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Daycare Dilemma: Food Coloring Crisis

Posted Jun 10 2010 12:00am

My son Laken attends a wonderful daycare here in our Brooklyn neighborhood. The teachers are kind, fun, and attentive, the director is hands-on, creative, and energetic. I enjoy the other parents and kids, and I’ve even stopped by the 3/4′s classroom to give a little talk about healthy vegetables.

Sometimes our plant-based, natural food diet causes a wrinkle for the school, but I have found them to be very responsive and supportive of our food choices. (I guess I should say MY food choices – L would probably love to eat ice cream all day long!)

A few weeks ago the teachers posted a sign-up sheet for us parents to get involved in a fruit salad project. Parents signed up to bring in different fruits of different colors. Great! I thought – fruit salad! What a great cooking project!

And then I realized most of the foods on the list are on the Dirty Dozen list - the most sprayed, highest pesticide-residue foods available.


What’s a natural-leaning mom to do? I decided to take action. I printed off 30 copies of the Dirty Dozen/Clean 15 produce lists and put them in every kid’s mailbox so their parents would see which foods should be purchased organic. Then I posted one next to the sign-up sheet that parents saw as they reached the classroom.

The next issue at hand? The teachers also wanted a parent to bring in whipped cream and food coloring to top off the fruit salad! Ugh. My first thought was “why?!!!”

Here’s my problem with artificial food colorings:

Many studies have determined a link between artificial food coloring and cancer, brain tumors, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), and other behavior disorders, especially in children. It’s probably the tar and hydrocarbon derivatives as well as petrochemicals used to manufacture artificial food coloring.

I decided to take the middle road. I put my name down on the line for “whipped cream/food coloring” and rushed to the phone. I called the good people at and asked them to send me their           natural food coloring kit ,

so I could give it to the school. Then I bought some

Soyatoo Rice Whip from for the class to mix up with the food coloring – it’s not the healthiest thing on earth, but it’s a lot better than Cool Whip, and it’s dairy- and HFCS-free.

See…I can compromise! I thought it was better to bring in alternatives and show the other parents that there are alternative products for their families, too.

The coolest thing? The teachers loved what I brought in! Now they’re using the natural food coloring to make playdough with the kids, and the director is aware of the websites and alternative products. It’s all working out in the end.

We’ll eat extra broccoli to make up for the whipped rice-cream…

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