Ever noticed the variety of colour on your dinner plate? One of my top suggestions of how to eat healthy, is to eat a rainbow of colourful foods every day. Just make sure that these colours are naturally-derived from real fruits and vegetables! There are so many foods that masquerade as natural, but are actually filled with artificial colouring and flavouring: You’d be astonished!
 
Let’s take strawberry ice cream as an example. Ever wonder how much of the flavour and colour of a child’s strawberry ice cream cone is actually from strawberries? According to Unjunk your Junk Food, a new book by Andrea Donsky and Randy Boyer, creators of NaturallySavvy.com , strawberry flavour contains 49 chemical ingredients. Yikes! What about the cheesy taste in Mac and Cheese? It’s likely manufactured in a laboratory, instead of coming from actual cheese. 
 
What are Artifical Colours and Flavourings?
 
Artificial colours and flavourings are concoctions of chemicals used enhance food to look more vibrant or give a certain taste. They mask any natural variations in colour and flavour. After the process of foods being cooked, canned, frozen or dehydrated, they lack their original flavour. The expectation of processed foods is that they will taste homemade. This is hard to do on an assembly line. Chemical combinations created by “flavourists” infuse original flavours back in. 
 
Have you every used a boxed chicken stock? They contain extra flavouring -- sometimes MSG (monosodium glutamate) as a flavour enhancer so it can be produced in larger quantities with less of actual stock from chickens and more flavour additives. It works out cheaper for manufacturers that way.
 
Side Effects?
 
It’s wildly argued whether these chemicals have any detrimental effects. In the natural health arena, it is believed that they contribute to behavioural issues of ADHD, decreased attention span and other disruptive behaviours. I posted a question on Sprout Right’s Facebook page and on Twitter asking if anyone’s child had experienced reactions, and there were many who said yes. Stef C commented her daughter reacts to jelly bellies “she was CRAZY hyper almost instantly”. After seeing the same reaction three times, she read the label and saw the note that kids may react to colours. As more and more countries, such as the UK, move away from artificial additives, it strengthens our fears about the correlation between these additives and certain cancers, well as allergies, asthma and rashes.
 
For years, I’ve asked parents of sensitive children to lessen their intake of artificial colours found in sweets and treats.  And it’s a good practice for any family. My daughters know that we don’t buy candy with artificial colours in it.
 
Are “Natural Flavourings” Better?
 
In an article about artificial and natural flavourings on HealthyChild.org, they summed this up by saying: “Unlike artificial flavors, natural flavors are created from natural products – fruits, beef, chicken, spices – and transformed into chemical additives. And though it might make you feel better to see “natural flavoring” on a label, it isn’t necessarily better for you. Indeed, it’s a signal that the real thing is not included in the product.”
 
With so many products on the market with both natural and artificial colour and flavouring, it is tough to eliminate them all together. Try to follow the 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of the time, have home-cooked foods including muffins, cakes and cookies. When it’s not possible, perhaps when out or over eating with family or friends, enjoy what’s served with out asking to read ingredient lists.
 
Watch out for reactions in children and avoid Yellow 5 or Tartrazine, which seem to cause the worst reactions.
 
Here is my recipe for a delicious, naturally flavoured and coloured strawberry ice cream, sweetened with maple syrup. This is about as pure and simple as a recipe can get!
 
Strawberry Maple Ice Cream

3 cups organic strawberries (can be previously frozen, partially defrost)
3/4 cup maple syrup
1 cup whipping cream (organic if possible)
 
Puree strawberries with a hand blender or food processor. Add cream and maple syrup to combine. Pour into ice cream maker and leave to churn for 20 minutes or until frozen through.
 
Store in the freezer or serve immediately. 

Read More on Healthier Family Ideas:
Get Beyond Greens: Make Your Next Healthy Meal a Rainbow

How to Cut Back on Salt for a Healthier Family

How to Serve the Right Kinds of Fat for a Healthier Family