Those of you who follow the plant paradox lifestyle know that processed foods are not good for us. So why should this be different for our pets? I was sadly reminded the other day by GreenMedInfo that over six million dogs and six million cats are diagnosed with cancer every year, and pet food might be one of the causes. And millions die as a devastating result.
I invited my friend, health coach, and animal lover Cristina Wunderlich to share a guide for the pet owners on how she easily prepares homemade, nutritious, lectin-free dog food for her furry best friend, Rocky.
Heavily processed foods are not good for humans and not good for animals. And store-bought pet food contains so many ingredients that are not natural for dog’s diets, such as grains (especially dry dog food). Cristina will not only share one of the homemade dog food recipe she makes for Rocky but also valuable information about dog diets in general.
Feed your dog real food
After reading the book “Cats would buy mice” by Hans-Ulrich Grimm (unfortunately not translated into English), Cristina says that the best way to go for her dog’s diet is to give him real and natural food. And since she is a plant paradox enthusiast and lectin-free foodie, she makes Rocky’s food as lectin-free as possible or lectin-light. Before we go to the dog food recipe and meal prep, find below some of Cristina’s best advice for feeding your dog.
I’m very grateful to Cristina for her friendship, support, and always generously sharing everything she knows. Cristina is a Holistic Health and Wellness Coach specializing in gut health based in Los Angeles. Find more about her program on her website: cristinawunderlich.com or follow her daily adventures on her Instagram: @IDecidedToBeHealthy
The first step – ask your dog’s vet for an allergy test
Before you embark on the home cooking adventure, you should talk to your dog’s vet to clarify what they are allowed to eat and discuss the possibility of taking an allergy test. I took one for my dog – you can also buy them online – and it revealed that Rocky is allergic to salmon and a lesser degree, to carrots, so I make sure these are not part of his diet.
If you discover any food allergies or intolerance, you cook without these foods. Because that is exactly where the significant advantage of cooking yourself lies: you know exactly what ingredients are in it. You also know your furry friend best and can prepare delicious meals according to their taste and nutritional requirements.
What foods can dogs not eat?
These food are generally considered not safe for dogs, so make sure they are not part of their diet:
- Avocado, eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes (cooked potatoes are fine)
- Legumes (beans, peas, etc.)
- Grapes, raisins
- Leeks, onions, garlic
- Paprika and paprika spices, mushrooms, pepper, chili
- Raw pork (cooked is fine)
- Sugar, sweets, chocolate, cacao, coffee, alcohol
What does a dog need in the food
Dogs are omnivores and should be served meat and fish regularly. Besides pork, animal protein can also be fed raw, and poultry is particularly suitable for dogs’ diets. It is widely recognized that a raw dog food diet with quality protein is the best food you can give your dog. However, it’s also clear that a raw diet, especially if you have more dogs or big dogs, it can get costly, and not everyone can afford that. Even if you can’t afford an all raw diet, serving a few tablespoons of raw meat now and then will still benefit your dog.
Can your dog tolerate a few extra calories? Minced meat and offal, like the heart, are high in calories and fat. Picky four-legged friends also accept delicacies such as rumen, game, liver, and lungs. Offal such as liver or kidneys are rich in vitamins and trace elements but should not be served as a main meal more than once a week. Sheep’s meat is particularly easy to digest and suitable for dogs with allergies. Don’t give the dog cooked bones.
Does your dog love fish? Very good, it is rich in phosphorus, iodine, and valuable essential fatty acids. It is best to serve boneless fish fillets so that nothing gets stuck in your dog’s throat.
Eggs contain many essential vitamins and minerals and ensure a shiny coat, but they can cause digestive disorders in larger quantities. One to two eggs a week are good enough. TIP: Keep the eggshells, bake them a few minutes in the oven to eliminate salmonella, grind them and add them to the food now and then. They are a high source of calcium and make sure the eggshells are not treated with anything.
You can add a food topper to your homemade lectin-free dog food for a little extra nutrition and clean protein. Try Vital Boost by GundryMD. It is an excellent lectin-free, nutrition-packed food topper.
Most dogs are lactose intolerant but love cheese, yogurt, and aged or fermented dairy products (the fermentation process makes them lower in lactose, so they are easier to tolerate). If you choose to feed your dog dairy, make sure that you only feed them cottage cheese, yogurt, and mature cheeses such as Cheddar, Gouda, or mountain cheese and only as small treats. These dairy products provide calcium and have a positive effect on bowel function. I don’t personally feed my dog any dairy besides some cottage cheese now and then.
Vegetables and oils
Vegetables are just as healthy food for dogs as for you, and oils are essential for nutrient absorption. Sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, celery, parsnips, and types of cabbage such as kale, savoy and Nappa cabbage, Brussels sprouts or chard, fennel, and beetroot – all taste delicious and are great to add to your dog’s meals.
You must puree the vegetable side dish or cook it well because your four-legged friend cannot split plant cell walls on their own – they have to be broken down mechanically. Only then are vitamins and minerals used. Vegetable oils such as linseed oil, hemp oil, walnut oil, and olive oil are essential to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins.
- A list of fruits considered safe for dogs: apples, pears, bananas, pineapple, peaches and nectarines (without the pit), berries of all kinds, kiwi, melon
- A list of vegetables that are considered safe for dogs, even when raw: carrot, parsnip, parsley root, cucumber, zucchini, fennel, chicory, celery, Swiss chard, beetroot, kohlrabi, lettuce, arugula, asparagus, spinach, cress, and sprouts. If you want to avoid lectins in food as much as possible, consider peeling and deseeding the zucchini and cucumber.
- A list of vegetables considered safe only when cooked: potatoes, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, Savoy / Napa cabbage, kale, chard. Consider replacing regular potatoes with sweet potatoes if you want to keep your dog on a lectin-light diet.
I used to feed him rice and quinoa, but I don’t use grains and pseudo-grains as part of his diet after learning about lectins. Also, dogs get a lot of their energy from proteins and fats, and you don’t necessarily have to rely on a high-carb side dish. That’s why many store-bought dog food brands are lectin-heavy, and they all contain grains.
What about leftovers?
Leftovers are usually not suitable for dog food, and in particular, strongly salted or spicy foods should not end up in your dog’s food bowl. If you want to cook for your dog in one effort, it is best to prepare an unseasoned portion separately or add seasoning later.
However, small amounts of kitchen herbs such as basil, thyme, and parsley are usually not harmful. You should avoid onions, leeks, and garlic in home-cooked dog food – the alliin they contain makes these foods poisonous for dogs. Avocados, raisins, and citrus fruits should also not be fed under any circumstances.
The anatomy of a dog’s meal
The homemade lectin-free dog food should consist of the following parts: 2 parts of meat; 1 part low lectin carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes, parsnip, or millet; 1 part vegetables and fruits; oils; herbs. Regarding salt, it’s considered safe to add about 1g of salt to 100g of food but consult with your vet to decide how much salt your dog needs; there are 5g of salt in one teaspoon.
If you want to feed your dog less starchy carbohydrates, you can replace them with more non-starchy vegetables or meat. Dogs can utilize carbohydrates very well, but they are not a particularly “natural” food for dogs. Dogs are carnivores (meat-eaters) and have the appropriate teeth with strong fangs. It is also important that their diet be high in fat.
Noteworthy is also when you start cooking and meal prep for your dog, that you know how many calories your dog needs per day. There are several calculators on the internet.
For example, my dog weighs 60 pounds, and he has a moderate activity level, so he needs about 1,200 calories a day. He also gets some of these calories through treats and the oils I put on his meals.
I used to make one or two big batches as a base. When serving, I add some food toppers like different healthy oils, herbs, or half a can of sardines, tuna, or some homemade sauerkraut.
LATER EDIT: We recommend this great podcast, where Dr. Steven Gundry discusses the dog diet with Dr. Karen Becker & Rodney Habib, authors of The Forever Dog: Surprising New Science to Help Your Canine Companion to Live Younger, Healthier and Longer.
Dog Food Meal Prep
I prefer to cook every 2-3 weeks instead of every day, so I bought a big 12 qt pot just for this purpose. I found a supermarket with cheaper protein, as my dog needs a lot of food, and I cannot afford to buy grass-fed or organic. If you can afford grass-fed, pasture-raised protein, that is the best option for your dog.
When I go to the store, I usually buy what’s available at that time and suitable for what I want to make. Like with anything, do the best you can with what you have.
The lectin-free dog food cooking process is straightforward. Add all the ingredients to the pot, cover with water and let it cook until the sweet potato chunks are done. Usually, I don’t cook the spinach. I add it to the storage container raw and put the warm ingredients on top. Then I let them cool and then freeze. I thaw them for two days in advance in the fridge, and when I serve the meal, I drizzle some oil on it (variation is key) or add a food topper.
These are two examples of how I use ingredients in batch cooking
Batch 1: 2 big/giant sweet potatoes; 4 broccoli heads; half a bag of spinach; chicken meat; chicken feet (high collagen content); gizzard; some beef liver.
Batch 2: 2 big/giant sweet potatoes; 4 broccoli heads; half a bag of spinach; chicken feet; beef; some beef liver; pork;
The meat for each batch was about 7lbs + the veggies, and all covered with water. The 12 qt pot was nearly full and this filled x15 24oz (0,7 ml) containers = 10.5 liters (22.5 lbs). One container is one meal for Rocky, so 15 meals from each batch.
How to store your homemade dog food
In the beginning, I was using ziplog bags, but that is not sustainable and usually creates a mess. So I bought reusable plastic containers with lids and every container is about 24 oz, so perfect for one meal for my dog. One container might be enough for two meals if you have a smaller dog.
Alternatively, you can freeze your homemade dog food in Souper Cubes. You will definitely find one that fits your dog’s size. They are portion-friendly, come in different sizes, and will make your dog food meal prep much easier.
My favorite ways of freezing food are with Souper Cubes. You can buy the Souper Cubes here.
‘Take out a frozen cube, warm it up in the microwave, on the stove, or bake in the oven. Warm your food up the way that works best for you!‘
Is lectin-free dog food healthy?
Following on what Cristina shared above, feeding your dog a lectin-light diet can only be healthy. As you can see from the lists above, most of the vegetables approved for dogs are generally lectin-free, and in the case of the cucumbers and zucchini, we can easily remove the seeds and skins.
Grains, which are the highest in lectins, should not be part of a dog’s diet. And although beans appear on some lists of safe foods for dogs, they seem so unnatural for a dog’s diet that we won’t even consider them for this article, even if appropriately cooked to remove lectin content.
One of the big challenges in cooking lectin-free dog food is the affordability of grass-fed, pasture-raised, wild-caught animal protein. But, any effort to feed your dog high quality food matters, and we can always do the best we can with what we have.
What is a food topper?
A food topper will help you add more nutrition to your homemade lectin-free dog food by adding a small quantity on top of your dog’s meal. Vital Boost is made with grass-fed beef and organ meat, and other raw, plant-based ingredients that support the balanced, complete nutrition your dog needs. All of the ingredients in Vital Boost are received fresh, then gently freeze-dried to “lock-in” the flavor and nutrients. Check the ingredient list before you buy to make sure your dog is not allergic to them.
Vital Boost is loaded with a colorful spectrum of polyphenols, antioxidants, and other powerful nutrients to help your dog experience:
- Balanced energy levels for more relaxed, playful moods
- Improved digestion for less gas and firmer, healthier poops
- Healthier joints and muscles, thanks to a powerful blend of magnesium, iron, calcium, and other essential minerals
Vital Boost is easy to prepare. Add one scoop of Vital Boost to your dog’s food once per day. If your dog eats two meals a day, you can use a half scoop with each meal.
If your dog is over 30 pounds, use 1 ½ scoop a day and If your dog is over 50 pounds, use two scoops a day.
Featured ingredients and health benefits in Vital Boost
This nutritious source of prebiotics is excellent for keeping your dog’s digestion comfortable and regular, as well as boosting their energy and mood (thanks to powerful polyphenols in flaxseed called Lignans).
Not only is salmon packed with Omega-3s, which can improve your dog’s cardiovascular health — it also contains compounds that keep your dog’s coat shiny, healthy, and vibrant for years to come.
Chicory is a purple flower similar to a dandelion with loads of digestive benefits. It contains nutritious dietary fiber to aid your dog’s bowel movements, as well as support their immune system and gut health.
*This post contains affiliated links, which means I get a small commission if you choose to purchase something via one of my links, at no extra cost to you
Your furry friend deserves nutritious, healthy food as much as you do. Learn a few simple tricks about how to easily prepare lectin-free dog food at home. Add the meat, sweet potatoes and broccoli to a 12qt soup pot and cover with water. Boil until the potato is cooked, about 20-30 minutes (remember, the potato needs to be well cooked). Prepare your storage containers and add a handful of spinach to each container. When the soup is ready, let it cool a little bit as you don't want to add a too hot content to plastic containers. Once filled, let cool completely, cover and freeze (don't forget to leave a little space as the volume will increase when frozen). Take out and thaw in the fridge a day in advance. Drizzle some healthy oil, add a food topper if you need and serve.
Lectin-Free Dog Food Meal Prep
Your furry friend deserves nutritious, healthy food as much as you do. Learn a few simple tricks about how to easily prepare lectin-free dog food at home.
Add the meat, sweet potatoes and broccoli to a 12qt soup pot and cover with water.
Boil until the potato is cooked, about 20-30 minutes (remember, the potato needs to be well cooked).
Prepare your storage containers and add a handful of spinach to each container.
When the soup is ready, let it cool a little bit as you don't want to add a too hot content to plastic containers.
Once filled, let cool completely, cover and freeze (don't forget to leave a little space as the volume will increase when frozen).
Take out and thaw in the fridge a day in advance.
Drizzle some healthy oil, add a food topper if you need and serve.