Dye-Free, Naturally Green St. Patrick's Day Food Ideas

A green smoothie in a glass jar
Photo by Fallon Michael on Unsplash

One of my biggest food pet peeves is artificial food dyes. It’s not just because I’m allergic to them (I am) or that I can get rashes in funny colours as a result (I do) -- but there seems little good reason to eat artificial food colours at all. In my head, it just isn’t food.

And I’m not alone in this thought.

Artificial Food Dyes are Controversial

Food dyes have a sordid history, being made from toxic substances including coal tar. While most of these substances have long been banned, current artificial dyes are often created with petroleum. Depending on the country and government, many of these are still considered food grade. Green No. 3, or Fast Green, a substance linked to tumors in animal experiments, is approved by the FDA but banned in Europe. Green can also be created by combining other colours like blue and yellow, the most common of which include: Yellow No. 5 (Tartrazine), Yellow No. 6 (Sunset Yellow), Blue No. 1 (Brilliant Blue), Blue No. 2 (Indigo Carmine). Artificial food colours are just one of several food additives that can affect your child's behaviour. Specific effects are still in debate, but studies have shown links between these colourings and hyperactive behaviours.

While I prefer to avoid all artificial food dyes (though I have cheated with a sports drink or two), I find the colour green to be one of the most ridiculous additives around. Why? Because green is already out there and plentiful in nature, and green foods are typically good for you. So get inspired with these green treats that actually exist in food and natural ingredients, or tweak the recipes to make them your own.

Shamrock Avocado Toast

Crunchy, smooth, crispy, and creamy–this take on avocado toast is sure to be a hit. Using your favourite whole grain bread, begin your toast like usual. Grab a slice of bell pepper to create your shamrock shape and fill with avocado goodness. This recipe sprinkles on nutritional yeast, but feel free to add salt and pepper, hot sauce, or seasoning to taste.


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Pesto Tortellini Shamrocks

This holiday-inspired recipe will be a hit with the kids because -- pasta. Even better, it can be eaten hot or cold. Pesto will add a tasty green tint to any tortellini, but you can also choose a green pasta itself. Use veggies to create your shamrock stems as you arrange the items on a plate, choosing from your favourite broccoli green beans, or even celery. There's a whole lot of nutrition in naturally green foods!

Shamrock Shake – Err, Smoothie

Spinach and bananas lead the way in this “milkshake” from Clean Eating. Additional healthy ingredients like flaxseed, plant milk and protein powder balance things out, but the real winner is mint. The creamy base with a minty taste is a great healthy look-alike for those festive green shakes known throughout the season.

St Paddy’s Cakes

Take that pancake up a notch, with this recipe favoured by health expert and naturopathic doctor Michelle Sexton. Your kids won’t even realize they’re eating spinach or chard, instead enjoying a whimsical banana, cinnamon and vanilla pancake. If you’re artsy you can use cookie cutters or try drawing the pancakes with a bottle to make shamrocks, and if not just eat in circles.

Shamrock Snackers

And if you don’t have time to bake, don’t despair. The mom behind Organized31 wants you to try these healthy and super kid-friendly snacks. Create your shamrock using pickles, grapes, or olives and add a string cheese stem or try some sliced celery if you don’t want dairy.

So ditch the colour but keep the fun. And don’t forget, harmful dyes and additives are hiding in many unexpected items daily, so always read your food labels first. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

And, with Easter coming up soon, check out how to make your own natural Easter egg dye.