Getting candied hearts for Valentine’s Day was right up there with getting Orange Circus Peanuts or Candy Corn for Halloween. Despite their colorful messages, the first taste was always a let down of a powdery non-stick coating, followed by sugar and food dye. Each one left an ever so mild, but different aftertaste. The nuns also disliked this confection as the messaging on the hearts were far too suggestive at the Catholic grade school I attended. I also hated candied hearts because Russell Fergusom gave them as a Valentine’s Day gift to my best friend, Amy Hartman in 3rd grade instead of me. That’s OK because in 4th grade he secured the deal by throwing worms on my red rubber raincoat at the bus stop.
As an adult and dietitian, candied hearts continue to make my “candy to avoid” list and here’s why. Their first three ingredients are: sugar, corn syrup, water, gelatin and dextrose or basically sugar. The remaining ingredients are a bunch of food dyes such as FD&C Blue No 1, FD&C Red No 40, FD&C Yellow No 5, Yellow No. 6 and so on. Kudos to the manufacturers who have begun to swap out these artificial food colorings with real food colors found in carrot, black currant and spinach. The candy giant, Mars recently pledged to stop using food dyes in all of its human food worldwide and Nestles agreed to remove all artificial dyes from its chocolate by the end of 2015. Foods processed with artificial colors and dyes have already been banned in Austria and Norway while European countries require a warning label.
Food dyes have been shown to cause behavioral problems in some children, namely hyperactivity. This makes learning more challenging and can be disruptive in the classroom. The problem is compounded by the cumulative effects that occur from foods offered throughout the day. From breakfast bars and cereals, luncheon tubes of yogurt and chewy fruit snacks to dinner boxes of macaroni and cheese, articifical colors litter our food supply. The food industry is changing but in the meantime parents need to be label savvy. Our kids are exposed to so many chemicals these days; excessive use of food dyes shouldn’t be one of them.
What does make my list for healthy, kid-friendly, Valentines Day treats?
- A Bar of Dark Chocolate or Small Box of 5-6 Chocolates
- Red Sleds, Jump Ropes or Yoga Mats
- Movie, Children’s Museum or Zoo Trips
- Paints, Playdough and Art Crafts
Russell Fergusom went onto become a successful venture capitalist out in Boston while Amy Hartman went onto become a nurse as was her mom and sister. I married someone who showers me with running apparel each Valentines Day instead of worms. My kids grew up using candy hearts as word art messages on homemade Valentine’s Day cards, that the dog ate before they ever made their way to the classroom.
Happy, Healthy Valentine’s Day from our house to yours and keep your eye on the label!
Categories: Nutrition & Wellness