What’s in your mac & cheese?

Moms have a problem with that bright yellow color

A couple of mom food bloggers are taking on Kraft Macaroni & Cheese with an online petition demanding the company stop using the dyes that give the kid-favorite pasta its trademark neon yellow glow. Dr. Maureen Lamm, a Marietta doctor and mom, is outspoken on the topic. She’s founder of MomsABC, a site that gives parents information to make healthy choices for their kids.

How important do you think this food coloring issue is?
Extremely important. When children who are sensitive to artificial colors eliminate them from their diet, you can see significant changes. The children may experience less mood swings, fewer headaches, and an improvement in their ability to focus and concentrate, to name just a few.

Why does mac & cheese hit home?
I think mac & cheese is a great example of a kid-friendly meal that is easy to prepare and a go-to for many parents. Unfortunately, some versions contain artificial colors. But there are many products out there that are all natural or organic, so you really do have choices and you don’t have to buy foods that contain artificial colors at all.

I think it really hits home when you have a child who reacts to certain foods that contain artificial colorings and you realize what a negative impact it has not only on that child, but the whole family. When you make this association as a parent, it’s hard to continue to buy the old standbys. You make changes.

What are the dangers of artificial colorings?
Artificial colors have been linked to aggressive behavior, hyperactivity, and concentration and learning difficulties in children, and to cancer in animals. Seventeen previously used dyes have been banned. One of the biggest problems with artificial colors is the increase in per capita consumption. For example, in 1955, per capita consumption was 10 milligrams per day and in 2010 the consumption is more than 60 milligrams per day.

Why would a company change the rules overseas and not in the US?
I think if the demand in the US was for all-natural foods, free of artificial colorings, then we would see the same products here as well.

Do you think a campaign like this can make a difference?
Absolutely. I think a grassroots campaign is the fastest way to make the changes that will improve our health. We owe it to our children to provide them with the best possible foods: nutritious products free of artificial colors and full of healthy, all-natural ingredients.

Mac & cheese isn’t the healthiest food. Should we be urging parents to feed their kids something else instead of worrying about what’s in it?
The big picture is improving the health of our children and this can be done by making changes to their diets. There are many ways we can improve our children’s diets from increasing the servings of fruits and vegetables to improving the quality of the old standbys like mac & cheese.

The reality is successful change starts gradually. If your children like mac & cheese, then you can change to an all-natural version, free from artificial colors. Then, you may find an organic version everyone loves, and eventually, when you find the time, you can make your own version with whole-grain noodles, organic cheeses, butter, and milk. When you realize the increased nutritional benefits of the whole grain/organic/homemade version, it’s hard, if not impossible, to go back to the box version full of all that “stuff.”