Recently, I found myself in a “pasta” panic. It’s something any parent of a picky eater can understand.
Starting in 2016, Kraft’s macaroni and cheese is changing. The company is taking out artificial food dyes Yellow No. 5 and No. 6. These give Kraft its signature yellow color. The new macaroni and cheese will use natural spices for coloring: paprika, turmeric and annatto.
I’m all in favor of natural ingredients. To me, this seems like a good change.
But when you have kids who are picky eaters like mine, even small changes like this can be big events. That’s especially true with a staple like macaroni and cheese. My kids eat it all the time.
Mealtimes are already a bit of an adventure. Both of my sons have sensory processing issues around tastes and textures.
Both of them can detect subtle differences in taste that I can’t. It limits the foods they’re willing to eat.
For instance, they can spot (and reject) the flavor of different brands of chicken noodle soup. And if I buy low-fat cheese sticks or switch cereals, they’ll immediately notice.
So I’m worried. I’m not sure how they’ll react to the new, naturally colored macaroni and cheese.
I thought about going on a shopping spree before the change to buy all the Kraft macaroni and cheese I could possibly store in my house. I even went as far as checking the Kraft box to calculate shelf life.
Then I came to my senses and came up with a real plan. It’s actually pretty simple: I’m going to introduce the new macaroni and cheese to my kids a little at time.
- First, I’ve read up on the new ingredients—paprika, turmeric and annatto. I’ve looked at the recipes of food the boys eat to see if I can add these spices to them. I’m also going to start using these spices along with more familiar seasonings.
- Second, when the new macaroni and cheese hits the shelves, I’ll cook it alongside the old product. I’ll start by mixing small amounts of the new and the old for my sons. We’ll slowly work our way toward the new version.
- Third, I’m going to make it fun. I’ll set up a taste test to see if the boys can tell old from new. I hope that eventually they won’t be able to.
What if my plan doesn’t work? Well, there are other ways to help my kids cope with taste sensitivities. But we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.
For now, I’m really hoping that Kraft’s orange color stays the same. I won’t lie—I’ll be a little sad if what’s in the new Kraft box doesn’t match the macaroni and cheese crayon from the Crayola box!
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About the author
Amanda Morin is the author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education” and the former director of thought leadership at Understood. As an expert and writer, she helped build Understood from its earliest days.