List of Foods Without Red Dye & 10 Dye-Free Snacks for Kids
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List of Foods Without Red Dye & 10 Dye-Free Snacks for Kids

Written by Emily Hirsch, MS, RDN on September 18, 2023


In today's food landscape, it can be nearly impossible to avoid the artificial dyes used in various processed foods. These synthetic color additives, often labeled as Red Dye or listed by their corresponding numbers (such as Red 40 or Yellow 5), can be found in a wide range of products, from candies and sodas to cereals and snacks.

However, increasing concerns about the potential adverse effects of these artificial dyes, particularly on children's health, have prompted many people, especially parents to look for dye-free alternatives. Let’s explore the impact of artificial dyes on our diet and dive into the world of dye-free snacks, offering delicious and healthier options for kids and the whole family to enjoy.

Food With No Dye

Food dyes are chemical compounds developed to enhance the appearance of food by giving it a vibrant, yet artificial color. The food dyes Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 are the most common and make up roughly 90% of all the food dyes used in the US. The use of artificial dyes in food, especially Red 40, has raised concerns about their potential downsides to health.

Studies have found that these synthetic color additives have been associated with various adverse health effects. For example, one 2021 report found that Red 40 may exacerbate hyperactivity symptoms in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Moreover, artificial dyes have been linked to allergic reactions and sensitivities in some people. Symptoms may range from mild, such as hives and itching, to more severe reactions like swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat.

Additionally, concerns have been raised about the potential carcinogenic properties of certain artificial dyes. Red dye 40 contains benzidine, a known human carcinogen that may promote cancer.

Considering these potential downsides to health, it is understandable why many people, particularly parents, are seeking out a list of foods without red dye to help kids reduce their exposure and minimize potential risks.

Dye Free Food List

As consumers become more health-conscious, the need for foods without dyes has become increasingly important. Artificial food dyes are used to enhance the appearance of many processed foods, giving certain snacks an appealing bright, exciting color, and attracting both kids and adults.

However, there appears to be certain health risks associated with these dyes, such as hyperactivity in children, allergic reactions, and even carcinogenic properties. As a result, the demand for natural foods without dyes has grown significantly. These foods provide a safer and more wholesome alternative, enabling people to make healthier choices for themselves and their families.

One of the best ways to steer clear of food dyes is to focus on eating natural, unprocessed foods. Common foods that are naturally dye-free may include:

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Dairy including milk, cheese, yogurt, and eggs
  • Whole grains including brown rice, quinoa, oats, and whole wheat bread
  • Nuts and seeds including unflavored almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, sunflower seeds, and chia seeds
  • Legumes including lentils, black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, soybeans, and navy beans
  • Meats, poultry, and seafood including non-marinated beef, chicken, and fish
  • Tofu and some meat alternatives

Snacks without Red 40 Dye

In a world where vibrant colors often entice kids into indulging in packaged snacks, there is a growing demand for alternative kids' snacks without red dye. Now more than ever, health-savvy parents are looking for naturally colorful, dye-free snacks to satisfy their kids' need for something fun without compromising their health. Take a look at the following packaged snacks without red dye 40:

Terra Veggie Chips

If your kids have an aversion to various vegetables but love colorful snacks, you may want to offer them crunchy and vibrant veggie chips. Veggie chips, made from a wide assortment of vegetables including carrots, beets, yams, taro, and parsnips are lightly fried to give them a delightfully crispy texture. Veggie chip brands like Terra are all natural and made without artificial colorings like red dye 40.

Annie’s Crackers

Annie’s Homegrown offers a wide range of crackers that are actually made with real cheese and wheat flour and are free from artificial dyes, flavors, or preservatives. Rather than use synthetic coloring, Annie’s products are made with all-natural colors that come from plants, like purple carrots and beets.

Clif Kid Z Bars

Cliff’s line of granola bars for kids are made with organic rolled oats and sweetened with fig paste and cane sugar rather than high fructose corn sugar. Not only are these snack bars organic, but they are also free from any artificial colorings or flavors.

Bare Fruit Chips

Bare fruit chips are a delicious and healthy snack option made from a variety of fruits including apples, bananas, or coconuts. The fruit is baked at a low temperature to remove the moisture while maintaining their crispy texture. The result is a crispy snack that contains no additives, preservatives, or artificial dyes.

Stonyfield Organic Kids Yogurt

Stonyfield Organic Kids Yogurts are an excellent snack choice for kids as they are packed with essential nutrients like calcium and protein to support optimal growth and development. Additionally, they use 100% organic milk from pasture-raised cows, live and active cultures, and are made from real fruit that is free from artificial dyes.

Chomps Meat Sticks

Unlike traditional meat sticks that are loaded with highly processed ingredients and questionable chemicals, Chomps meat sticks are an excellent dye-free snack option for kids.

All Chomps meat sticks are made from high-quality, clean ingredients like grass-fed and finished beef or free-range turkey, and are free from added sugars, artificial flavors, artificial colors, and preservatives. They also provide a good source of protein, which helps support muscle development and provides sustained energy for active kids.

10 Dye Free Snacks for Kids

Red food dye and other artificial dyes can be found in a wide variety of products ranging from sports drinks to cereals.  Children should avoid consuming red dye 40 and other artificial food coloring as there appears to be a link between these dye and potential health concerns.

For example, studies have found an association between these artificial dyes and allergic reactions, behavioral issues, and possible increased cancer risk. By opting for less-processed and dye-free snacks, you can help promote healthier eating habits, and minimize the risks associated with artificial dyes in your child’s diet. The following are 10 snacks without red 40 dye or other artificial colorings that are not only healthy and wholesome, but delicious too.

Fruit Kabobs

Why settle on a single piece of fruit when you can indulge in fruit kabobs? Fruit kabobs are not only delicious, but they’re a naturally colorful treat packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and powerful antioxidants that can support strong bodies and sharp minds.

You can choose from a wide variety of different fruits to introduce your child to a colorful world of various flavors and textures. 

Yogurt Parfait

Believe it or not, some pre-made yogurt parfaits actually contain artificial flavorings and colorings. However, it’s simple to make your own wholesome treat without the unwanted preservatives and artificial ingredients.

Begin by layering dye-free yogurt, fresh fruit, and granola in a clear cup for a visually irresistible snack. The yogurt is loaded with protein and calcium to help strengthen growing muscles and bones, while the fresh fruit will provide a powerhouse of nutritional goodness. The granola provides a satisfying crunch and energy-sustaining fiber that will keep your kids fueled for hours.

Ants On a Log

This playful and classic treat is not only delicious but also a fantastic way to get kids excited about eating healthy. You’ll start by taking a crisp celery stick, spreading it with smooth peanut butter (or any type of nut butter), and top it off with a line of plump raisins that resemble little ants marching in formation.

The celery provides a satisfying crunch while delivering essential vitamins and fiber, while the nut butter adds a creamy protein source that keeps kids energized all while supporting their growing bodies. And those adorable raisin "ants"? They offer a touch of natural sweetness and are loaded with antioxidants and healthy fiber.

Homemade Trail Mix

Whether they're conquering the playground or exploring nature's wonders, fueling your child’s adventures with homemade trail mix will keep them energized and satisfied. Begin by mixing a medley of crunchy nuts, chewy dried fruits, and a sprinkling of chocolate chips or pretzels together, and voila, your homemade trail mix is ready for eating. The best part? You get to customize it just the way you like!

Homemade Popcorn

Skip the chemical-laden popcorn and opt for homemade. Homemade popcorn is not only delicious and fun to eat, but it’s healthy too. Popcorn is a nutritional superstar that’s low in calories but high in heart healthy fiber.

Bored with butter and salt? Try adding your own variety of fun flavors like garlic herb, cinnamon, or parmesan cheese.

Mini Pita Pizza

Mini pita pizzas make for a fun, easy, and nutritious snack for kids. Not only will your kids love the hands-on experience of building their own pizzas, but the topping possibilities are endless.

Kids can go wild piling on colorful veggies like bell peppers, tomatoes, and spinach, which pack a powerful punch of antioxidants and fiber. Add some cheese and a fun protein source like sliced Chomps meat sticks to further boost its nutritional value. 

Veggie Sticks with Hummus

Veggie sticks with hummus are a healthy snack that is free from artificial dyes but full of natural, vibrant colors. Kids will love the colorful assortment of veggie sticks, like carrots, celery, bell peppers, and cucumbers, each providing a satisfying crunch and an array of vitamins and minerals.

Creamy hummus provides the perfect dipping accompaniment and is loaded with wholesome protein and healthy fats to support optimal growth and development.

Apple Nachos

Apple nachos are a fun and nutritious snack that brings together the goodness of fruit and the playful spirit of nachos. Start with crisp apple slices as the base, providing natural sweetness, fiber, and essential vitamins.

Then, drizzle some creamy peanut butter or another type of nut butter for a dose of healthy fats and protein. Finally, for an extra burst of flavor, add a sprinkle of cinnamon, a handful of raisins, or shredded coconut for a perfectly delightful snack.

Chomps Meat Sticks

Traditional meat sticks are chock full of highly-processed meats, chemical preservatives, and artificial colorings and flavors. The good news? Chomps meat sticks are loaded with high-quality protein from grass-fed and finished beef, free-range venison, and antibiotic-free turkey.

They’re also free from added sugar and chemical preservatives making them a perfect, allergy-friendly, and convenient snack for kids.

Banana Ice Cream

Homemade banana ice cream is a healthier alternative to traditional ice cream, as it contains no added sugars, preservatives, artificial colorings, or flavors. Making banana ice cream at home couldn’t be easier as you simply freeze ripe bananas and then blend them until smooth and creamy.

Bananas are not only naturally sweet but also packed with vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. Kids can get creative by adding their favorite flavors and mix-ins, such as cocoa powder, vanilla extract, or a handful of berries for an extra boost of nutrients.

Infographic regrouping a list of foods without red dye

Enjoy Snacks With No Dye

By opting for natural and dye-free alternatives, you can ensure that your child is enjoying snacks that are not only delicious but also free from potentially harmful additives. From colorful fruits and vegetables to homemade treats with wholesome ingredients, there are plenty of dye free snack options to explore that will keep your kids happy and healthy for years to come.

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