St. Patrick’s Day is upon us! Food, beer and festivities accompany parades and parties as the Irish – and those who want to be Irish – celebrate this holiday in March. But the menu may just be hurting you with a toxic food mashup of colorants and additives. Can you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and keep your family safe from toxins? Here are some of the worst offenders on your holiday menu, and some tips on how to make make a healthy St. Patrick’s Day dinner.
Traditional St. Patrick’s Day Drink: Irish Beer
The first item on this list, beer, is a mainstay of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Unfortunately, beer can be loaded with surprising additives that may not be good for you. Not only do many of them contain GMOs mostly from corn and sugar products, they also can contain caramel coloring (it’s listed on the label). Caramel colors often contain the carcinogen methylimidazole, which has been given the “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) label by the FDA in small amounts. The problem here is that beer is not actually consumed in small amounts on St. Patrick’s Day. In addition, the FDA’s GRAS label is often debated as to its validity, as reported in the NRDC’s report “Generally Recognized as Secret”. That said, we recommend avoiding caramel color altogether.
The most popular Irish beer in America on this holiday is Guinness. According to a Food Babe report in 2013, this beer may contain GMO high fructose corn. While Guinness claimed several months later they do not, they will not disclose the actual ingredients of their beer. Guinness also contains a gelatin-like substance called isinglass – as Food Babe states, it comes from a fish swim bladder (not their urine bladder). This chemical clarifies beer and may be of concern to anyone who has an allergy. No allergic reactions have been reported, however some studies that suggest these reactions are under reported.
Better Beer Options
Never fear, you don’t have to go without beer on St. Patrick’s Day. Simply select safer beers, such as certified organic beer, German beers (required by German law to be clean), and, of course, local craft brewery beers. Here is also a list of additional beers approved to be “clean” by Food Babe:
- Wolaver’s 100% Organic IPA, Brown Ale and Oatmeal Stout
- Samuel Smith Pure Brewed Organic Lager, Organic Pale Ale, Nut Brown Ale, Taddy Porter, Oatmeal Stout, India Ale, Imperial Stout
- Pinkus Organic Ur Pil, Organic Hefe-Weizen, Organic Munster Alt
- Peak Brewing’s 100% Organic Beers including Summer and Winter Session, Fresh Cut, Hop Blanc, Weiss Principal, IPA, Nut Brown Ale, Amber Ale,
- Butte Creeks’ Organic Beers: Pilsner, Porter, Pale Ale, India Pale Ale,
- Steam Whistle
- Leavenworth Whistling Pig Hefeweizen, Boulder Bend Dunkelweizen
- Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA
- Amarcord Gradisca
- Green’s Dry-Hopped Lager, Dubbel Ale, Amber Ale, Tripel Blonde Ale (all gluten free and vegan)
- Bison Organic Beers: Hope Cuvee, Chocolate Stout, Honey Basil, Saison de Wench, Kermit the Hop, Gingerbread
Traditional St. Patrick’s Day Drink: Bailey’s Irish Cream
Sadly, this delicious liquor is loaded with junk, containing sugar, heavy cream and chocolate. Bailey’s claims the sugar can come from sugar beets, so when it’s processed in the U.S., it most likely contains GMOs. According to “The Food Babe Way”, it also contains caramel color.
Better Option: Homemade Irish Cream
There are so many recipes out there that you can easily make your own real food version of Irish Cream liquor. Check out this brand new recipe, Better Than Bailey’s Homemade Irish Cream, from my friend Colleen at Souffle Bombay. I love this Irish Cream from Our Nourishing Roots, since it contains raw milk & cream, and every bit of it – from the condensed milk to the chocolate syrup – is homemade, except the whiskey, of course! If you’re going to indulge, this is the way to do it.
Traditional St. Patrick’s Day Dish: Corned Beef
This traditional St. Paddy’s Day main dish is popular with diners, but carries some serious health risks. Because corned beef is made by using salty brines, it is often very high in sodium. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that a 3-ounce single-sized serving can contain over 960 mg of sodium.
It also often contains added sodium nitrate, which has been linked to cellular damage that can increase your risk of Type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, according to a study reported on by Food Matters. In addition, it’s a bit more challenging to find grassfed, organic corned beef. Learn why grassfed cattle provide healthier nutrients for you.
Better Option: Healthier Cuts of Beef
If you still have your heart set on corned beef, you can still have a healthier St. Patrick’s Day dinner by buying the right cut of beef and making it yourself. Organic grassfed beef brisket is the way to go. Check out these beef vendors to order your grassfed corned beef:
- Rocky Mountain Organic Meats sells an organic corned beef roast.
- Homegrown Meats carries Grassfed Brisket that you can make into corned beef with your own brine.
- Check your local Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s as well as your nearest organic butcher to see if they stock grassfed brisket.
If you’re buying brisket, you can make your own corned beef from scratch by creating the proper brine. This is the healthier option, allowing you to manage the salt levels as well as the quality of the ingredients. Check out Nourishing Joy’s Homemade Traditional Corned Beef Recipe or this Corned Beef Brisket Recipe from Wellness Mama. You’ll also love this recipe for Home Cured Corned Beef from Nourished Kitchen, but be sure you have at least 2-3 days to prepare it.
Traditional St. Patrick’s Day Dish: Boiled Cabbage
What goes better with corned beef than cabbage? And that’s good news. Cabbage is one of the vegetables with the least amount of pesticides. Culinate claims that, other than the Napa variety, it is grown without pesticide and, indeed, it has made EWG’s “Clean 15” list this year. While cabbage can be called a superfood, traditional St. Patrick’s dinners will have cabbage that may be boiled for too long, removing those awesome nutrients, so you should choose your recipe carefully.
Better Choice: Healthier Ways to Cook Cabbage
There are many varieties of roasted cabbage “steaks”, which are a great idea to serve if vegetarians or vegans are coming to your feast. When I saw Everyday Maven’s Garlic Rubbed Cabbage Steak recipe, I just had to link it here. Or ditch the green cabbage and go red with Rachel Ray’s Sauteed Red Cabbage, made with apple cider vinegar. Of course, fermenting is excellent for your gut so you could even serve cabbage that way – that is, sauerkraut! Check out Detoxinista’s step-by-step guide to making raw sauerkraut. These are the perfect side dishes to ensure a healthy St. Patrick’s Day dinner.
Traditional St. Patrick’s Day Dish: Irish Soda Bread
What’s the big deal about soda bread? According to Nourished Kitchen, this surprising blend of buttermilk and baking soda makes it rise without any yeast or starter. Irish Soda Bread is often made with enriched white flour, GMO buttermilk, margarine and GMO sugar. Added to an already heavy meal, this is probably the side dish that makes you feel far too full.
Better Choice: Healthier Soda Bread
Nourished Kitchen weighs in with a recipe for Brown Soda Bread with Currants and Caraway that recommends sprouted whole grain flour for more nutrition. I also love this recipe for Multi-Seed Irish Soda Bread that includes lots of seeds – including flax, for a superfood healthy twist. Finally, Organic Valley has a great recipe for Sesame-Currant Irish Soda Bread that includes rolled oats, organic cultured butter, sea salt and honey as a sweetener.
Traditional St. Patrick’s Day Practice: Foods Dyed Green
From beer to cupcakes, you’re going to find lots of dishes dyed green for St. Patrick’s Day. As we reported last month in “10 Processed Foods Never to Feed Kids”, dyes have been linked to hyperactivity and allergies in children. According the Center for Science in the Public Interest, some dyes even contain carcinogens. Last year, ABC News reported on a Rutgers University study that found that yellow dyes have been linked with cancer, birth defects and developmental problem in children. (Learn more about cancer causing foods that may be in your diet.)
While green dyes do not have any specific studies testing their safety, blue and yellow dyes do, and you cannot be sure what mix of artificial dyes has been used in your food. In addition, keep that clear soda and beer free of dye! Many places will add the color to drinks, and you may have grown up with “green” soda for St. Patrick’s Day, but we recommend you avoid anything that contains green dye, especially if you are eating out.
Better Choice: Natural Dyes and Green Foods
If green coloring is part and parcel of your holiday celebrations, Color Garden Dyes are a great solution to this problem. With a bright, bold colors, you can create green cakes, cookies and cupcakes to match your theme – check out their recipe page for frosting and meringues with color. For the kids, you can also try your hand at this recipe for Spinach Frosting to top off a cupcake, but you might want to go organic on the butter and vanilla. Since powdered sugar contains GMO cornstarch, replace it with Swerve Confectioner’s Sugar or organic confectioner’s sugar. You can also try this recipe for Avocado Banana Ice Cream from Organic Authority to go green without any coloring. Finally, if you’re looking for an ready-made green snack, try Late July’s Organic Mild Green Mojo Multigrain Snack Chips, suggested by Dagmar Bleasdale, for any kid-friendly event! These treats will help you cap off the perfect healthy St. Patrick’s Day dinner for your family.
Hopefully, this guide will help you make cleaner choices for your St. Patrick’s Day holiday. Do you have recipes that you would love to share?
Disclosure: Bookieboo LLC has worked with numerous brands in the natural space, including Swerve, Organic Valley and Color Garden.