Most of us have had the message driven home repeatedly over the years: “People foods” are simply off-limits when it comes to our furry friends. These foods are not properly balanced. They’re somehow harmful. And, after all, dogs are carnivores at heart — so they’ll always choose meat and bones over fruits, grains, and veggies, right?
Well, first off, no single food — all by itself — should ever substitute for a diverse, balanced diet. Secondly, many of these human foods are far from harmful to our furry friends. And the question of palatability depends upon the dog. Canines are also omnivores, both in the wild and domestically. This means they’ll often eat alternate foods for taste or mere survival.
As my holistic veterinarian has reminded me more than once, current U.S.-based veterinary training doesn’t necessarily prioritize preventive pet nutrition. If you’ve ever glanced over the labels of many raw and holistic pet food brands, you may have noticed that they list a wide variety of “people friendly” ingredients — which, it turns out, are incredibly nutritious for our pups! As a general rule of thumb, human food should comprise no more than roughly 10 to 20 percent of your pet’s diet, with the remainder ideally consisting of premium packaged or homemade dog food blends that supply a complete spectrum of balanced vitamins and minerals.
That said, we’ve fed several “people foods” in our own home over the years with great success. So I thought it might be helpful to share a beneficial list of our dogs’ most tail-waggin’ menu favorites. Check ’em out:
Brown rice. This is a wholesome whole grain, and our pups practically wolf it down. We often mix a tablespoon or two into their regular meal bowl to add a bow-wow-wow factor.
Lean ground turkey. This is a mealtime staple at our house because we blend our own food following the balanced diets of Dr. Richard Pitcairn. But free-range turkey — also free of added antibiotics and growth hormones — can be a tasty treat for your furry friend, too. Try sautéing it with a spoonful of healthy coconut oil and a sprinkle of parsley.
A veritable veggie buffet. Vegetables pack some serious vitamins, plus fiber and much-loved canine crunch. Certain veggies are especially appealing to many dogs when they’re raw, grated, or finely chopped. At our house, these include organic celery, cucumber, carrot, zucchini, lettuce, and bell peppers. Our dogs also love both raw and frozen green beans, and we occasionally steam up some asparagus or cauliflower. I’d suggest avoiding avocado, which can do a number on digestion. And, of course, always start small and skip any vegetable that seems to provoke tummy troubles.
Applesauce. Whether it’s straight from a spoon or used as a food-topper, this really makes the grade with our pooches. Try freezing some in an ice-cube tray for steamy summer days.
Bananas. Not every dog seems to care for these, but our Grant could eat them all day (if we allowed it, which we don’t). They’re high in magnesium, potassium, fiber, vitamin B6, and vitamin C. Many pups also enjoy frozen banana chunks. You can also try mashing up some bananas with water and a bit of peanut butter. Drop by spoonfuls onto wax paper, freeze, and get ready to become your pup’s favorite person EVER.
Many other fruits. Avoid grapes and raisins, which can cause severe kidney damage. Also, avoid many fruit seeds, which can often pose a toxicity risk (apple seeds are one example). But, generally, blueberries, fresh chunks of cantaloupe, seedless watermelon, and seedless apple slices are healthy, safe, and full of nutrients. Again, always test first to gauge digestive reaction.
Sweet potato. Does your dog seem to have a sweet tooth? Try making sweet potato jerky at home. Just scrub and skin a sweet potato, then slice it into strips about a half-inch wide. Place these on lined cookie sheets and bake for about three hours at 250 F. For crunchier treats, keep ‘em cooking a little longer.
Rutabaga. Similar to turnips, humble rutabagas are often overlooked. But they’re available year-round in most grocery stores, and they’re full of carotenoids, potassium, and vitamin C. Try boiling and mashing a rutabaga, just as you would a regular potato. Then, add a bit of coconut oil or olive oil for extra flavor. This can make a nice, creamy meal-topper.
Cheese, please. Along with being a near-genius way of concealing pills, cheese is adored by most dogs in any form. Just a few shreds of mild cheddar, for example, create a miracle meal-topper that can convince our Maizy to chow down medicines or almost anything else. And cottage cheese? Noshing nirvana.
Eggs. Once every couple of weeks, we scramble an egg with a little bit of cheese and let our dogs dig in. It’s a great way to provide added protein.
Greens. It took our pups a bit of time to acquire a taste for spinach and kale, but now they look forward to a few frozen chunks sprinkled on their food. Greens are packed with nutrients that can help support energy production, bone and blood vessel health, strong vision, and healthy immune function.
Flaxseeds. These tiny seeds are well known for their ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) content, which helps benefit skin, coat, bone, and brain function. They’re also packed with healthy fiber, including lignans, which can help support insulin action. If that’s not enough, they’re full of the B-vitamin folate, which is critical for cell regulation. We add a spoonful of ground flaxseeds to the doggie dinner bowl on a daily basis. Remember, flax keeps best when refrigerated.
Again — any of these items can be a fantastic supplementary way to add nutrients and variety to your dog’s diet. Introducing new foods very gradually is always the best way to support healthy digestion. And if your pup struggles with weight, kidney, or other chronic health issues, it’s always smart to check with your vet before feeding anything new.
Read more by Marybeth Bittel:
About the author: Marybeth Bittel is a freelance writer who lives in the Midwest with her wonderful husband, her crazy rescue dog Grant, and her level-headed rescue dog Maizy – all of them Heinz 57 mixed breed types. Marybeth identifies as mostly Italian, so she enjoys feeding family, friends and furkids almost as much as Grant and Maizy enjoy eating. She’s also a marketing communications consultant and former marketing/PR exec. Connect with her on LinkedIn or — to see her latest pet pics (and be careful what you wish for here) — check out her family Instagram feed.