‘Clean eating’ is all the rage in online wellness communities. For humans, it involves eating whole, real foods that have been minimally processed. But can clean eating work for dogs?
Of course, dogs aren’t people. They have distinct nutritional needs, and they’re not self-conscious about their weight! That’s where pet parents step in. We know a healthy, balanced diet is a big part of our dogs’ quality of life.
Defining ‘clean eating’ for dogs
When it comes to clean eating for dogs, stick to the original definition of the term: whole, real, identifiable foods. In other words, no junk!
These general healthy dog food guidelines fit the bill:
- Single-source, recognizable proteins
- Good fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Humanely raised or grown
- No fillers; i.e., no corn or other nutritionally-insignificant fillers that bulk up food
- Necessary nutrients like Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Glucosamine
Now, you could look into making your own dog food at home. And in fact, one way to introduce clean eating into your dog’s diet is by supplementing their diet with whole foods. But luckily, these days, you can find a great, high-quality prepared dog food in stores and online. Just be sure to look past the marketing hype and read the labels (more on that in a minute.)
We’ve been impressed by Boulder, Colorado-based “I and love and you”, which makes grain-free, filler-free foods approved by a holistic veterinarian. Read on for more about clean eating for your dog, and why this food fits the bill.
Processed vs. minimally-processed
Clean eating proponents often say “no processed foods.” The truth is, most food is processed in some way, including dog foods. Processing can mean everything from heating up to molding into shapes. Most of the food your dog eats has been manipulated from its original, whole ingredient form.
With that in mind, we prefer the term “minimally-processed.” Minimally processed foods are those that may have been changed in some way but don’t have a ton of additives like artificial sweeteners, non-natural preservatives, artificial colors, or filler added for bulk. In other words, the food you feed your dog should be recognizable as food!
Understanding dog food ingredients
A great dog food all comes down to the ingredients. In general, the healthiest food for dogs is high in protein, lower in carbs, and contains a moderate amount of fat. AAFCO, or the American Association of Feed Control Officials, regulates the ingredients that are included in commercial dog foods for various life stages. You’ll want to be sure any food you’re giving your dog meets the nutritional standards established by AAFCO, which you can find on the label.
Beyond the right proportion of nutrients, a great dog food is free of junk or fillers and starts with a whole protein source. “I and love you” offers a comprehensive, easily searchable Ingredients Glossary to help you what you’re giving your dog, and why every single component is there for a reason.
Whole foods for dogs
“The single biggest thing you can do to keep your dog happy and healthy is to provide them with optimal nutrition.”
According to pet nutrition expert Dr. Gary Richter, DVM, author of the Ultimate Pet Health Guide and member of Rover’s Dog People Panel, “the single biggest thing you can do to keep your dog happy and healthy is to provide them with optimal nutrition.”
Whole foods are what they sound like: unprocessed and unaltered. That doesn’t necessarily mean un-cooked; in fact, cooking some ingredients makes them easier for dogs to digest. Dr. Richter adds, “veggies, fruits, and real meat are best for your dog. The first step with pet foods is to keep the ingredients natural. No artificial ingredients/ preservatives should ever be used.”
In addition to choosing prepared dog foods that feature real, recognizable ingredients, you can also supplement your dog’s meal with whole, unprocessed foods. These may be added to their breakfast, given between meals, or snuck from your own snack plate as a treat.
In general, fresh vegetables and fruits are the “cleanest” whole food treats for dogs. They’re low in calories and contain important nutrients and fiber. Be sure to avoid onions, grapes, macadamia nuts, and other dangerous foods for dogs.
Clean eating treats for dogs
Some whole foods dogs can eat include:
- Sweet potato
You can also supplement their diet with healthy oils, such as fish oil. In fact, it’s already added to certain healthy dog foods, including “I and love and you”, for its brain-boosting and coat-strengthening qualities.
Sometimes the junk is downright scary
It’s not just about digestion: avoiding weird fillers can be lifesaving. Pentobarbital, for instance, is a euthanasia drug that causes respiratory arrest, and it’s shown up lately in some sub-standard pet foods that source ingredients from meat rendering facilities with poor quality control. In fact, many of these brands are now being recalled due to its presence in their foods.
Fortunately, other brands are doubling down on quality to avoid this risk. “I and love and you” is committed to being 100% pentobarbital-free and chooses to use no animal byproducts, due to the varying quality of these ingredients. You can read more about this commitment at their website.
Clean eating for dogs is less about following strict clean eating guidelines, and more about choosing appropriate, healthy foods for our four-legged friends. Skipping the junk food is all about love—it helps ensure that your dog has a longer, happier, more playful life by your side. And there’s nothing better than that.
About “I and love and you”
The best love is the best food, and the best food should be available to ALL pets. We know that incredible bond between human and pet. It’s why we’re called “I and love and you”.
We are pet parents too – the type who bring their pets to work. We started in a small pet store in Boulder, Colorado, creating raw food for pets before healthy pet food was a thing. We’re still small and employee-owned, but our passion has grown into a mission: to help all pets live happier, healthier lives. Yeah, we’re borderline obsessed; just living up to our name.