40+ Fresh Foods to Boost Your Pet's Health; Everything You Need To Know
When it comes to your pets, you want them to be happy and healthy. Adding fresh foods to their diet can help them achieve this goal.
You might think that all pets need is food and treats but there are plenty of tasty toppers out there that will provide a little variety in their diet while adding some important vitamins and minerals! Not only that, but they can also help reduce the risk of certain diseases in dogs and cats.
Why add extra fruits and veggies to your pet's diet?
One of the best ways to ensure that your pet is getting all the nutrients they need is to feed them a diet that includes fresh fruits and vegetables. Not only are these foods packed with vitamins and minerals, but they also contain fibre, which is essential for good digestive health.
Fruits and vegetables provide vitamins A, C, and E, folate, calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, manganese, and boron. These nutrients help maintain strong immune systems by fighting off infection-causing bacteria before they can take hold in your pet's body.
Just like the food we eat, over-processing fruits and veggies can cause them to lose nutrients. Adding them fresh to meals will increase these nutrients and have them readily available for absorption.
You can feed your pet fruits and vegetables as part of their regular diet or as a healthy treat. There are a wide variety of fruits and vegetables that you can feed your pet, but some are better than others. For example, dark leafy greens like spinach and kale are packed with nutrients like iron, calcium, and vitamins A, C, and K.
Other great options include carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, apples, and berries. Let's take a look at some of the most popular options.
Fruits digest at a different rate, using different enzymes, than vegetables and meat.
The rule of thumb is to feed fruit at least one hour before feeding meat or other proteins, and a minimum of three hours after a protein meal. This is because fruit digestion on its own is fast. When you feed fruit with protein, it sits in the stomach much longer, which may lead to undesirable fermentation and the production of a small amount of alcohol.
They are a great treat for training (berries especially!) if you don't have any packaged ones on hand.
Figs are high in fibre, potassium, antioxidants, and vitamins A, C, and K. They're also a good source of calcium and iron. The seeds contain zinc and magnesium which help to balance blood sugar levels.
Figs are great for dogs because they contain natural sugars that can help fight inflammation in their joints as well as boost their immune system. Plus, figs have antioxidants called polyphenols which help protect the body from free radical damage that could lead to cancerous cells developing on organs such as the heart or lungs (source).
Apples, Pears and Plums
Apples, pears, and plums are good for both dogs and cats. They're high in fibre and low in sugar, which is great for digestion and teeth cleaning. Apples contain antioxidants and vitamin C; pears have polyphenols (which help reduce inflammation); plums have ellagic acid (a powerful antioxidant).
Apples and pears should be removed from their cores before feeding them to pets because the seeds contain cyanide compounds that can be harmful if ingested by dogs or cats. As well, remove the pit from the plum before serving.
Berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries)
Berries (strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries) are a great source of vitamins A and C. They also contain antioxidants that help to boost the immune system.
Berries can be served fresh or frozen in small amounts as a treat once or twice per week.
Ripe berries should be firm, but not hard. If they're too soft, they may have mould growing on them, so look carefully before buying! You'll want to store your fresh berries in the refrigerator until ready for use or freeze them if you'd like to keep them longer than one week (you'll need 1/4 cup per 10 pounds body weight per day).
Bananas are a healthy and nutritious snack for dogs. They are high in potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin C, magnesium, and biotin, and low in cholesterol.
They are soluble fibre and can act as a prebiotic to help promote healthy gut bacteria.
Bananas are also low in sugar and packed with energy, which makes them a safe and healthy treat for dogs.
Papaya and Pineapple
Papaya and pineapple are healthy fruits for dogs because they contain enzymes that can help break down proteins, aiding in better digestion.
Specifically, they help bloating, gas, and indigestion.
Papaya is also high in fibre, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which can help boost the immune system and maintain overall health in dogs.
Make sure your remove the papaya seeds!
Cranberries are a great source of dietary fibre, vitamins, and minerals that can help support a healthy digestive and immune system.
Cranberries are known for their anti-inflammatory properties which can help to reduce bacteria in the urinary tract and improve overall urinary health in cats and dogs.
On more alkalizing diets (AKA plant-based), they can help acidify urine and prevent the formation of crystals in the urinary tract. Cranimals' dehydrated cranberry powder, is a great product to have on hand.
Yes, dogs can eat watermelon in moderation. While watermelon is generally considered safe for dogs, it should not replace a balanced diet. For instance, a cold treat on a hot day.
Dogs should only consume the watermelon flesh, not the rind, and the seeds should be removed, as they can cause digestive upset.
Colourful veggies are the best superfoods. They can be served raw, baked, steamed, or pureed to increase digestion and palatability.
TIP: Switch that raw bone or animal ear out for a piece of organic veg. Many dogs will happily chew on broccoli stalks or corn cobs!
Pumpkin and Squash
Pumpkin and squash are a great source of fibre, and can be used in a variety of ways. They're also chock-full of vitamins A and C, which help support your dog's immune system.
Pumpkin is high in beta-carotene--an antioxidant that helps prevent cancer and heart disease by fighting free radicals in the body. It also contains potassium, magnesium, and zinc--all essential minerals for optimal health!
To prepare pumpkin and squash: cut, remove the seeds (clean save to roast as a crunchy treat for yourself!), and roast in the oven low and slow, to retain the most nutrients, until the squash scoops away from the rind. You can also serve some of the rind for a fibre boost! Organic, canned pumpkin will work in a pinch.
Carrots and Carrot Greens
Carrots and yams are a good source of beta-carotene, an antioxidant that helps maintain a healthy immune system and has been shown to help prevent cancer. Carrot greens also have high levels of vitamin A, which is essential for healthy eyesight and growth.
However, carrots are also high in sugar so, they should only be fed in small amounts (one or two pieces per day) to minimize any potential negative effects on your pet's teeth or weight gain.
Kale, Spinach, and Bok Choy
Kale contains over 50 phytonutrients, including kaempferol and quercetin. Kaempferol is an antioxidant that can protect the body from cancer-causing free radicals, and quercetin is an antioxidant flavonoid that can protect the body from free radicals. Spinach and bok choy are great green options as well.
To prepare, lightly steam or pour boiling water over them while raw to soften and allow the nutrients to prepare for absorption.
Celery is a great addition to your pet's diet. It's high in vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate, which are all important for your pet's health. Celery also contains fibre and potassium, which help support a healthy digestive system. And it contains manganese as well as vitamins B6 and omega-3 fatty acids--nutrients that play an important role in developing tissues throughout the body (including bones). Finally, celery contains antioxidants that may help protect against cell damage caused by free radicals.
Simply chop into bite-sized pieces and serve.
It's a good idea to keep cucumber on hand for your pet, as it provides many vitamins and minerals. It's a good source of vitamin K, which helps keep their bones strong. It also contains potassium, which helps with digestion and can help prevent urinary tract infections in cats.
In addition to its nutritional benefits, cucumber is great at cooling down pets that are overheating--just slice up some cucumbers and serve them as treats!
Green Beans, Zucchini, Broccoli, and Cauliflower
Green beans, zucchini, broccoli, and cauliflower are good sources of vitamins A and C. They are also high in fibre which helps your pet maintain a healthy digestive system.
Green beans are a great source of iron, calcium, and magnesium; all essential nutrients for dogs!
Broccoli and cauliflower are packed with vitamin C that helps promote tissue growth as well as fight off infection-causing bacteria.
Zucchini is low in calories and fat, making it a great snack option for weight-conscious pets.
To prepare, lightly steam or chop into small pieces and serve raw.
Beets are packed with vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, iron, and manganese. Beets also contain antioxidants, which can help protect against cell damage and aging, and promote healthy skin, coat, and immune system.
Additionally, beets are high in dietary fibre, which can help aid in digestion, as well as help reduce weight in overweight cats and dogs.
Peel and chop into bite-size pieces and steam, or grate and serve raw!
Asparagus is an excellent source of vitamins A and K, folate, calcium, and other essential minerals. The high fibre content within asparagus helps aid digestion and provides essential antioxidants.
Asparagus also contains low amounts of cholesterol and fat, which can be beneficial for pets who are overweight.
Mushrooms contain protein, fibre, B vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, and other compounds that can help support a healthy immune system, as well as aid digestion.
Legumes are rich in protein, magnesium, potassium, copper, and vitamin B6. Besides tofu and chickpeas (garbanzo beans), the rest are low in fat, so be sure to pair with a healthy fat source such as coconut oil, or an Omega3.
Sprouted legumes will yield higher nutrient values.
Tofu and Tempeh
Organic, non-GMO varieties of tofu and tempeh are the easiest to digest. The firmest types have the highest protein, yet all are comparable to meat and easy to use.
Cats do well on a diet of tofu (plus some natural flavours, such as nutritional yeast and seaweed, and a vitamin supplement) because their systems are attuned to a diet that's 1/2 protein and 1/2 fat.
Lentils and split peas are the legumes highest in protein, after soy beans. They are easily digested and best served well mashed.
Black, red, white, black eyed, garbanzo, and pinto beans are all nutrient dense and a great option for dogs.
Garbanzo beans can be bought green, before they ripen, in the freezer section. In this state, they are much higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates.
Mash well to improve digestion and add digestive enzymes until the microflora adapt. Freeze in glass jars and thaw as needed.
These beneficial herbs can be used in small amounts.
Parsley, oregano, thyme, rosemary, ginger root, garlic, turmeric root, peppermint, and dill are all herbs that can be used in small amounts to add flavour to your pet's food. However, you should avoid using salt or sugar as well as too much of these herbs.
- Parsley contains powerful antioxidants which help fight free radicals in the body while promoting good health overall.
- Oregano has been used since ancient times as a natural antibiotic against fungal infections. In addition to this, there are many others including reducing bad breath by killing off bacteria responsible for causing halitosis; boosting immune function through its antioxidant properties found within carvacrol content, which prevents cell death caused by oxidative damage from free radicals inside cells. Oregano is also a powerful anti-inflammatory agent, thanks to its high levels of rosmarinic acid content, that helps reduce pain and swelling caused by arthritis and other inflammatory conditions such as gout, tendonitis, and bursitis.
- Turmeric is a great source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.
- Ginger is known to be helpful in relieving nausea and vomiting.
- Garlic has been used for decades to eliminate worms, strengthen digestion, and stimulate the intestinal tract. It can also help relieve hip pain from arthritis or dysplasia. Serve fresh, grated garlic with each meal, using 1/2 to 3 cloves depending on the dog's size. Cats can be given 1/4 clove per day.
- Rosemary can help improve circulation and boost the immune system.
- Peppermint can help relieve stomach discomfort and improve digestion.
Add nuts and seeds to complete a pet's diet.
Nuts and seeds are a good source of protein, fat, and minerals. They are high in calories so it is important to only give your pet small amounts at a time.
Some of the best nuts and seeds for pets include almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds. These nuts and seeds are all packed with nutrients that are essential for your pet's health.
- Almonds are a good source of protein, healthy fats, vitamins E, and B2, copper, manganese, and magnesium.
- Pumpkin seeds are a good source of protein, healthy fats, iron, zinc, magnesium, and copper.
- Sunflower seeds are a good source of protein, healthy fats, vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorus, selenium, and copper.
Almonds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds will be best absorbed if they are sprouted. Simply soak them in water overnight and lightly chop them in the morning before dishing up your pet's food.
- Flaxseeds are a good source of fibre, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, potassium, and vitamins A, C, E, K, B1, and B6. They will need to be fresh ground or stable milled to ensure bioavailability.
- Hemp hearts, seeds, and oil are rich in omega 3 and 6, linolenic acid, and vitamins A, D, E, and B's.
- Chia seeds and hemp hearts are also a good source of fibre.
You can also serve nuts and seeds in their butter form! Peanut, almond, sesame seeds (tahini), cashew, or sunflower seed butters are fabulous forms of healthy, concentrated fats and fibre. Bonus points if they're sprouted.
Never give macadamias or walnuts, they are poisonous to pets. If you think your pet has eaten either of these, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Speaking of dangerous for your pet...
Stay away from these foods with your pets.
No salt, sugar, or processed foods. This includes any processed milk or cheese products and treats that have been made in a factory and packaged for sale in stores. It's best to avoid anything with artificial colours, flavours, and preservatives as well.
No iceberg lettuce (it can cause an upset stomach). Romaine and other leafy greens are fine for dogs but cats should only get one teaspoon of greens per day because they're sensitive to oxalates, which can lead to urinary tract issues if eaten regularly. The same goes for citrus fruits like lemons/limes because their acids may irritate their stomachs.
This blog post discusses dangerous foods as well as food additives that can be fatal.
Cooked bones are a common ingredient in many pet foods. The idea behind cooked bones is that they're more digestible than raw ones, but this isn't always true--cooked bones can be more dangerous for your dog or cat if not prepared properly.
Cooked bones can splinter easily and cause blockages in your pet's digestive tract when they get stuck in the throat or esophagus (the tube that connects your mouth to your stomach). If you've ever seen someone try to swallow a piece of chicken bone at Thanksgiving dinner, then you know how painful this can be!
Cooked bones can also cause choking and respiratory problems if they enter your pet's lungs. If you're worried about your dog or cat getting the right nutrition from their food, look for a product that contains raw bones instead of cooked--you'll know it's safe to feed them to your pets.
Cooked foods are dangerous for your pet. They can cause pancreatitis, diarrhea, anemia, malnutrition, and cancer. Cooking destroys most vitamins/minerals which makes them less available for absorption into our bodies.
Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas caused by high fat levels in the blood. This can happen when your dog eats too many fatty foods such as bacon or sausage.
Diarrhea occurs when bacteria in the intestine are killed off by cooking processes that use high heat but not necessarily when food has been baked at lower temperatures for longer periods.
Anemia is a condition where there isn't enough red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body--and this means they need iron!
Here are some tips to help you add fresh food to your pet's diet:
1. Start slowly and increase the amount of fresh food gradually. This will give your pet time to adjust to the new diet and help them avoid digestive issues.
2. Make sure that the fresh food you are feeding your pet is free of toxins and chemicals. Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly before feeding them to your pet.
3. Feed your pet a variety of different foods to guarantee they are getting all the nutrients they need. Include a mix of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and herbs in their diet.
4. Store fresh food properly to keep it from going bad: in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight.
The best way to get your pet the nutrients they need is by adding fresh foods to their diet. By doing this, you can increase the amount of vitamins and minerals that they receive from food sources. However, if the portion of fresh food exceeds 20% of the overall diet long term, then the fresh food portion will need to be nutritionally balanced or serve a vitamin supplement to guarantee a complete nutrient profile.
If this all sounds like too much to track for every meal-time, PureForm makes it easy to serve vitamins and minerals in a powdered food topper. Try PureForm Essentials (or Development for puppies) today to give their food a boost and ensure they get all they need — without you having to do the math.
Until next time, Happy Supplementing!