If you're thinking of doing this, too, here is what you're looking for:
When you read your food label, if it lists a specific color (usually a color and number), that's bad. Pick up a box of regular sugared cereal from your cupboard. If you look usually towards the bottom of the ingredients, any regular cereal should list something similar to one of the following: red 40, blue 2, yellow 6, etc. These are exactly what we are trying to stay away from with this diet.
I knew immediately upon learning this information that the first stop on my journey had to start with my kitchen. We are notoriously bad eaters around here. In my previous post when I noted that we have 14 boxes of cereal, that was not an exaggeration. I counted them. They are all, of course, chalk full of dyes. How else would they get them to be so pretty and appealing? Also taking up regular space on our shelves were the following items: strawberry Pop-Tarts (red 40), boxed macaroni and cheese (yellow 5, yellow 6), Doritos (red 40, yellow 6), Go-Gurt, Gatorade and a variety of sodas (which can all have a variety of dyes based on the flavors you choose). These things were all going to have to go.
I ended my last blog post by telling you about how my usually quick shopping trip seemed endless on my first excursion. Not only was I shopping in a way I'd never shopped before (reading LABELS??), but finding what I needed was so much harder than I imagined. I headed to our local Hy-Vee store - they are notorious for their healthy foods section. I felt armed with the knowledge that I had and was ready to conquer this store and get my son on the right track. I quickly perused the healthy food section as my first stop and nearly died of sticker shock, so back to the main part of the store I went. Now, I know that they say, "Stay on the outside perimeter of the store," but that's just not gonna happen for this Not Granola momma. My kids eat convenience foods... a lot, and I wasn't ready to go cold-turkey on that. My first quest was Pop-Tarts. Jericho LOVES him some strawberry Pop-Tarts. They have a lot of different kinds of Pop-Tarts, FYI. Probably roughly a million. But that's just an estimate. What they don't have is any kind of all-natural version. Bummer. Back to the health food section. I managed to find an organic kind of toaster pastry (I check - no dyes, YAY!). They are, however, nearly $5 for a box of 6 pastries. Ouch. One box in the cart, and onward we march.
My next quest was Herculean of sorts. Did I mention that it was the week of Valentine's Day? It was the NIGHT BEFORE Valentine's Day, to be exact. Divine time to start a new diet, mom. Jericho's teacher had agreed to help me out with the treats he received with his Valentines. She agreed that she would take his candy from his box, and switch it out for healthy (or at least dye-free) alternatives that I would send. Hy-Vee has an entire candy aisle. An entire aisle devoted to candy. There is 1 non-chocolate item in it that is dye-free. (Plain chocolate is usually safe.) Seriously. One thing. I flipped over and read every bag and box in that store. I seriously thought I was going to cry. Finally we ran across Mamba Gummies. They look good and aren't expensive, so I throw a couple of bags in the cart. Meltdown averted. I head back to the health food section to check for more candy. I look and I look and I look... and suddenly I realize to my amazement that "dye-free" isn't really a category. They make sugar free, gluten free, lactose free, no artificial preservatives - you name a dietary restriction and Hy-Vee has food for it. Except this one. I ask a manager. He stares bewildered at what I can only assume is the horn that has apparently grown out of my head. He is absolutely no help and really has no idea what I'm talking about. I show him a label and explain it to him. Still nothing. Oh my gosh. This isn't a thing. This isn't something that there's a special section for. Crapola. I have to do this all by myself. There is no easy button. Jericho is now asleep in the cart. One box of $30 toaster pastries and some gummy candy are all I have checked off of my list. I'm determined to get through this, even if I only get enough food for one day. I press on...
I get through it, alright, but that shopping trip took nearly two hours. So that it doesn't take you as long, here are a couple of key things that I found:
Yes, they're still candy. I know. I've taken the stance that I want my son to succeed at this diet, so I'm going to make it as great as I can. He is still a 6 year-old after all. And what kid doesn't love candy?
This was a tricky one for me. My kids love them and technically you'd think they'd be a fairly healthy snack, but they are full of dyes. I was ECSTATIC when I recently discovered:
You see that label? Go ahead... take a gander. No high-fructose corn syrup. No artificial colors or flavors. You just get RIGHT out of town. We buy these in bulk when they're on sale now. Kids say they taste the same, P.S.
Yeah. I know. Still not great. But out of convenience for... me, I've created what I call the "healthy snack locations" at my house. There's a drawer in the fridge that has the Go-Gurts and fruit in it and a bin in the bottom of the pantry that has grab-and-go snacks in it (fruit snacks, snack-sized portions of crackers, etc). I like this because the kids know what is off limits when they're snacking. Nothing too junky or big before dinner. Motts and Ocean Spray both make fruit snacks with all-natural coloring, and they're both awesome.
Now, remember earlier when we talked about how we love our Doritos? Well, no luck there, but I did find...
WHAAAAAAAAAT??? These are delicious, FYI. No artificial flavors, colors or preservatives.
I know it's just a couple of things, but I hope this helps to get you started if you're thinking about joining me. Next time, I hope to be able to share with you some of Jericho's successes on the diet... and some setbacks (like he even had a chance on Valentine's Day?).