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Are Additives in Easter Treats OK for Kids?



Try some healthy alternatives


The use of synthetic additives in Easter candies and eggs can cause hyperactivity, attention deficits, and other problems insensitive children, according to experts at the nonprofit Feingold Association (http://www.feingold.org).

"To make Easter treats more appealing, synthetic dyes are often added to create strong colors. These dyes can cause children to become irritable and disruptive," says Jane Heresy, the charity's Director.

Because the artificial dyes used to color Easter eggs often seep through the shells to the eggs, the Feingold Association recommends using natural colorings.

"Eggs colored with natural dyes do not come out synthetically bright, but they do look like the beautiful shades of spring," says Hersey.

For best results in making natural dyes, Hersey suggests using a glass or porcelain pot rather than stainless steel. She recommends adding vinegar to the water in which the eggs are boiled, because this will soften the shells so that the natural colorings take more readily. She also points out that the eggs may need to sit in the dye solution for five minutes before the dye takes.

READ MORE: Easy ways to make naturally dyed Easter eggs.

Hersey gives the following tips for making natural dyes:

1. Red: Boil two medium beets until soft. Peel and chop into half-inch cubes. Cover with one cup boiling water and 1 tsp. vinegar. Steep and drain.

2. Orange: Cover dry onionskins with 1 cup of water. Boil 5 minutes. Remove from heat and steep until water is a deep orange-brown color. Add 1 tsp. vinegar.

3. Yellow: Mix 2 heaping tsp. turmeric,2/3 cup boiling water, and 1 tsp. vinegar. Or pour 1 cup boiling water over 1 tbsp. of saffron, steep 10 minutes, and strain.

4. Blue:  Add 1 tsp. vinegar to 1 cup blueberry or grape juice. (Eggs will turn a pretty bluish-lavender color.)

5. Purple: Mix red and blue natural dyes together in a bowl.

6. Brown: Use two tea bags to each cup of boiling water.

Many of the artificial dyes used to color eggs are also found in Easter candies, which can be very tempting to children because of their bright colors. Hersey recommends buying naturally colored candies, which are available at most health food stores. She also advises checking the labels on chocolate candy to be sure it does not contain "vanillin" (synthetic vanilla).

READ MORE: 5 unique ways to enjoy your favorite Easter candy.

When making Easter baskets, Hersey suggests using homemade cookies, miniature muffins, and dried fruits, which are more nourishing than candy. "Don't forget nature's own candies such as dried pineapple, papaya, figs, dates, or nuts," says Hersey. "Just be sure to buy enough for the grown-ups!"

To help take the emphasis off sweets, the Feingold Association recommends including gifts, such as stuffed animals, small toys, and books in the baskets. "A coupon from the Easter Bunny, good for an outing at a theater or amusement park, can be tucked in among the cellophane grass. Or try using hollow plastic Easter eggs to hide coins or trinkets," suggests Hersey.

"Encourage your child to wait until he or she has eaten a nourishing meal before getting into the candy," adds Hersey. "Don't spoil the joy of the day by starting it with a lot of sugar on an empty stomach, which can be a recipe for disaster."

The Riverhead, New York-based Feingold Association was founded in 1976 by parent volunteers to help families of children with learning and behavioral problems, as well as chemically sensitive adults.