Jan 21, 2014 Post By: Julie Henry, RN, MPA

Colorful Cookie Decorating Without Food Dye

Recent studies have shown a possible link between food dyes and certain conditions or illnesses such as allergies, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and even cancer. Since it’s tough to resist decorating cookies with fun colors, many parents have been searching for more natural alternatives.

“You can buy natural dyes at stores like Whole Foods, but those tend to be a bit expensive,” says Ashley Rowell, RD, LD, a pediatric nutritionist and clinical dietitian at Children's Medical Center. “A cheaper option is to use fruits and vegetables. But keep in mind that the colors won’t be quite as vibrant as what you’ll get when using dyes.”

One of the easiest methods for adding color is to use a juicer. “The juice from fruits and vegetables can be added to the frosting,” says Rowell. “You’ll want to add just a little at a time, and taste it as you go, because some fruits and vegetables will alter the flavor.”

Another method for adding color to your cookies is to boil the ingredients in shallow water. “Pour just enough water in your pan to cover the produce,” Rowell says. “Mash the mixture as you’re boiling until it thickens, then strain it through a cheese cloth into a glass jar or container. Then use the juice to color your frosting.”

You can also get color for your cookies by simply mashing soft fruits and vegetables and straining them through a cheese cloth.

Fruit and Vegetable Options For Cookie Coloring

Once you’ve added natural color to your frosting, you can decorate your cookies with finely grated fruits and vegetables for “sprinkles” or with coconut.

Tell us what you think are the best food dye substitutions.