Believe it or not, those harmless-looking little color tablets that you drop into a mixture of vinegar and water to dye Easter eggs are full of artificial food coloring, which contains harmful chemicals. Those chemicals may have a bad effect on some kids. As a result, many parents choose to skip the fun that accompanies dyeing Easter eggs for the health and safety of their children. But before you decide to forego the tradition of dyeing eggs, consider these alternative methods that are free of harmful ingredients.
The Problem with Artificial Food Dyes
Artificial food dyes are nutritionally void and can potentially be harmful to children. These dyes have been known to cause allergic reactions in some kids as well as behavioral problems. Some have been found to be toxic enough to encourage cancer growth. The European Union recognizes food dyes as dangerous and requires foods that include dyes to display a warning label that says, “May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.”
Back in the 1960s, Congress passed the Color Additive Amendment, which was a federal law that required all colorants and dyes in food, drugs and cosmetics to be tested for safety. Nearly 200 substances were used at the time but very few survived the testing process. Today, there are seven artificial food dyes that are approved for use in U.S. foods, but even these have not undergone much research to prove their safety.
But why is it a problem for the food dye to be used on only the outside of the egg? The problem is that eggshells are permeable. This means the dye can soak through the shells and into the inside of the egg that we eat. If a child is sensitive to food dye, the standard egg dyeing kits filled with artificial color could cause a reaction.
Dye Easter Eggs with Natural Food Coloring
Likely the easiest and most cost effective way to dye your Easter eggs naturally is with store -bought natural food coloring. Look for options made without synthetic dyes, like India Tree Natural Decorating Colors or the McCormick Color from Nature line. Make each color according to these ratios:
- 1 teaspoon food coloring
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
Dye Eggs with Fruits and Vegetables
This method is a little more “crunchy” and takes a bit longer but is a fun experience if you are up for it. Your eggs will be more of a pastel color if you choose to dye them this way. You can use random fruits, vegetables and even herbs to dye your eggs. Below are a few options to achieve colors for dyeing your Easter eggs.
- Blue: Chop up purple cabbage to add to the water when boiling your eggs. You can also add blueberries. Use an even ratio of either, such as 1 cup of chopped cabbage to one 1 cup of water.
- Red or Pink: Add 1 can of sliced beets or 1 cup of pomegranate juice to 1 cup of boiling water and cook your eggs in it.
- Purple: You can dye your eggs with grape juice! Add 1 cup of juice to 1 cup of water water or soak your eggs in grape juice before boiling.
- Green: You can add 2 tablespoons spirulina or ½ cup chopped spinach to 1 cup of boiling water to accomplish a green color.
- Yellow or Orange: Add 1 tablespoon saffron or turmeric to 1 cup of boiling water to make your eggs yellow or orange.
You can also wait to dye the green, red/pink and yellow/orange eggs until after boiling by making a cool dye with a mixture of the ingredients and vinegar. Play with different amounts of each to reach a desired shade.
Use Natural Egg Coloring Kits
Another fun option for adding color to your eggs is purchasing a natural Easter egg coloring kit, like this Eco-Eggs Coloring Kit. Not only does it include coloring dyes that are made of natural and organic fruit, vegetable and plant extracts, but it also comes with a fun grass growing kit for you to display your finished Easter eggs on!