I remember peeling Easter eggs as a child and getting a kick out of eating green, blue and purple eggs (SOOO much more exciting than regular old eggs, right?!). It's a fact that egg shells are extremely porous, so the chemicals in the dyes are able to soak right in and end up ruining a perfectly healthy egg.
I don't know about you, but we don't like our homegrown, pastured eggs going to waste after Easter's over! That's why using natural dyes instead of toxic chemicals is so important.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has urged the FDA to ban artificial food dyes, reporting that they can cause allergic reactions, hyperactivity, and even cancer.
Happy Mothering discusses two food dyes that have been particularly associated with child behavioral problems:
Red dye #40 has been most commonly associated with aggressive and impulsive behavior in children. Tantrums, hitting, kicking and swearing are common reactions in children sensitive to this dye. According to research, parents whose children consumed any food with this dye experienced a sudden and violent change in personality. When the dye was removed, the behavioral problems disappeared.
Yellow #5 is most commonly associated with insomnia, which can lead to behavioral problems. Hyperactivity and learning disabilities have also been associated with this food dye.
So why take the risk of exposing your children to toxic food coloring when there are so many beautiful options dye Easter eggs naturally?
Now before you decide that it's just too much work…think about how creating your own dyes from food is a fantastic way to get your kids in the kitchen! Brown Thumb Mama suggests asking them what color they think the different ingredients will make. They might just be surprised to learn that the colors don’t come out the way they expect!
And as The Pistachio Project so eloquently puts it,
Kids are great learners and making natural dyes is an amazing lesson for them. You use this activity to teach kids why you like to stay away from artificial dyes of course but you can also explain how plants can create dyes, how water draws out the colors, how red and blue will make purple, how cabbage juice is nature’s ph test, and so on.
How to Dye Easter Eggs Naturally Using Food
We rounded up our favorite tips for getting the job done without toxic chemicals using super simple food ingredients you can find at your local grocery store. Do keep in mind though that most natural dyes will take longer to work than synthetic dyes—sometimes overnight—so be sure to allow sufficient time to prepare the dye and color the eggs.
The Organic Goat Lady swears you can make natural dyes from vegetable scraps like peels and seeds of avocados, skins of three yellow onions and the ends, stems and scrap pieces of three to four beets.
GREEN: Wellness Mama says that the European Union requires foods with food dyes to come with a warning label and has banned many of the dyes still used in the US. She suggests using a cup of spinach or a few teaspoons of organic spirulina to create wonderful green color. You can also juice greens, mix the juice with vinegar, and use as a cool dye once eggs have already been cooked. Get more great tips.
COBALT BLUE: Serious Eats says if you boil red cabbage with some water and strain it out, the resulting purplish liquid will stain eggs a rich, cobalt blue. Don't ask why, it just works!
DARK BLUE: Happy Mothering successfully used frozen blueberries for a deep, rich blue (see them on the far right in the photo below). Check out the other real food ingredients she experimented with for natural dyes.
PURPLE: Mommypotamus uses 1-2 cups of homemade beet kvass (here’s how to make it) to make purple Easter egg dye. You can also download a handy printable guide with lots of great suggestions for more natural colors made from ingredients in your kitchen.
3 COLOR SYSTEM: Hilah Cooking experimented with with different vegetables and spices, and while it’s possible to get greenish eggs from spinach and purplish eggs from grape juice and orangish eggs from chili powder, she prefers the simpler 3-color system. Doing it this way is also a fun exercise for young kids in primary and secondary colors. Watch the video below, then go get the full scoop!
Non-toxic Easter Egg Coloring Kits
If you're looking for a non-toxic pre-made kit, Mama Instincts recommends the Eco-Eggs Coloring Kit. It works great and comes with some awesome extras, like a natural crayon that the kids can use to make designs on the eggs before they are dyed along with grass seed packets. Get complete instructions about how to use the coloring kit.
We've also heard great things about the egg dyeing kit from Natural Earth Paint too.