Every Easter, millions of families around the world dye their Easter eggs using synthetic food dyes. Unfortunately, the food dyes typically used, such as Yellow 5, Red 40 and many others, are made from petroleum. Yikes!
There are many risks of consuming artificial food dyes, including hyperactivity and behavioral problems in children, cancer (in animal studies) and allergic reactions. 100 Days of Real Food gives a great rundown of the studies.
Products containing artificial coloring require a label in the EU – just like products containing GMOs. So most companies use natural colors in the EU instead of the cheaper synthetic colors. Hopefully over government catches on and starts requiring labeling of GMOs, artificial food colors and other harmful ingredients soon!
So, just like we avoid GMOs in our home, we also avoid artificial food colors. I have noticed a definite behavior change in our kids, especially Kaylee, when food dyes are consumed. So I do believe the studies are true.
A lot of people think that with Easter eggs, the dye is only on the shell. But I remember many times cracking an egg open and seeing that the color had seeped through the shell (or a crack in the shell) to the white of the egg.
So, a couple years back, we took the time to dye Easter eggs with real foods. It was a lot of fun and a great lesson in natural pigmentation.
However, using all real foods does get expensive and time consuming, so this year I decided to search out a natural food coloring option. Maggie’s Naturals, a family owned business out of Portland, Maine, makes natural food coloring in 6 colors.
All of the colors are made with natural ingredients:
- Blue: blue gardenia extract, organic vegetable glycerin, citric acid
- Brown: caramelized sugar, organic vegetable glycerin, citric acid
- Green: green gardenia extract, spinach, parsley, organic vegetable glycerin, citric acid
- Pink: beets, sweet potato, organic vegetable glycerin, citric acid
- Orange: annatto seed, organic vegetable glycerin, citric acid
- Yellow: curcumin, organic vegetable glycerin, citric acid
Maggie’s Naturals was kind enough to send us 4 colors to try: Pink, Blue, Orange and Green. They also sell cane sugar sprinkles dyed with their natural food colors. These are great for birthday cakes, cupcakes and cookies!
Dyeing Your Easter Eggs with Maggie’s Naturals
We left them to sit for about an hour and the eggs were only very lightly colored. I think perhaps we used a little too much vinegar. The recipe I originally looked at said 1 tablespoon of vinegar per ½ cup of water. The recipes I looked at later said 1 teaspoon of vinegar per ½ cup of water.
So, we added another ½ teaspoon of each color to the jars and let them sit for another hour.
This is what we ended up with:
The eggs are definitely more lightly shaded than with artificial food dyes, but I’ll take pretty pastel eggs made with natural colors over vibrant eggs made with petroleum based artificial colors any day!
I’m excited to try Maggie’s Naturals in my next baking project. Zoë’s birthday is coming up in May, so I’ll be sure to make her some pretty cupcakes with colors and sprinkles from Maggie’s Naturals!