Healthy Alternatives to Green Food Coloring on St. Patrick’s Day

March 15, 2018

America is a beautiful melting pot of immigrant cultures we get to interact with in subtle ways nearly every day. If you’re in a big city like Denver, you’ve probably wandered by a Lebanese market from time to time, or satisfied a craving for comfort food with Japanese ramen. If you’re from a smaller town or city, you likely get moments of internationalism at a local Mexican restaurant, or if you’re feeling extra fancy, The OG (a.k.a. The Olive Garden). Whether it be bratwursts, General Tso’s chicken, or the Terminator franchise, we all have faint brushes with our heritage on a nearly daily basis.

And then, there are the Irish. Despite how many pasty white fair people are eager to remind you that they’re one-eighth Irish every time they get the slightest bit sunburned, you really don’t see the relics of Dublin and Cork on display like you do for, say, Rome and Tijuana. Why? Because those from the Emerald Isle like to fit every last symbolic limerick of great-grandfather Liam into one day. And when you have only 24 hours to celebrate generations and generations of Irish people, there’s no time for the kind of “hint of cilantro” nuance you see scattered across other cultures the rest of the year; instead, everything needs to be “super Irish”—which in America means that everything you eat, drink, or view on St. Patrick’s Day will be dyed green with food coloring. Now, not to rain on this proverbial St. Patrick’s Day parade, but the most dominant food coloring on the market, McCormick’s (aptly named), consists of five ingredients: water, Propylene Glycol, FD&C Yellow 5, FD&C Blue 1, and the preservative propylparaben. We’re not going to pretend we know what those non-H2O ingredients are, but considering none of them are recognizable as a thing you instantly want to put in your ceremonial Irish beer, we got to thinking whether there’s a way to do the whole “green” thing on St. Patrick’s Day sans vague chemicals.

Down some Raw Reserve Amazing Grass

If you’ve been following along, this isn’t the first time we’ve mentioned Raw Reserve Amazing Grass. In an earlier blog post, we suggested Raw Reserve as a good way to get in some basic nutrients if you’re the kind of person who gags at the thought of a salad. Well, as it turns, there’s another usage for the stuff that might on any other day seem weird: it turns any liquid it touches into a really intense, dark green. So, in the context of St. Patrick’s Day, unless you’re one to order a kale salad while partaking in heavy drinking (which we can all agree isn’t the smartest idea), you’re probably not going to be packing in the nutrition like you usually would. So, instead of starting your day with a pint of Chernobyl-shaded Coors, how about slamming back a glass of water and Raw Reserve? You’ll definitely feel better, and you won’t upset the ghost of great-grandfather Cormack O’Sullivan.

Lean heavily into the “green” metaphor

Another way to celebrate the spirit of St. Patrick without consuming more FD&C Yellow 5 than you would on any other Saturday afternoon, is to get a little more liberal with the word “green” in the first place. If you want to be a proactive citizen this St. Patrick’s Day, instead of wearing a green, mass-produced “Kiss me, I’m Irish” shirt, maybe you can opt for a green, upcycled, organic cotton “Kiss me, I’m Irish” shirt (you get it?) Try turning this vaguely ethnic, “green” holiday into an opportunity to support green, eco-conscious causes. Ride your bike to work instead of driving. Start a vegetable garden. Live a little more sustainably, and think about all the good you’re doing to preserve the natural beauty of our world (and the Irish coastline, of course). Now, what does this have to do with food coloring, you ask? Well, when people see you drinking “boring,” non-green beer, they’re inevitably going to try to belittle you. After all, for many, St. Patrick’s Day is largely about “out-greening” everyone else. When this happens, you can look at them and say, “Oh, you’re celebrating by dropping green food dye in your beer? That’s cute. I just donated to the Natural Resources Defense Council. Who’s the green one now?!” You win the fake competition, isolate everyone with your self-righteousness, and then get told by the bartender that you’ve had your last Irish Car Bomb for the afternoon. All in a St. Patty’s Day of work. 

Consume other kinds of green

Let’s be honest: we’re in Colorado. So, if you really want to avoid the peer pressure to drink and eat a bunch of green-dyed things, all you have to say is something like, “Trust me, I’ve already had plenty of green.” You then get a free pass to do whatever you want the rest of the afternoon because anything you say or do will be chalked up to the aforementioned “green.” You could even make a logical case for why it’s not a good idea to spend an entire day eating and drinking green dye, and no one would think you’re a party pooper; after all, you’re floating on a higher plane of green-themed consciousness—all in the name of the Irish. 

How do you plan to celebrate your/your friend's/your neighbor's/that guy's Irish heritage this St. Patrick's Day?