How to Create A Healthy Easter Basket What Every Parent Should Know!
How to Create A Healthy Easter Basket
Butylated Hydroxytoluene, Blue #2, Isoamyl Acetate, Yellow #6, Tertiary Butylhydroquinone, Dimethyl Sulphide, Red #40.
“Many parents do not realize that the pretty candies in their children’s Easter baskets are often loaded with artificial additives like synthetic dyes, which can actually harm your children,” said Jane Hersey, National Director of the nonprofit Feingold Association (www.feingold.org), which helps special needs children.
These dyes have been linked with many health problems in children, including hyperactivity and inattention.
“If you notice that your children act up after eating brightly colored candies, synthetic dyes are the most likely culprit,” said Hersey, whose own daughter was affected by these additives. “If the Easter Bunny ate these candies, he would probably be bouncing off the walls!”
Concerns over the adverse effects of synthetic food dyes on children’s behavior and attention has led the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to schedule a public hearing about this topic on March 30-31, 2011.
Hersey hopes that this meeting, which will include presentations by several prominent scientists, will be the first step in the eventual banning of these additives from the American food supply. “The FDA should prohibit these dyes and require warning labels in the meantime,” she said.
The European Union already requires labels on most foods containing synthetic food dyes to warn that these additives “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.” Britain’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) has also called on manufacturers to voluntarily remove the dyes and has advised parents to limit their children’s consumption of dyed foods if they show signs of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
In the United States, the American Academy of Pediatrics has acknowledged in its journal that “a trial of a preservative-free, food coloring- free diet is a reasonable intervention” for hyperactive children. The American Academy of Family Physicians has also added this statement to its web site: “Studies have shown that certain food colorings and preservatives may cause or worsen hyperactive behavior in some children.”
These actions were prompted by a highly acclaimed 2007 Lancet study led by Dr. Jim Stevenson, which found that synthetic food dyes trigger hyperactive behavior in all children, not just those diagnosed with ADHD. This study cited the work of Dr. Ben Feingold, the pediatrician/allergist who developed the low-additive Feingold Diet for children with learning and behavior problems.
Dr. Stevenson and his team later reported to the FSA that the harm done by artificial food dyes to children’s IQ is similar to the impact of lead on their developing brains and that, if their assumptions are correct, banning these additives “would result in a 30 percent reduction in the prevalence of ADHD in children.”
Preparing a Healthy Easter Basket
You might think that avoiding the many synthetic dyes, preservatives and other additives found in typical Easter candies is a daunting challenge.
“Actually, parents have a wide range of Easter treats they can use to prepare an Easter basket that most kids would love,” said Hersey. Many of these natural candies are listed in The Feingold Association’s Foodlist & Shopping Guide and Mail Order Guide.
“The Feingold Association also shows parents how to find low- additive versions of Easter candies, such as chocolate mint patties, peanut butter kisses, jelly beans, and chocolate bunnies, at health food stores, healthy markets, specialty stores, and even supermarkets,” she said.
- Avoid buying Easter candies containing synthetic food dyes (such as Red 40, Yellow 5, and Blue 1), artificial flavorings, or the preservatives BHA, BHT, and TBHQ.
- Replace some candy with dried pineapples, figs, raisins, or dates, which are naturally sweet and much more nourishing.
- Add 100% fruit roll-ups or homemade trail mix. Put a stuffed animal, such as a bunny or chick, in the basket to help take the emphasis off sweets.
- Include educational toys, books, or disposable cameras in the basket.
- Tuck a coupon from the Easter Bunny, good for an outing at a theatre or amusement park, in among the cellophane grass.
- Consider using brightly colored plastic Easter eggs or coloring your boiled eggs with either natural dyes or plastic sleeves that are slipped over the eggs and dipped in hot water.
- Feed your children breakfast before letting them indulge in Easter sweets, in order to reduce the amount of candy they eat.
- Plan an Easter egg hunt to help children work off excess energy and get some exercise.
Following these simple steps can help your family enjoy a happy and healthy Easter!
The Feingold Association
The nonprofit Feingold Association (www.feingold.org /800-321-3287) helps parents of special needs children use the Feingold Diet, which eliminates synthetic food dyes, artificial flavorings, and certain preservatives.
This charity conducts in-depth research with food companies and provides members with information about which foods are free of harmful additives. Its Foodlist & Shopping Guides contain thousands of acceptable brand name products and its Pure Facts Newsletter provides frequent updates. Membership benefits also include a handbook on the Feingold Diet, a Fast Food & Restaurant Guide, a Mail Order Guide, phone and e-mail help-lines, an online chat room, and a message board.
The charity’s advisory board and board of directors include medical professionals from Johns Hopkins University, the University of Rochester, Stony Brook University, Baltimore’s Sinai Hospital, and other institutions.
Individual dietary needs vary and no one diet will meet everyone’s daily requirements. Before starting any new diet, check with your doctor or nutritionist.
Jane Hersey is National Director of the nonprofit Feingold Association and author of Why Can’t My Child Behave? A former teacher and Head Start consultant, Hersey has testified before the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Congress about ADHD and diet. She frequently lectures at educational associations, hospitals, medical groups, universities, and schools across the country, and she spearheaded one of the first low-additive school food programs in the nation during the 1980s.
Hersey’s articles have appeared in numerous magazines, and she has been interviewed by ABC’s “Nightline,” WUSA TV News, Woman’s World, the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, Des Moines Register, Cincinnati Enquirer, Cleveland Plain Dealer, St. Petersburg Times, Fort Myers News-Press, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Charleston Post and Courier, and many radio programs.
Federal Register, Vol. 75, No. 230, December 1, 2010
“Modernising the rules on food additives and labelling of azo dyes,” European Parliament, July 8, 2008 (http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?language=EN&type=IM-PRESS&reference=20080707IPR33563)
Schonwald A. ADHD and Food Additives Revisited. AAP Grand Rounds DOI: 10.1542/gr.19-2-17, 2008; 19;17
American Academy of Family Physicians, web site, http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/children/parents/behavior/118.html
McCann D, Barrett A, Cooper A, et al. Food additives and hyperactive behaviour in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the community: a randomised, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial. Lancet. Nov 2007;370(9598):1560-7 (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17825405)
“Banning food additives ‘could cut hyperactivity by 30 per cent,’” Daily Mail, April 2008, http://www.dailymail. co.uk/news/article-1012023/Banning-food-additives-cut-hyperactivity-30-cent.html
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This post originally appeared on our March/April 2011 Magazine