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. That’s why I invited my friend, health coach and animal lover Cristina Wunderlich to share with us a guide on how she easily prepares 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. Cristina will not only share one of the recipes she makes for Rocky but also valuable information about dog’s diets in general.
Cristina says that after reading the book “Cats would buy mice” by Hans-Ulrich Grimm (unfortunately not translated in English), she decided that the best way to go when it came to her dog’s diet is to give him real food. And since she is a plant paradox enthusiast and lectin-free foodie, she also makes Rocky’s food as lectin-free as possible, or lectin-light. Before we go to the recipe, you find below some of Cristina’s best advice when it comes to feeding your dog.
I’m very grateful to Cristina for her friendship, her support and for always so generously sharing everything she knows. Cristina is a Holistic Health and Wellness Coach specialized 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
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 she or he is 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 to a lesser degree to carrots, so I make sure these are not part of his diet.
If you discover an allergy or intolerance you simply cook without these foods. Because that is exactly where the big 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 own taste.
Generally not safe for dogs
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 your dog needs
PROTEIN: Dogs are omnivores and should be served meat and fish regularly. With the exception of pork, animal protein can also be fed raw, and poultry is particularly suitable for a dog’s diet. Can your dog tolerate a few extra calories? Minced meat and offal like the heart are high in calories and fat. Delicacies such as rumen, game, liver and lungs are also accepted by picky four-legged friends. 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 is very 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 important vitamins and minerals and ensure a shiny coat, but in larger quantities, they can cause digestive disorders. One to two eggs a week are good enough. TIP: Keep the eggshells, bake it a few minutes in the oven to eliminate salmonella, grind it and add it to the food every now and then. They are a high source of calcium.
For a little extra nutrition and clean protein, you can add a food topper to your homemade lectin-free dog food. Try Vital Boost by GundryMD, it is a great lectin-free, nutrition-packed food topper.
DAIRY: Most dogs are lactose intolerant, but love cheese, yogurt and aged or fermented dairy products (the fermentation process makes them lower in lactose so 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 every now and then.
VEGETABLES and OILS: Vegetables are just as healthy for your dog as they are for you and oils are important 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.
That being said, it’s very important that you 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 important so that the fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed.
- A list of fruits considered safe for dogs: apples, pears, bananas, pineapple, peaches and nectarines (without the pit), berries of all kind, 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.
GRAINS, RICE: I used to feed him rice and quinoa, but after learning about lectins, I don’t use grains and pseudo-grains as part of his diet. Also, dogs get a lot of their energy from proteins and fats. You don’t necessarily have to rely on a high-carb side dish. That’s why many of the store-bought brands of dog food are lectin-heavy, they all contain grains.
What about leftovers?
Leftovers are usually not suitable for dog food. 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.
Important is also, when you start cooking 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. Some of these calories he gets also through treats and the oils I put on his meals.
I use 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.
The cooking and storage process
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 very easy. Just add all the ingredients to the pot, cover with water and let it cook until the chunks of sweet potato are done. Usually, I don’t cook the spinach. I add it to the storage container raw and put the warm ingredients on top. 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 content of collagen); 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). 1 container is one meal for Rocky, so 15 meals from each batch.
HOW TO STORE: At the beginning, I was using ziplog bags but that is not sustainable and usually creates a mess. So I ended up buying reusable plastic containers with lids and every container is about 24 oz, so perfect for one meal for my dog. If you have a smaller dog, one container might be enough for two meals.
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 in general 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 un-natural 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 when it comes to cooking lectin-free dog food is the affordability of grass-fed, pasture-raised, wild-caught animal protein. But, any effort to feed your dog 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 it’s made with grass-fed beef and organ meat, as well as 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 any of 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. Simply 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. If your dog is over 50 pounds, use 2 scoops a day.
Featured ingredients 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.
For more lectin-free guides and articles, click HERE.
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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.