It’s Spring Break week — the time to flaunt all that hard work from New Year’s fitness resolutions or vow to give up candy or alcohol for Lent, right? Ok, maybe not, but being mindful about junk food consumption around candy-filled holidays like Easter is always a good thing. Stores have been teeming with brightly-colored confections since right after Valentine’s Day, and it’s always a challenge to keep my kids’ paws off the junk leading up to and during big holidays.
Luckily, a good friend who is passionate about healthy living shared some suggestions for avoiding unnecessary food dyes and additives this Easter season with our MOMS Club recently. Alissa Lawrence is a “clean” eater, mom of two and owner/instructor at Alissa Lawrence Yoga in Pennington. When trying to steer clear of non-nutritious additives, Lawrence offers the following tips:
- Check Food Labels for ‘Numbers’ – Things like ‘Blue 1’, ‘Red 3’, ‘Green 3’, ‘Yellow 5’. Whether or not you believe that artificial dyes can lead to hyperactivity, cancer or obesity, these are most definitely artificial and not adding anything nutritious and beneficial to your food.
- Avoid Brightly Colored Foods & Expect the Unexpected – Strawberry flavored anything rarely has an actual strawberry in it. But, these dyes aren’t just in brightly colored foods and drinks. They’re found in hot dogs, salad dressings, cough drops, BBQ sauce, vanilla frosting and even toothpaste! So, check those labels.
- Make It Yourself – This way you know exactly what you’re eating. Use whole food ingredients like fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, eggs, whole milk, whole grains and nuts. Lawrence counts a ‘whole food’ as something without an ingredient list but if you’re looking at buying something pre-made, try to keep to things that have less than 5 ingredients that are all recognizable and pronounceable.
- Unreal Candy – Lawrence calls this company, “the answer to my Halloween prayers.” It’s a line of chocolate candies created by a teenager with a mission to ‘unjunk the world’. They have a small selection of candies that resemble M&M’s, Peanut M&M’s, Peanut Butter Cups, Milky Way & Snickers. But they make them with ‘no artificial stuff’, no GMO’s, no corn syrup, gluten free, grass-fed dairy and no preservatives. And they’re really good! The M&M’s are her personal favorite. And, you can get them at Target!
- And For Non Chocolate Treats – Yummy Earth has a line of fruity flavored candies like lollipops, gummy bears, sour beans, etc. that are “made with all natural ingredients, no artificial colors or artificial dyes, no gluten, no peanuts, and no tree-nuts” (yummyearth.com). Lawrence’s family has tried the lollipops and like them. Stop and Shop, Amazon and Target all carry this brand.
Last month, Lawrence put a healthy spin on the popular St. Patrick’s Day treat, Shamrock Smoothies. She used spinach (instead of green dye), almond milk, frozen bananas, vanilla, peppermint extract (a few drops) and sprinkled some mini chocolate chips on top. Her two boys loved them!
In addition to checking food labels, Lawrence plans to do a dye-free Easter. She’s pulling together glitter and glue, stickers and other craft materials to decorate eggs and add pizazz without the chemicals. For Easter baskets for the boys, she plans to fill plastic eggs with Unreal & Yummy Earth candies as well as stickers and coupons for things like a night of staying up late and getting to choose what’s for dinner.
Sounds like a deliciously healthy holiday to me!