When “Just Because” Isn’t Good Enough

by Brooke Bernard on March 7, 2012

In On the Road, author Jack Kerouac wrote, “Here’s to the crazy ones; the misfits; the rebels; the trouble-makers; the round pegs in the square holes; the ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them. But the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

I stumbled across this quote the other day (while I was doing something super important on the Internet, I’m sure), and it rang so true. As many of you know, my children are on a strictly artificial food dye-free diet. This means absolutely no colors followed by a number on a food label come in our house or their bodies. No Red 40. No Blue 1. No Yellow 5. Not even one tiny Skittle. Why? Because these chemical ingredients are not food at all; they are petrochemicals and coal tar. Sound delicious? I didn’t think so. Not only do these chemicals not affect the taste of food at all, they are linked to behavior problems, cancer, migraines, eczema, asthma symptoms, dementia and more. You can read more about our food dye free life here and here.

Lately, I’ve been accused of being a nutjob. I’ve been accused of trying to rip happy childhoods out of local children’s hearts because I encourage naturally colored frosting on a cupcake. I’ve had eyes rolled in my direction. I’ve heard whispers behind my back. I’ve been told I’m causing trouble. But am I crazy enough to think I can change the world? Not quite.

I’m crazy enough to think that I can help a few families here and there who are wondering why their 3-year-olds are having three-hour long tantrums. “Try eliminating food dye.” I’m crazy enough to think I can provide a helping hand to someone whose 6-year-old can’t write a single letter of the alphabet. “Try eliminating food dye.”

I’m crazy enough to think that if I tell one mom and she tells another and she tells another that together we can change the world. We can toss out our fake green pickles and our neon pink fruit gummies in exchange for healthier, more real food. We can change our children’s futures one cluttered pantry at a time. (And as a bonus, we might find a missing sock or long lost bouncy ball. That’s not just me, right?)

Indeed, I have no respect for the status quo. I do not believe our kids should ingest chemicals “just because” they’re sold on the grocery store shelves. I believe that once we know better, we must do better.

Here are some resources to help your family get started down the road to artificial dye-free living:

What else do you want to know about synthetic food dyes? Have you tried reducing or eliminating dyes? What positive changes have you seen for your families? Have you met with pushback from others? Let us know here in the comments section or by emailing info@mamasagainstdrama.com.

Editor Brooke Bernard is a mother of two food dye-free kids who is embracing her role as “that mom.” Because really, what choice does she have? 

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Rebecca March 7, 2012 at 9:43 am

Oh yes, I can relate. I write about this role of the “food police” mom in my blog, “Die, Food Dye!” – especially when those dreaded school parties come around. Luckily our teacher always asks what she can have and our room parent helps my daughter avoid dyes. Our daughter was perfectly well behaved and received compliments everywhere we went…until we got lax with organics and allowed candy around age three and a half. Three hour tantrums – YES. Epic meltdowns. Horrifying behavior. Aggression, violence, overwhelm. There are many parents who can relate to this, and they are relieved to see people writing about this. They need other parents to connect with and support each other. If only ALL parents knew how additives affect their kids. *sigh* …”one kid at a time”…we can change the world by voting with our dollars and shift market demand, which the manufacturers HAVE to respond to, otherwise they’re outta business. We have the power. 😉 Thanks for sharing YOUR story!


BrookeB March 7, 2012 at 11:13 am

Hi, Rebecca. I’ve been following you on Facebook! Sometimes it feels hard to “take it one kid at time,” doesn’t it? I want to shout from rooftops or get a blowhorn put on my car. Wait. That does sound crazy, right?


Heather March 7, 2012 at 10:33 am

Hey Brooke,

Like you, I’m one of those “crazy” moms. It takes a certain degree of confidence in yourself to be able to stand up to the constant eye rolls and know that what you are doing is for the good of your family.

One question, when you posted this link on FB on the FG page, is there a way to make this article “shareable?” As the only FG mom in my extended family, I want to be able to share this information with them and see if I can’t make a difference too. Thanks for taking the lead and in doing so, supporting us all!


BrookeB March 7, 2012 at 11:12 am

Hey, Heather! Thanks for letting me know you’re crazy, too! 🙂
When I look at the post over on the Feingold FB page, there is an option to “Share” underneath the link and the description. Can you see it when you go there? Let me know! You could also cut and paste the link from your browser onto your FB page…


Shannon March 7, 2012 at 11:34 am

Great blog! I happen to only be 1/2 crazy, but the crazy is gaining momentum! We don’t allow food dyes in the house, but still remain lax when it comes to school and birthday parties. Yes, it’s bad, but I also sort of figure the radiation they get from our cell phones and power lines are equally as dangerous. Not justifying my choices, just haven’t made the “absolutely none” rule yet. I have three children, 1 who does not seem to be physically affected by food dyes, 1 that turns into the tea cup ride at Disney and 1 that has never had any food dyes. I make the efforts to make sure it stays out of easy reach, when they get candy at school, they know they can “trade it” iin with me for “safe” candy, I carry safe lollipops to hand out to them at the bank and hair cuts, etc., it seems like a start!

It’s good to hear about the other crazies and feel a support in the decisions we make as Mom’s!


BrookeB March 7, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Indeed, Shannon, everyone has to start somewhere! Home is the best place! Trading for safe candy is something I really support; I even bought back any candy my son brought home for Valentine’s Day. A quarter a piece. Cost me 4 bucks!
Just remember, says the advocate in me, that just because you don’t SEE the reaction, doesn’t mean there is not one. No matter what, these dyes are still made from chemicals removed from the food supply in other countries due to scientific studies revealing their dangers to children. OK. Shutting up.


SH March 7, 2012 at 1:37 pm

Thanks, Brooke! I have started really looking at food labels since reading your posts. It is shocking what is in some of those things!


BrookeB March 7, 2012 at 3:25 pm

It truly is shocking. Thanks for letting me know about the change you’ve made for your family!


Lisa March 7, 2012 at 3:25 pm

A great resource is a non-profit run mostly by volunteers that has been around 30 years called the Feingold Association. http://www.feingold.org They have a members support board that is a wonderful network of other “crazy ones” all over the US & Canada


BrookeB March 7, 2012 at 7:10 pm

Feingold is amazing! Great for helping to eliminate dyes, and especially helpful for families who find that their kids are reacting to other toxic food ingredients such as preservatives! Thanks for posting, Lisa.


Rebecca V. March 7, 2012 at 7:25 pm

Dear BrookeB,
I love the quote and I love all the genius’ that are not afraid to change the world!!! Frankly, the world needs more of them!!! The tenacious ones are the best suited for the job!!! As of Feb.15th, we too are a dye free family and PROUD OF IT!!! Cheers to you for changing the world one family at a time, hopefully others will jump on board and become aware of all the hazards of food dyes!!! Hopefully the word will spread like wild fire and CHANGE the U.S. food supply to exclude all FAKE foods & FAKE ingredients and only include REAL food again!!! Keep doing what you are doing b/c people are listening to you!!!
And as always–it’s nice to know I am not alone on this crazy, fun, rewarding train called MOTHERHOOD!!!


BrookeB March 9, 2012 at 1:43 pm

All aboard the train, Rebecca!! I am happy for your family; I know you’ll never regret your healthier choices. Thanks for reading and posting!


Jen @ TheUnProcessed Kitchen March 7, 2012 at 9:55 pm

Yeah, me too. So crazy I started a whole blog about it – it’s 75% recipes and 25% information because I want to help people. And I love that I read this because I feel like one person against the world too – so I make yummy food and hate on the FDA all at once. It’s fairly new so I have no idea if this is meeting a need or not, but I am digging it 🙂


BrookeB March 9, 2012 at 1:42 pm

Can’t wait to check out your site, Jen! Thanks for posting!


Mary March 8, 2012 at 9:23 am

Hi Brooke, You have me reading labels for myself as I no longer have children living at home. But I do have grandchildren that like to eat at my house so label reading is important for them.


BrookeB March 9, 2012 at 1:42 pm

So glad to hear it, Mary!


Laura H. March 9, 2012 at 7:50 am

love this, brooke. we are headed your way,i hope–slowly but surely. i’ve always thought that all of the rampant allergies and adhd diagnoses were related to food. i knew no one with food allergies when growing up but now it seems every classroom has 4-5 (or more) kids with severe problems. check out this chart i found:

white toothpaste
corn flakes
toast with butter or jam
cocoa made w/ natural ingredients
whipped cream
no vitamins (or perhaps cod liver oil)
white powder or bad tasting liquid medicine
Sample school lunch:
Meat loaf, freshly made mashed potatoes, vegetable. Milk, cupcake made from scratch.
Sample school beverage:
Water from the drinking fountain
Candy in the classroom a few times a year at class parties.

Multi-colored toothpaste, perhaps with sparkles
Sea Treasures Instant Oatmeal (turns milk blue)
Fruity Pebbles
Pop Tarts
Cocoa made with artificial flavoring, & some with dyes.
Cool Whip
Flintstone vitamins with coloring & flavoring
Bright pink, bubble-gum flavored chewable or liquid medicine
Sample school lunch:
Highly processed foods loaded with synthetic additives, no vegetable. Chocolate milk with artificial flavor.
Sample school beverage:
Soft drink with artificial color, flavor, caffeine, aspartame, etc.
Candy (with synthetic additives) given frequently.

insane, i say.
keep at it, girl!


BrookeB March 9, 2012 at 1:42 pm

Thanks, Laura! Please let me know if I can help you out in any way. I love this list; it is so true. And scary.


Casey March 9, 2012 at 1:34 pm

Hi! Perhaps, I am crazy as well. I have a five year old with ADHD. He was so terrible, we had to put him on a stimulant. He was still so bad the doctor was reccomending an antipsychotic medication. Before I could put him on that I researched every option. I cut out processed foods and artificial color. He is now a loving boy who can actually sit through kindergarten without a problem. I can actually take him places! Now I am crazy because I requested the schools green eggs and ham be made with kale or spinach! I was told this is suposed to be a treat, not a punishment


BrookeB March 9, 2012 at 1:41 pm

Oh, Casey. Please do not get me started on the battle of junk food in schools! Argh! My child was offered green eggs and ham as well, and I was NOT notified in advance. Luckily, he speaks up for himself and tells people he can’t have food dye.
I am SO, SO happy to hear your story. Isn’t it amazing that when we get our kids off these chemicals, we can see who they REALLY are? Good for you and your son! Sending you a big cyber-hug!


Dawn March 9, 2012 at 8:17 pm

I LOVE this! Great post – I wish more people were aware of the effects of the dyes! I will be sharing on my FB page tonight or tomorrow – http://www.raisingnaturalkids.com – wrote a post on TBHQ titled I am this-just-in-i-am-officially-that-mom-saying-no-to-tbhq-and-other-junk-in-foods… you may relate!


BrookeB March 10, 2012 at 11:34 am

Thanks, Dawn, for reading and sharing! I will check out that post! We also avoid TBHQ and BHT. These cause similar reactions in our son — and they are toxic for everyone!


Hanson March 12, 2012 at 11:58 pm

Speak to the truth! In my heart I have always been a rebel and I am glad that I can put that energy to good use now fighting the good fight against food dyes. I am all into having a good time and lots of joy, so I didn’t want my kids to go without fun stuff, but dyes are just not worth the heartache (and headaches) they caused in our family. So that’s why I make candy that is pretty and sparkly and lots of colors. I also do what I can to share this info with other people in the food industry to show that you don’t need additives and preservatives to make appealing food!


BrookeB March 13, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Amen, amen! The idea that kids who don’t get dye don’t get treats is just a myth. There are plenty of cookies, cakes, brownies, etc. that don’t have dye and are delicious — um, they are what our grandmothers and their mothers used to bake!! Thanks for the post!!


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