By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Green beer it’s a St. Patrick’s Day tradition for many, as all kinds of green treats will be on the menu for the day that celebrates Irish pride.

Many will be made with green dye. Artificial food coloring has been linked to cancer in animals and behavior problems in children, who have a sensitivity to the dyes, but there’s a lot of debate about the science on dyes and how much might be too much.

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Lindsay Malone, a registered dietitian, said you might want to keep your dye usage on the low this St. Patrick’s Day.

“On St. Patrick’s Day, if you have a treat that has some green food coloring in it, you’re probably not going to experience any negative health effects, but keep it to a minimum,” Malone said.

Green food dye is often found in things like breakfast cereals, cookies, cakes, and doughnuts.

Dietitians say those types of foods typically contain a lot of sugar and fat.

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A healthier St. Patrick’s Day celebration would focus more on items that are naturally green.

“Really try and focus on those foods that are naturally bright in color so that you get some vitamins and minerals,” Malone said.

Foods like kale, leafy greens, broccoli, cucumbers, and green peppers are a few healthy St. Patty’s Day choices. They’re high in vitamins, nutrients and minerals and are generally low in calories.

And there are some traditional Irish dishes that are also healthy choices.

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“Colcannon, which is a potato and kale dish, or some salmon, or a dark stout beer, all of these are really colorful foods that naturally have a lot of nutrients,” she said.

Stephanie Stahl