than 0.5 grams.  That means it could have up to 0.49 grams of trans fats per serving, and that can quickly add up to surpass the suggested daily limit of 1-2 grams.  A general rule of thumb for avoiding trans fats is to steer clear of partially hydrogenated oils.  If you’re interested in why I won’t buy these things, I’ll link to some helpful articles at the bottom of this page.

FYI, this list is just based off what’s in my kitchen right now and what I can remember buying other times.  I’ll update it if I remember more or find new favorites.

Crackers and Granola Bars

Kashi Granola Bars

Nature Valley Granola Bars (Oats ‘N Dark Chocolate, Peanut Butter, and Greek Yogurt Protein; haven’t checked other flavors)

Millville (Aldi’s)  Protein Chewy Bar (Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter; haven’t checked other flavors)

Buttery Round Crackers (Ritz brand and Savoritz brand [Aldi’s])

Stauffer’s ORIGINAL Animal Crackers (not the ones with frosting)

Honeymaid Angry Birds Graham Crackers (My boys are OBSESSED with Angry Birds, so these are fantastic!)

Teddy Grahams crackers (Honey and Chocolate Chip are safe; haven’t checked other flavors.)

Annie’s Bunny Grahams (any flavor is safe)

Annie’s Whole Wheat Bunny Crackers (all other flavors have annatto)

Parmesan Goldfish Crackers (all other flavors have annatto; parmesan is the green bag)

Market Pantry (Target) Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers

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candy

Candy

UNREAL candies (“unjunked” versions of M&M’s, Peanut M&M’s, Milky Ways, and Peanut Butter Cups)

True North Almond Pecan Cashew Clusters

Mott’s Medleys fruit snacks

Simply Nature (Aldi’s) fruit snacks

Fit & Active (Aldi’s) All Natural Fruit Strips

Simply Balanced (Target) Fruit Strips

YummyEarth Organic Lollipops

Chocolate chips (Plain chocolate chips and white chocolate chips have been safe in every brand I’ve checked; however, peanut butter and butterscotch usually have caramel coloring.)

Black Forest Gummy Worms (Hy-Vee carries them)

Caramels (Lovely Candy Co. brand, and Werther’s Originals)

Darrell Lea Liquorice (Target carries it)

Chocolate Bars and Candies (If it is just chocolate [no fillings, flavors, coating] it’s probably fine. We like organic dark chocolate bars in our house. So good! Dove originals, Brookside chocolates, and Hershey’s originals are all good.)

———-

Cookies

Vanilla wafers (Aldi’s Benton’s brand, and Nilla brand)

Oreos (the seasonal ones with colored frosting are not ok)

Pillsbury Simply refrigerated cookie dough – all flavors

Keebler Simply Made Cookies – all flavors

———-

chips

Chips

Clancey’s (Aldi’s) Sweet Potato Chips  (These are my favorite snack.  I’m eating them right nowThey’re incredible! Plus 14 chips count as a serving of vegetables…I doubt it’s the best kind of vegetable serving a person could have, but it justifies my addiction.)  🙂

Corn Tortilla Chips (All the brands I’ve seen have been safe, but watch for trans fats.)

Clancy’s (Aldi’s) Kettle Chips Mesquite Barbecue flavor

Cheetos Simply White Cheddar

Ruffles Simply Sea Salted Potato Chips

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Cereals – We lean towards eating cereals with lots of protein and good nutrition to actually fill you up.  All of these are less than $3/box; nothing crazy expensive here.  🙂

Cheerios (original and honey nut are safe, others have colors)

Kashi (anything I’ve ever seen by their brand is safe and super healthy)

Post Grape Nuts

Cascadian Farm Oats and Honey Granola

Archer Farms French Vanilla Almond Crunch Granola

Nature’s Path Coconut Chia Granola

Simply Nature (Aldi’s) Fruit Muesli, and Toasted Oats

Nature’s Best Blue Pom Wheatfuls

**BEWARE of TBHQ and BHT as preservatives in cereals.  It’s very common.  Also extremely annoying because even within a brand some cereals will have it and some won’t.  Always check!**

———-

Frozen Desserts

Blue Bunny All Natural Vanilla ice cream

Breyer’s All Natural (Chocolate, Vanilla, and Strawberry flavors)

Belmont’s (Aldi’s) – any flavor

Simply Nature (Aldi’s) Popsicles

———-

other

Other

Nuts – any plain or salted nuts should be fine

Dried fruits (Generally safe, but keep an eye on the preservatives used.)

Hy-Vee brand Unsweetened Applesauce

Hy-Vee brand Marshmallows (Not sure about other generic brands, but the name brand Jet Puffed marshmallows have blue dye in them.)

Mozzarella Cheese Sticks (Hy-Vee brand, Kraft, and Happy Farms [Aldi’s] have all been fine)

Wholly Guacamole (We usually make our own guac, but this is nice when you don’t have time or if avocados are out of season/expensive.)

Salsa – most kinds are safe (This is my husband’s favorite snack.  Give him some chips and some Mad Butcher’s Salsa, and he is a happy man.)

Pretzels (Most plain, bagged pretzels should be safe.)

Popping Corn (not the bagged stuff, just the seeds that you pop on your stovetop at home)

Joy brand Waffle Bowls (fun for special desserts)

Yogurt (We make our own Greek Yogurt, but most brands will have some dye-free options.  I know Chobani, Dannon, and Yoplait do.  Yogurts branded towards kids probably will have artificial colors though.)

———-

Links to information on other bad food additives:

Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has a very helpful list describing all food additives.

Australia’s Northern Allergy Center also has a full list of food additives and any harmful effects.

A BusinessWeek article from 1996 shows that the dangers of food additives have been known or questioned for quite some time.

Hungry For Change has a succinct list of their top 10 food additives to avoid.

Quick Dye-Free Egg Bake

I think the majority of recipes I’ll end up sharing with you require 15 minutes or less of actual hands-on work. With three kids, that’s how I roll. Mostly because I don’t have time to roll any other way.

This egg bake took me less than 10 minutes to put together. There are three basic elements: hash browns, eggs, and cheese. Everything else can be manipulated to your liking. You can season the hash browns spicy or salty, add diced vegetables or meats, and even add a crumble on top (I like using Grape Nuts cereal because they’re super healthy and give a satisfying crunch). You can do whatever you want/like/have time for/have in your fridge.
The version I’m posting is what I made for dinner last night. This dish is also great for breakfast, and it can be made the night before. Just refrigerate it overnight, then let it sit on the counter for about 40 minutes (so the dish can warm up) before you pop it in the oven. It’s also easy to double and feed a crowd. I’d say each batch would feed 6 adults (more if you have extra side dishes). This version happens to be vegetarian as well.

These are my big boys, J and Z, enjoying some bacon and a banana while they wait for me to dish out the egg bake. They decided to eat the main dish by mashing it up and putting ketchup all over it. Then they pretended to be zombies eating bloody brains. Yep. Never a dull moment… I’ll have to remember to make this for Halloween.
———————-
Quick Dye-Free Egg Bake
1 lb hash browns (any style cut)
6 eggs
1/2c milk
1/2c sour cream
1c (8oz) mozzarella cheese
1/2c frozen corn
1/3 c Grape Nuts cereal
Seasoning salt
Garlic powder
Onion powder
Italian seasoning
Salt
Pepper

1. Preheat convection oven to 375° (400° for standard oven).
2.Thaw hash browns in a glass bowl in the microwave for 4 minutes on 80% power.
3. Meanwhile, whisk eggs, milk, and sir cream together in a medium bowl. Season to taste with garlic powder, onion powder, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper.
4. Grease a 2 quart baking dish.
5. Spread hash browns over bottom of baking dish. Sprinkle to taste with seasoning salt.
6. Throw down a layer of frozen corn, then pour your egg mixture over all of it.
7. Sprinkle with cheese and Grape Nuts.
8. Bake for about 30 minutes until golden brown on sides and bottom.

Note: The milk and sour cream can be replaced with 3/4 c of water. It will not be as rich or moist. It will turn out light and fluffy, and it’ll save you some calories. Just depends what you’re going for. You could also leave off the cheese if you need it to be dairy free.

Transitioning to Dye-Free Foods

So you’ve read Sorry, My Kids Can’t Have Food Dyes or other artificial color related articles.  You’re convinced that you should cut out, or at least cut back on, food dyes.  Now what?

I think the transition process looks different for everyone.  I’m very decisive.  Once a decision has been made, it’s as good as done.  I’m all in.  I cut out dyes in a day and never looked back.  Other people’s transitions are probably going to be a bit slower than mine.  That’s probably healthier from a psychological standpoint anyway.  I tend to be a little OCD; a blessing and a curse.  But onward and upward…  🙂

First, know what you’re trying to avoid when you look at the ingredients list on your food.  The following is a list of the terms you’re looking for and some common household foods that have them (for detailed research information on these please read Food Dyes: Rainbow of Risks).

  • Blue 1 – “brilliant blue”
  • Blue 2 – “indigotine”
  • Citrus Red 2 – only allowed for use to color orange peels
  • Green 3 – “fast green”
  • Orange B – only allowed for use in coloring hot dog and sausage casings
  • Red 3 – “erythrosine”
  • Red 40 – “allura red”
  • Yellow 5 – “tartrazine”
  • Yellow 6 – “sunset yellow”
  • Caramel Coloring
  • Annatto

Caramel coloring and annatto can sometimes be found on products claiming to be “all natural” or free of artificial colors.  They are derived from plants, so technically they are natural.  However, they have been linked to some pretty bad stuff like cancer and severe allergic reactions.

Two scary facts: 1) The FDA does not regulate these at all because they are “natural”, 2) Caramel coloring is the most commonly used food dye in the world (probably because it’s in things like cola, vanilla ice cream, and candy bars).  Consumer Reports has a really good report on the dangers of caramel coloring; it’s short and very enlightening.

As for annatto, it’s been shown to effect blood sugar levels, is not recommended while pregnant or breastfeeding, causes allergic reactions, and can cause the same behavioral problems as the artificial food dyes. Annatto is used to make things orange – I see it a lot in cheddar cheese, crackers, and fruit snacks. This one tricked us for a while, because it’s the only one on the labels that doesn’t look like a color name.  Watch out for it.

Sometimes labels won’t even tell you which colors are in the food.  They just say “colors added”.  Buyer beware.

cherry

Now that you know exactly what to look for, go through your fridge and cupboards.  You may be surprised about some of the places you’ll find colors.  Marshmallows, soy sauce, maraschino cherries, and pickles always stick out as some of the weirder ones to me.  You can do this all at once or as you have time.

Keep a running list of all the items you find with colors in them. These are the things you’ll want to replace with a dye-free alternative.  Sometimes it’s as easy as switching to a different brand or flavor of that item.  Occasionally there isn’t a great alternative in the store.  With these items you have four choices:  1) do nothing, 2) reduce your intake of that item, 3) live without it, or 4) learn how to make it from scratch yourself.

pickles

Take your list to the store.  Depending on how much time you have and how many items you are looking to replace, you may want to split your list up and make more than one trip.  It takes time to read labels, and you’ve usually got at least five different brands to look at with each product.  So be realistic and don’t stress out trying to find everything all at once.  I’m working on another post about our favorite dye-free store-bought foods.  Until then, here are a few brands that are generally safe and should be easy for everyone to find (but always double check the ingredient list): Target’s Simply Balanced line, Pillsbury’s Simply line, Aldi’s Clancy’s and Belmont lines, Kashi, Nature Valley, UNREAL Candy, and YummyEarth (I haven’t seen it in stores, but Amazon has it).

If you have any specific items you’re worried about finding an alternative for, please leave a comment.  I’d love to try to help!  Good luck as you begin your journey into dye-free living!  🙂