Monday, December 30, 2013

Clean Eating... For Dogs

Because I've been getting so many emails and questions, I wanted to take a post to address, specifically, Sadie's nutrition. Ya'll know I eat clean, that I help YOU eat clean ;-) and believe 100% in the power of nutrition - for weight loss (and maintenance), as well as for health and wellness. I'm a certified nutritionist, certified nutritionist for Elite Athletes, an Eat Clean Diet Ambassador, and am proudly sponsored by Champion Performance. It all adds up to whole, clean, healthy food.

If you've been around awhile, you remember our sweet Nakki. When we learned she had cancer, we made changes in her diet - I started reading her food and treat labels. Then when it progressed to her inability to swallow her own kibble, I switched her over to a fresh dog food. The fact that she thrived through her struggle for many months I credit in part to the food switch. And I beat myself up, after her death, for not considering clean eating for her. It was just one of those things... you feed a dog dog-food. But like human food, dog food isn't what it used to be. Additives, artificial ingredients, sub-par ingredients... and don't get me started. lol.

So then came Sadie.

When I saw the photos of her at my sister's house I was horrified at her malnourished, starved state. When we picked her up, and she looked like this (see right), I wept, but I knew... I KNEW... she needed me. Me with all my nutritional craziness ;-). And I knew I'd cook for her. Regular dog food wasn't going to cut it. I thought of Nakki and how she lasted longer than she was "supposed" to after we switched her food, and I knew I was going to do everything in my power to give this beautiful, sweet Mastiff every chance at health that was possible.

And so I cook.
For Sadie.

And yes... I take much guff over it ;-) But all I have to do is look at her and I know that I'm doing the right thing. She's thriving.

The questions I'm receiving from so many, boil down to basically two...
A) what am I feeding her, and
B) how do I know what to feed her.

I'll start with B.  For the most part, my food choices for Sadie are instinctive and based on research, much like my cooking for my family. I know what's healthy and figure out how to incorporate it. For instance, in my home, both my daughter and I have serious inflammatory issues, so our foods are high in antioxidants, healthy capsaicin, turmeric, coconut oil, etc., and low in nasty inflammation causing fats and substances. Another example... when I'm in a 'build' phase with my physique, I increase my casein protein (greek yogurt, cottage cheese, etc), and high iron foods (hellooooo spinach!). So I look at Sadie, an English Mastiff, a breed prone to inflammatory disease, and she needs to build muscle. So I feed her the same foods I give my family, myself.

However... there are some exceptions. There are foods that are powerhouses of nutrition for humans which do not have the same effect on canines - and in fact are toxic. I do a ton of research so that I can offer Sadie the best, and safest, nutrition. What I've learned (and continue to learn) is that while there are some hard fast rules, there are a lot of foods that the jury is still out on.

The hard and fast (at this date) are: No onions, no chocolate, no grapes or raisins, no xylitol.
The jury is out on... tomatoes, garlic, mushrooms (brown mushrooms such as porcini, crimini, portabella, white button, and oyster, reishi, maitake, and shiitake; no wild mushrooms), avocado (flesh only), and grains - particularly wheat.

Just like with humans, dogs have food sensitivities and allergies. Some dogs adore tomatoes, picking them straight off the vine and gobbling them down, while others get digestive distress. Same with avocado. The keys are to know your breed and any food restrictions specific to it, and to test foods on your pet the same as you would yourself - take notes, be watchful, and test new foods in small amounts. And, as always, research.

Which leads me to...

A.  What do I feed her? I break her food down into macros, just like my own, just like my clients. Protein, Veggie/Fruit Carbs, Starchy Carbs, and Fats. Here's what's working for her (us):
Protein: ground chicken or ground turkey mixed with ground (lean) beef or chopped steak (stew meat). In addition, I'll periodically add in plain greek yogurt, 2% cottage cheese and egg whites. She also loves shrimp.
Veggie/Fruit Carbs: Standards include spinach, zucchini, carrot, red/yellow/orange peppers, celery, green beans, peas, apples. I've also given her broccoli and cauliflower, but that has to be in MODERATION as the butt-burps are stupendous. Lol.
Starchy Carbs: Standards are oatmeal and banana. In addition, I'll sub in or adjust to include: sweet potato, red potato, white potato, brown rice, quinoa, black beans, and beets (which are like crack-candy to her!).
Fats: Standard is whole eggs (complete protein and healthy fats). In addition, I'll add in small amounts: coconut oil/butter, cheese, avocado (flesh
only), and fresh peanut butter.
Extras: Depending on how she's doing (hello, flatulence), I add in the following as needed: ground flax seed, apple cider vinegar, chia seed. Oh, and I discovered last night that she loves raw almonds. She actually chews them, individually. LOL! She also adores it when I add chicken or beef livers.

From those options, I build her meals. I cook hers daily, right now, and that'll change once I get into my "real" kitchen - hehehe. I've already packed up most of my house, so it's actually easier to cook for her daily - sort of easier. Once we move in to the new place, I'm anxious to switch that out to my weekly food prep (hello, timesaver!). I just don't have the room to do more than a batch at a time right now.  Each feeding, she receives between 2 and 3 cups of 'casserole', and her feedings are about 3-4 hours apart.

You know what response I hear the most about her food? "That dog eats better than I do."
You know what I think about that? Yeah, I bet you know me well enough to guess ;-)
"So EAT BETTER". Duh. Lol. Actually, around here, they've started sneaking Sadie's food into their own bowls. Ha! Good thing I warn them when I add in chicken or beef livers!

Seriously though... I'm not saying you have to, or should, prep your pet's food. It's definitely not for everyone (and again - I can't wait to be able to save time by incorporating it into my weekly food prep!). All I'm doing is sharing what I'm doing, why, and how it's working out. For us, it's the right choice. For anyone else for whom it's also the right choice, you can expect to see more canine recipes here on the blog, and... I'll be launching a new recipes section soon, just for 'Fido'. ;-) And for all of you Paleo folk... I'm doing quite a bit of research on the raw canine diet ;-).  We'll see where it goes.

Additionally, there are several options available nowadays if you want to provide fresh, whole food for your pet without taking the time to cook it yourself. FYI, those same options are also available for humans, see recommendations below.

Fresh Pet Food: 
FreshPet -  (this is the brand we gave Nakki)
The Honest Kitchen -
Farm Fresh Pet -

Fresh Pre-Made Human Food:
My Fit Foods -
Midwestern Meats Fitness - -

I hope this post helps answer the questions, and as always - I'm right here so if you have more questions or want clarification on something - just let me know! ;-)


  1. Great article! Thank you for sharing your research, specifically. I want to get my pup on a clean diet too.

    1. Hi Rachel! It's easier than you might think! And it's pretty darn fun, too ;-)

  2. Great info. I am a lover of English Mastiffs, and am so glad you guys rescued her. She looks beautiful and healthy. Keep doing what you do.

  3. I can see that Sadie is eating well and very happy with his diet. I also undergone that situation where my two french bulldogs went very ill and very weak while I was feeding them commercialized dog food. I was so worried because they don't even want to eat their dog food. Then a friend of mine advised me to cook food for them. So I tried and I chose good quality ingredients like meat and vegetables. When I gave it to them, I was surprised that they ate their full and wanted for more. Since then I developed different recipes that will give them a balanced diet. I can see that they liked their food because they always look forward to it. I also have ingredients that are the same with what you have and they kept my dog in shape and strong.

    1. Hi Gary! It's so incredibly rewarding, isn't it? I'd love to see some of your recipes, if you don't mind sharing!

  4. The truth is that I really enjoyed this post. What a thought of yours! Thanks Chelle

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