Artificial food colorings are everywhere in our daily lives. They show up in lots of foods that we eat daily, like cereals, and in lots of treats like candy and baked goods. You can even find them in places you wouldn't think to look, like tomato sauce, farmed salmon, and even pickles! They are found in so many of our foods, yet we do not think much about them. So what makes up these colors that stay bright even when heated and stored for long periods of time? Keep reading if you want to know more about what artificial food colorings (also known as artificial dyes) are made of and how they affect your health!

What are artificial food colorings and what are they made of?

First off, if we're not making a rainbow cake, why do we even need food coloring in the first place? Well, consumers prefer that the color of their food match its flavor. Sadly, a lot (up to 70%!!) of the foods Americans consume are highly processed and end up a different color than we'd expect them to be. A gray hotdog or khaki colored candy would throw us off and probably wouldn't be as appetizing, right?

While there are many natural food coloring options, many companies choose to go with artificial food colorings because they're cheaper. The FDA has approved seven artificial food colorings for consumption in the United States, but these colors can be mixed and matched to create many different shades. Here's the bad news: the majority of them are made out of petroleum and crude oil (1). Even though the final product is highly refined and is tested to not have any traces of petroleum, we really don't like the idea of consuming something made from crude oil!

Are artificial food colorings bad for my health?

The jury is still out. In 2008, the Center for Science in the Public Interest petitioned the FDA to ban artificial food colorings because of recent studies that found a small, but significant, negative effect of these substances on children's behavior (2). These substances were also found to be carcinogenic, cause hypersensitivity reactions, and instigate behavioral problems (3). These findings were largely controversial, and the FDA ruled that artificial food colorings could still be used in food products without the use of a warning label. But earlier this year, OEHHA published a study on the potential health effects of synthetic dyes in children and found that there is evidence that "indicates that synthetic food dyes are associated with adverse neurobehavioral outcomes in children" (4). This information is not new to the European Union though. Six years ago, studies conducted by British government also found a link between adverse neurobehavioral outcomes in children and artificial dyes. This prompted the British government to urge food companies to stop using artificial food dyes in their products, and for the European Union to pass a new law "requiring that any food that contained [artificial] dyes ... would have to put a warning notice on, warning consumers that the dyes might trigger hyperactivity" (5). This law effectively made artificial food coloring impossible to find in foods made and sold in the EU.

Should you avoid artificial food colorings?

Even though more research needs to be done to reach conclusive findings, the current evidence is not looking good for artificial food coloring. While we wait for the results of these studies, we can take proactive steps in protecting our health. It's been established that the food we consume plays a large role in our health and unhealthy, highly processed foods are some of the biggest sources of artificial food colorings. By removing these products from your diet, you can improve your overall health and reduce the amount of artificial food colorings you consume.

What to use intsead

However, if you find yourself baking two dozen cupcakes the night before a big bake sale or you toddler has requested a rainbow cake for their birthday and you have to use food coloring, make sure to use natural food coloring. Common natural food coloring can come from beets, carrots, saffron, turmeric, spinach, blueberries, and blackberries and do not have any negative health consequences. Plus, natural food coloring is becoming increasingly popular and they're really easy to find in stores! Here are some of our favorites:


Plant-Based Food Color Variety Pack by Supernatural

India Tree Nature's Colors Decorating Set

Suncore Foods – Premium Pink Pitaya Supercolor Powder

Suncore Foods – Premium Blue Butterfly Pea Supercolor Powder

References

  1. https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/education/resources/highschool/chemmatters/past-issues/2015-2016/october-2015/food-colorings.html
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3441937/
  3. https://cspinet.org/resource/food-dyes-rainbow-risks
  4. https://oehha.ca.gov/risk-assessment/report/health...
  5. https://www.nhpr.org/2014-03-28/why-m-ms-are-made-...
Food

Easy Berry Crumb Breakfast Bars

A healthy breakfast on the go, without any plastic wrappers!

Whether you're headed to the office or about to drop the kids off at school, breakfast on the go is just a part of life sometimes. We've definitely explored every breakfast bar option on the grocery shelves, but wouldn't it be nice to have a breakfast bar option that didn't include plastic wrappers with ingredients that you can feel good about? Well, we have the recipe for you then! These breakfast bars (adapted from Smitten Kitchen) are gluten free, refined sugar free, and packed with oats and nuts to give you fuel for the day. These bars are kid tested and approved. In our experience they will be begging for them not only at breakfast time, but at snack time too!

The best part is that you can bake up a batch and you'll have breakfast for the entire family for the week. Or better yet, double up the recipe and freeze a batch for an on the go option any time. We used blackberries in this recipe, but feel free to use raspberries too! You could even try figs or apples too, which would be perfect for the fall.

Ingredients

For the crust and the crumb topping

  • 3/4 cup oat flour*
  • ½ cup sweet rice flour
  • ¼ cup tapioca flour
  • 3/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup or honey
  • 1 ¼ cup rolled oats
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • Optional: ½ cup of chopped almonds or pecans or walnuts

For the berry filling

  • ¼ cup coconut sugar
  • 1 Tbsp grated lemon zest
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp tapioca flour
  • 1 lb blackberries or raspberries
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a 9" by 13" inch baking pan with parchment paper. Cut one piece of parchment paper to 9" wide and place it going the length of the pan, letting it cover the sides. Then cut another piece of parchment paper 13" wide and place it going the opposite way as the first piece, letting it go up the sides as well. Now you have a parchment paper sling that will help you remove the bars from the pan easily.
  2. Put the flours, coconut sugar, maple syrup, oats, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon in a food processor. Pulse a few times to combine. Then add the butter and pulse until large and loose crumbs form. Reserve 1 ½ cups for the crumb topping and set aside.
  3. Scoop the rest of the mixture into the pan and use your hands or the bottom of a measuring cup to pack down the crust into an even layer. Bake the crust until lightly golden, about 15 minutes.
  4. In the meantime, combine the berries, coconut sugar, lemon zest, tapioca starch, cinnamon, and lemon juice into a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat. Use a wooden spoon to help burst the berries, stirring so that the mixture doesn't burn. Cook until the mixture has thickened, about 5-10 minutes depending on how juicy your berries are. You want the filling to be pourable but thick.
  5. Once the crust comes out of the oven, let it cool for about 5 minutes. Spread the berry filling over the top of the crust. Mix the ½ cup of chopped nuts with the remaining 1 ½ cup crust mixture if using nuts. Then sprinkle on top of the berry filling.
  6. Bake the bars for about 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. The filling should be bubbling and have thickened even more.
  7. Let the bars cool in the pan for about 5 minutes. Then use the parchment paper sides to lift the bars out of the pan and let them cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into portions and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a few days.
  8. If you want to freeze a batch, place the cut pieces on a cookie sheet and freeze. Then put the frozen bars into a freezer bag or container. Take a frozen piece out overnight to defrost in the fridge, or let thaw for 20 minutes on the counter. (In the summer, they also taste pretty good frozen too!)

* Instead of the oat, sweet rice, and tapioca flours, you can substitute 1 ½ cup gluten free flour or all purpose flour.

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Food

Summer BBQ Essentials

Don't break out the grill without these non-toxic finds!

Summer isn't complete without at least one BBQ! They're the ultimate excuse to get together with friends, enjoy the nice weather, and cook delicious food (even if you're doing meat-free Monday). If you're new to the BBQ scene, then you might not realize that an outdoor get-together can require some specialized gear. Standard BBQ gear can be made from harmful materials like melamine, plastic, and PFAS, which is why we wanted to find alternative products that were safer for our health. Our summer BBQ essentials roundup has everything you need and more to throw the best party ever! And don't forget to check out our tips for a non-toxic BBQ!


Stainless Steel Popsicle Mold

Stainless Steel Grill Basket

Glass Beverage Dispenser

Cast Iron Griddle Pan

Carbon Steel Grill Frying Pan

Moscow Mule Mugs

Enamelware with seafood pattern

Grill tools

Stainless steel Citrus Press Juicer

If you've been looking for some more sustainable and eco-friendly alternatives, chances are, you might have stumbled across this thing called beeswax wrap. It can be used to wrap sandwiches and salad, that half-eaten avocado, even leftovers from wine and cheese night! Maybe the cute patterns first caught your eye, or maybe you saw it on Instagram. Whatever the reason, we're going to share everything you need to know about this reusable alternative to plastic wrap.

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Food

What’s in Wood Cutting Boards?

And how to pick the healthiest ones

With plenty of time at home in the last 12 months, we've all visited the kitchen more frequently – and gladly. This, of course, means that we're basically certifiable chefs. (And how could we not be after streaming all of the known tele-verse? There's now time and much inspiration to mince fresh garlic into culinary fairy dust.) While you've been chopping away, have you ever wondered what goes into those beautiful wooden or bamboo cutting boards? Especially the ones with blocks of wood artfully stuck together? We wondered too, so we looked into it. Read on to learn more!

Wood: the Good

Prepping food on wood or bamboo cutting boards has a number of known benefits. Unlike plastic, wood doesn't contribute microplastics into our food (or the environment!), and bamboo is a quickly regenerated sustainable resource. Wood materials also have antimicrobial properties, in part because they can absorb and trap bacteria deep in the wood fibers! (3) Studies have shown that properly cleaned and dried wood cutting boards harbor very few live bacteria on the cutting board surfaces (1-5).

What About the Other Stuff?

Some wood cutting boards are crafted out of single blocks of wood, but more commonly they contain pieces that are glued together. Cutting board materials fall under the FDA's "food contact substances" and "indirect food additives" regulations since any part of a cutting board could potentially touch our food (6). When FDA-approved food contact substances like glue resins/polymers are completely cured (totally dried), they are considered food safe (7). Even so, some approved substances like melamine-formaldehyde resins can release harmful gases and cause other issues for human and environmental health (8). Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen, and chronic low-level melamine exposure is associated with early kidney disease, among other problematic health outcomes (9). (See our article on melamine dishware to learn more about why it's not great for health). Petroleum-derived wood preservatives like paraffin wax and petroleum hydrocarbon resin are also not great for the environment.

Another thing to keep in mind is that while the FDA requires imported products to comply with the same US safety regulations, unfortunately sometimes these products are non-compliant (10). Look for products that specifically state that they meet FDA food contact regulations, or ask the manufacturer if you're not sure! Imported wood also might require fumigation with methyl bromide prior to shipping to the US, depending on what type it is and where it's coming from (11, 12). While pest management is an important step to prevent the introduction of disease or invasive species from abroad, methyl bromide contributes to ozone layer depletion and can cause system-wide bodily harm to those spraying it (13). (Bamboo timber is generally allowable without any treatment if it meets certain conditions(14).) The bottom line is that some glues, products, and practices are definitely better than others, so it's a good idea to look for wood cutting boards that minimize these health and environmental risks.

5 Recommendations for Choosing a Healthy Wood Cutting Board

We know it can be overwhelming to research the healthiest options out there, so here are 5 recommendations to help your browsing:

  1. Choose wood or bamboo over plastic – even with the possible concerns listed above, wood is still a better choice for decreasing your microplastic and toxin exposure!
  2. Look for cutting boards made from a single piece of wood (to get you started, here are non-toxic cypress, Vermont maple, and teak options). You can also find Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified boards that minimize environmental harm by using sustainably harvested woods.
  3. If you choose a cutting board made from multiple glued pieces (which are frankly beautiful and more widely available), make sure the glue used is free from formaldehyde and melamine. Some bamboo cutting boards like this one have a pressure/heat treated process that allow for a glue-free surface.
  4. Pick cutting boards with mild non-toxic coatings like beeswax (or look for an unfinished one that you can finish yourself with our DIY cutting board oil recipe below!)
  5. If you're not sure what types of glue or coatings a manufacturer uses (or if you want to make sure it's FDA-approved), feel free to contact them and ask what types of ingredients and regulations they use and follow. You would definitely not be the first person to ask! For reference, Titebond III and Gorilla Wood Glue are both considered safer for food contact.

DIY Cutting Board Conditioner Oil

To help you maintain a lustrous, resilient and non-toxic cutting surface, here's our simple cutting board conditioner recipe:

  • 3/4 cup MCT oil (or walnut oil)
  • 1/4 cup beeswax
  • Directions: Melt the oil and beeswax together in the microwave or on the stovetop, then brush the mixture onto your cutting board and let it soak in for 3 hours. You can seal your boar as often as once a month, but we find that sealing it just a few times a year works well too!

If you're looking for a refresher on wood cutting board cleaning recommendations, we've got you covered here. Enjoy your culinary endeavors!


References

  1. Moore, Ginny, Ian S. Blair, and DAVID A. McDOWELL. "Recovery and transfer of Salmonella typhimurium from four different domestic food contact surfaces." Journal of food protection, vol. 70, no. 10, 2007, pp. 2273-2280. https://doi.org/10.4315/0362-028X-70.10.2273
  2. Lücke, Friedrich-Karl, and Agnieszka Skowyrska. "Hygienic aspects of using wooden and plastic cutting boards, assessed in laboratory and small gastronomy units." Journal für Verbraucherschutz und Lebensmittelsicherheit, vol. 10, no. 4, 2015, pp. 317-322. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00003-015-0949-5
  3. Boursillon, Dominique, and Volker Riethmüller. "The safety of wooden cutting boards." British Food Journal vol. 109, no. 4, 2007. https://doi.org/10.1108/00070700710736561
  4. Ak, Nese O., Dean O. Cliver, and Charles W. Kaspar. "Cutting boards of plastic and wood contaminated experimentally with bacteria." Journal of Food Protection, vol. 57, no. 1, 1994, pp. 16-22. https://doi.org/10.4315/0362-028X-57.1.16
  5. Cliver, Dean O. "Cutting boards in Salmonella cross-contamination." Journal of AOAC International, vol. 89, no. 2, 2006, pp. 538-542. https://doi.org/10.1093/jaoac/89.2.538
  6. https://www.fda.gov/food/food-ingredients-packaging/food-ingredient-packaging-terms
  7. https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=23a3c29a77c934f528ed12988c803c24&mc=true&node=sp21.3.175.c&rgn=div6
  8. https://ww2.arb.ca.gov/sites/default/files/classic//toxics/compwood/consumer_faq.pdf
  9. Liu, Chia-Chu, et al. "Interrelationship of Environmental Melamine Exposure, Biomarkers of Oxidative Stress and Early Kidney Injury." Journal of hazardous materials, vol. 396. doi: 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2020.122726
  10. https://www.which.co.uk/news/2020/02/66-of-products-tested-from-online-marketplaces-amazon-marketplace-aliexpress-ebay-and-wish-failed-safety-tests/
  11. https://www.compliancegate.com/wooden-bamboo-kitchen-products-regulations-united-states/
  12. https://helpspanish.cbp.gov/s/article/Article-897?language=en_US
  13. https://www.epa.gov/ods-phaseout/methyl-bromide
  14. https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=8765cd13ef440b0571f9f5298dcc757b&mc=true&node=sp7.5.319.i&rgn=div6
Family

Mix 'N Match Snack Ideas

Run out of tasty snacks? We've got you

It can be hard to find healthy snacks you can give to your kids (or even for yourself). That's why we put together a bunch of snack combos that will help your kids get their daily intake of fruits, veggies, proteins, and fats without artificial flavorings and refined sugars. All of the combos are super easy to put together and require little to no cooking. Plus mixing the different colors and textures of the different foods is sure to make snack time more exciting for little kids and even the pickiest of eaters! These snacks are a great way to avoid packaged snacks which means less waste and chemicals getting into our kids food. If you are struggling to find nutritious snacks for your kids or even a way to change up your own diet, check out this graphic of awesome snack combos!

popular

Our Non-Toxic Household Item Picks at Target

Everything you need for a healthy home!

Who can resist Target? It's our one stop shop for all things home, beauty, baby, snacks... basically everything! But Target is a huge store that carries thousands of different items; how do you know what are the best non-toxic picks? That's where we come in! We did the research and found the best non-toxic household items. All these items have been vetted by us and are readily available both online and in stores.



Seventh Generation Free & Clear Natural Dishwasher Detergent Packs
Lodge Cast Iron Skillet
Instant Pot Duo 6qt 7-in-1 Pressure Cooker
Bon Ami Powdered cleanser
Seventh Generation Fresh Citrus Laundry Packs
Puracy Green Tea and Lime Natural Multi Surface Cleaner
Everspring wool dryer balls
Arm and Hammer Baking Soda Odor Absorber
Honest Company Antibacterial Disinfecting Spray
Pyrex 10pc Freshlock Glass Storage SetFreshlock Glass Storage Set
Stasher Bag
Organic Cotton Solid Sheet Set

It's the most wonderful time of the year... to do some baking! We love getting creative in the kitchen during the holiday season, but a lot of baking essentials can be made from harmful materials like plastic or contain artificial colors or flavors. That's why we created a non toxic baking holiday baking roundup! Each item is made from safe materials like ceramic, wood, and steel so you can create some sweet treats without worry!



a) Stainless Steel Measuring Spoons and Cups
b) Supernatural Into the Woods Sprinkles
c) India Tree All Natural Nature's Colors Decorating Sugar Variety Set
d) Ann Clark Cookie Cutters 11-Piece Winter Christmas Cookie Cutter Set
e) Farberware Classic Wood Rolling Pin, 17.75-Inch, Natural
f) STAUB Olivewood Spatula, 12", Wood Emile Henry Modern Classics Pie Dish
g) AmazonBasics Silicone, Non-Stick, Food Safe Baking Mat - Pack of 2
h) TeamFar Baking Sheet Cookie Sheet Set of 2
i) Food Colors Variety Pack by Supernatural
j) Nordic Ware Starry Night Cookie Stamps
k) If You Care Unbleached Paper Snack Bags
l) India Tree Food Coloring

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