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By: Lindsey Loving   Date: 12/17/09

It’s that time of year when you break out your grandmother’s old cookie recipes and get into the kitchen to start your holiday baking. There are the typical ingredients that go into most cookie recipes – flour, sugar, butter, milk, etc. Then, if your recipe is like mine, after you cut cookies from the dough, you top them with colorful sprinkles and candies that make them come to life. If you’re thinking about leaving the sprinkles or icing off your holiday cookies because you’re worried that the food colors will make your kids hyper, don’t let this myth keep you and your kids from enjoying the holidays!

The majority of scientific research has found no link between food colors and hyperactivity in children. The one exception may be children who have a confirmed food allergy. One study that found an association between a mixture of certain food colors and a preservative and increased hyperactivity in some children – called the ”Southampton study” because it was conducted by researchers from Southampton University in the UK – cannot confirm a cause-and-effect relationship due to several flaws in the study design. In fact, a new study of Irish children and teens published in the journal Food Additives and Contaminants found that the amounts and combinations of food colors given to the children in the Southampton study would “hardly ever” occur in the real world.

Whether it’s the food coloring you add to the cookie dough or the colorful candies and frosting you sprinkle and drizzle on top, food colors add bright and appealing hues to what would otherwise be a pretty boring cookie! And, research shows that they are safe and do not cause hyperactivity - the spirit of the holidays will take care of that! For more information about food colors and hyperactivity, see our “Questions and Answers: Do Food Colors Cause Hyperactivity?”

Don’t Let Holiday Cookies “Weigh” You Down!

We all know that cookies are treats that should be enjoyed in moderation along with a healthful diet, but we also all know that at the holidays, it’s easy for the cookie-to-salad ratio to lean more toward cookies! However, treating yourself to a holiday cookie (or two!) is not going to throw your whole diet off, as long as you are eating nutrient-rich foods throughout the rest of the day, and you resume your regular eating pattern after the holidays. In a recent Web cast, we talked about how to reverse mindless eating over the holidays.

If you’re still worried about keeping your calorie count in check, try substituting a sucralose-sugar blend or other low-calorie sweetener for the sugar in your holiday cookie recipe! For other ways to incorporate low-calorie sweeteners into cooking and baking, see our continuing professional education module, The “Low-Down on Low-Calorie Sweeteners”.



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