This season you can feel a little less guilty dropping crumbs off the table with our list of 10 holiday superfoods that will love your pets back.
Cranberries, carrots, and sweet potatoes… oh my!
With so many flavors and aromas floating around, this time of year may leave us feeling overindulgent, but that’s okay! Thanksgiving just wouldn’t be the same if you had to miss out on all you can eat dinner rolls and pumpkin pie. But as adorning pet parents, we naturally want to share some flavorful love with our four-legged family members.
But are all table scrapes created equal? What’s the healthiest way to overindulge your pet?
Turns out some of our classic holiday dishes are rich in superfoods, benefiting you and your dog.
What are Superfoods and Functional Ingredients?
Functional Ingredients are natural ingredients that have health-promoting or energy-boosting benefits. Functional ingredients are things that aren’t strictly necessary for a recipe. Instead, they are added specifically for their health benefits.
For example, dandelion greens provide many vitamins and minerals and are high in protein (double what spinach provides). It is a mild liver and digestive stimulant which helps with waste elimination and optimal digestion. Healthy digestion of food and absorption of nutrients are vital to maintaining your dog’s wellness.
1. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet Potatoes are a fan-favorite superfood aiding in digestive health and nutrient dense in dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and magnesium. In moderation, sweet potatoes are safe for dogs and can provide them with a range of health benefits. If you do feed your dog a sweet potato, make sure it’s cooked and the skin is removed for easy digestion.
Broccoli is an amazing superfood! In addition to anti-cancer benefits, broccoli has the power to provide a natural source of antioxidants, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, fiber, and beta-carotene.
What is beta-carotene?
According to Dr. Jason Niclas (Dr. J), Chief Medical Officer at Preventive Vet, “Beta-carotene can improve immune function in dogs, especially as they age. It is the building block from which dogs make vitamin A, so in that regard, it has many functions in vision, skin and coat health, and bone development. Beta-carotene is also used in the treatment of certain skin conditions of dogs related to sun overexposure and damage. Dogs can eat both cooked and raw broccoli, as long as there are no seasonings or oils added. Broccoli is also recognized as one of the best vegetables for eye health.
Did you know pumpkins hold many nutritional benefits for your dog? Like sweet potatoes, pumpkin is another superfood full of beta-carotene and fiber. This supports healthy digestion in your pet and helps to relieve upset stomach, constipation, and diarrhea. When giving your dog pumpkin- cooked or raw- make sure to avoid sugar, cinnamon and other spices that may be harmful to your pup.
Kale is an excellent source of lutein and zeaxanthin. A quote in Animal Wellness Magazine by The American Optometric Association claims these special antioxidants act like “internal sunglasses,” aiding in eye health, just like broccoli.
That said, vegetables like kale and broccoli have similar levels of Isothiocyanates, a breakdown of sulfur-containing compounds that can cause severe gastric irritation. Pet parents should only treat their friend to a few bites.
5. Green Beans
Green beans are an excellent source of plant fiber, vitamin K, vitamin C, and manganese. Your dog can enjoy green beans this holiday season and year-round in many different forms including chopped, steamed, raw, or canned, as long as they are plain.
Treat Size Warning: Make sure whole green beans are not too large and are safely chewed and swallowed by your dog. If the green beans are too large, they could pose a choking hazard.
There’s nothing quite like warm apple pie this time of year. Apples are a low-fat superfood that naturally clean your dog’s teeth. But that’s not all! Apples are a powerful source of antioxidants, including polyphenols, flavonoids, and vitamin C. They’re also full of fiber and potassium. However, do not feed your dog apple seeds or stems— they contain cyanogenic glycosides which can upset your pet’s stomach.
Whether eaten as a garnish, snack, or baked in a pie, you can count on blueberries to show up to the party. Blueberries can be a great treat for your dog whether fresh or frozen. Their famous deep blue color comes from anthocyanidins, which are potent antioxidants. The berries also contain vitamin C, vitamin E, manganese and fiber. To properly serve blueberries to your puppy, simply rinse and serve whole or mash them up for your pup to enjoy in a dish.
8. Mashed Potatoes
Mashed potatoes are not harmful to dogs as long as you avoid any harmful additives like cheese, spices, and additional seasonings. Potatoes are rich in vitamin C, vitamin B6, iron, and magnesium which support your dog’s immune system, nervous system, nutrient absorption, and more. However, if your dog has diabetes, potatoes may cause a spike in blood sugar and are not recommended.
Carrots are a superfood you can always count on to be around during the holidays. They’re also a healthy, low maintenance treat for dogs. Carrots are low in calories and high in fiber and vitamins. And because they’re so crunchy, the mechanical action of chewing on carrots helps gently scrape plaque off your dog’s teeth.
“As for how much is OK to feed, the 10% rule-of-thumb applies. Carrots, though healthier than many other dog treats, would still be considered supplemental to a dog’s balanced, regular diet,” Dr. J of Preventive Health said. “So, all treats, carrots included, should ideally make up less than about 10% of a dog’s daily caloric intake.”
But should carrots be raw or cooked?
“Whether to feed them raw or cooked (steamed… not slathered or sautéed in butter or oil!) is a matter of the dog’s personal preference. Though dogs with fewer teeth or that can’t be trusted to properly chew a raw carrot (and thus have a choking risk) should likely only be given cooked carrots,” Dr.J said. “Either way, it’s likely best to at least wash the carrots before giving them to your dog to remove any residual dirt, bacterial or other microorganisms.”
When it’s time for humans to celebrate the holidays you’ll probably find a roasted turkey in the center of the table. Turkey is a key ingredient in many dog food diets, and the protein in turkey alone makes it naturally beneficial. Turkey contains lean, white meat, and can help dogs build muscle. It is also highly digestible!
If you want to feed your dog human turkey this season, there are a few things you should do to ensure the safety of your pet:
- Skip the skin. Too much fat and seasoning is dangerous for dogs.
- Any excess fat and/or skin should be removed from the leftover, cooked turkey.
- Pet parents should make sure the turkey does not have any bones, as they tend to splinter.
- Make sure you only feed your dog turkey meat, none of the fixings.
- Feed your dog only small quantities of turkey and talk to your vet about adding food scraps into your dog’s diet beforehand.
- Make sure there are no bones in the meat you feed your dog.
Not ready to introduce your dog to human food yet? We understand! You can still treat your dog to a tasty turkey snack with our Turkey Protein Puffs. Flavorful treats packed with protein and essential amino acids, your dog won’t feel left out of the dinner party.
At Redbarn, we know Thanksgiving is a day for fun, friends, and family. If you want to include your dog in the food extravaganza, just make sure you’re doing it right! Only give your dog scraps after getting your veterinarian’s OK.
Let us know: What’s your favorite holiday treat to share with your dog and why?
Want to learn more about Redbarn?
Subscribe to learn the Redbarn story and get our latest content by email.