Thanks to Barbara Taylor-Laino’s The Healthy Homemade Pet Food Cookbook, you can make healthy and tasty meals for your four-legged friend, right in your own kitchen. You and I wouldn’t want to eat the same low-nutrient food day after day, and our pets shouldn’t have to, either. With 75 whole food recipes for dogs and cats, Barbara Taylor-Laino guides readers on the path of matching our pet’s diet to his or her nutritional needs with the healthiest, freshest food possible.
Ulrike Welsch / The Healthy Homemade Pet Food Cookbook
You don’t have to dive into homemade pet food headfirst, though. Try easing into it by finding a balance of homemade and commercial pet foods. Figure out what works best for your budget and time, and learn what your best buddy needs and enjoys.
All or Nothing? Combining Homemade and Commercial Pet Foods
Don’t assume that feeding your pet a homemade diet has to be an all-or-nothing routine. You can make a huge difference in your pet’s health by supplementing a good commercial diet with whole-food side dishes. Buy the best-quality ingredients you can afford and focus on nutrient-rich foods. An egg, a scoop of canned fish, a steamed carrot, a dollop of yogurt, or some fresh chicken liver are perfect additions to a meal of commercial food. With very little work and expense, you can really elevate the nutritional level of each meal.
Even small additions to your pet’s diet can have big effects healthwise; if your pet has the building blocks of a variety of healthy nutrients in her system, then she will be able to compensate for any unhealthy ingredients or foods. For instance, if your cat has always had a healthy diet and a friend comes over and gives her a commercial cat treat full of horrible preservatives, sugar, and artificial flavors, you don’t need to worry. You can feel confident that your cat has the nutritional building blocks in her system to handle the onslaught of the bad food.
Also, by adding fresh ingredients to your pet’s commercial food, you won’t unbalance anything, despite the claims of the commercial brands’ advertising and marketing. But because commercial diets are in general designed to provide a full balance of nutrients in one serving, I would suggest that to be safe, don’t add more than 25 percent extra ingredients on a regular basis. For example, if the maker of your commercial food recommends that you feed your golden retriever 2 cups of canned food (400 g) per day, then when you want to add some canned salmon, feed ½ cup (113 g) of canned salmon and about 1⅓ cups (287 g) of the commercial food. If you increase it to 50 percent fresh food one or two days per week, that’s okay. Your pet’s nutrient balance won’t be thrown off by one or two meals. You always have to keep the big picture in mind—what your meals look like for the week and for the entire month. Also, keep in mind that the more variety you have in your additions, the less you have to worry about percentages.
If you’re adding some canned salmon, some tahini, a spoonful of honey, and an egg, the balance starts working itself out perfectly. Another way to integrate the two diets is to feed a commercial diet four days a week and mix your own homemade meals three days a week.
One piece of advice: I would avoid adding too many carbohydrates as supplements to a commercial diet, because most commercial diets are already too high in carbs. But if you’re using a high-protein/high-meat commercial diet, then adding ingredients such as carrots, barley, steamed broccoli, beet juice, oatmeal, etc., would be ideal. There are a lot of great new commercial diets out there, and many are specifically designed to allow you to add extras.
Ready to jump into preparing homemade food for your best four-legged friend? Here’s a great way to begin: make them Big Baked Veggies and Sautéed Chicken Thighs.
Glenn Scott / The Healthy Homemade Pet Food Cookbook
Big Baked Veggies and Sautéed Chicken Thighs
A Cooked, Grainless Meal for Cats & Dogs
- 2 beets
- 1 sweet potato
- 1 small butternut squash
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml) olive oil
- 3 tablespoons (7 g) minced fresh herbs or 2 tablespoons (4 g) dried mixed herbs (rosemary, thyme, mint, sage, oregano, and/or marjoram, etc.)
- 2 pounds (910 g) boneless chicken thighs
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 can (3.5 ounces, or 100 g) sardines
Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C, or gas mark 4). Wash, peel, and cut up the beets, sweet potato, and squash into similarly sized pieces, about 1 inch. Place in a small oiled or buttered baking dish, and toss with about 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of the oil. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until soft and lightly browned. Let cool, mash up, and mix in the herbs.
Rinse the chicken thighs and cut into strips. Heat the remaining olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken and garlic, and cook until the chicken is no longer pink inside, about 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. In a large bowl, mix the chicken, sardines, and vegetables together.
Serving: Feed 1/4 cup (50 g) twice a day to a medium-size cat; 1 cup (200 g) twice a day to a medium-size dog.
Variations: If you aren’t serving this as a human meal, you can leave the chicken on the rare side.
For more information about this topic check out The Healthy Homemade Pet Food Cookbook
The Healthy Homemade Pet Food Cookbook
75 Whole-Food Recipes and Tasty Treats for Dogs and Cats of All Ages
The Healthy Homemade Pet Food Cookbook teaches you how to tailor your pet’s diet to their specific nutritional needs for better health and behavior with 75 easy-to-make recipes.