Springtime Resolution # 2: Eating Healthy
Very often our lifestyle choices have an impact on how we raise our pets, and our eating habits are no exception. If we tend to give into our late- night sweet cravings, we’re likely to give our pets an extra treat here or there without much thought. But just like with us humans, maintaining a healthy calorie intake for our pet is extremely important to their overall health. So if your Springtime goal is to eat healthier this year, here are some ways to include your fur-babies and simultaneously improve their eating habits as well!
Stick to a Schedule. Keep a food schedule for yourself, just like you do for your pet. Eat more often, but in small portions. This benefits you and your pet because it keeps your blood sugar levels steadier throughout the day, so both you and your pets’ bodies are less likely to store extra calories. Don’t leave your pets food out all day long. This gets your pet into the routine of eating on a schedule if he/she knows that the food will be picked up about 15 min after it’s put down. But make sure to leave water out all day long! Both your pet AND you need lots of water throughout the day!
Be sure to maintain your pet’s eating schedule even when they are traveling with you or you leave them at home in the care of others. Make sure your dog walker and pet sitter is up to speed on how/when you feed your pet. A good pet care company will ask you to write out your pet’s exact feeding schedule, portion size, etc. At The Perfect Pooch NYC our scheduling software makes it really easy for our clients to keep us up to date on any dietary changes they may have implemented for their pets.
Read labels. Shop organic and avoid over processed foods or anything that has too much sugar or unhealthy calories. This is important when buying pet food as well. Unfortunately, many pet food companies don’t give complete nutritional information on what is in their ingredients so you have to dig a bit deeper. Here is a good breakdown on dog food and how to make sure you are buying the right kind for your dog. And for cat owners, Lisa A. Pierson, DVM has put together an extensive nutritional breakdown for most of the wet cat food brands on the market, which is a great resource for those of us interested in feeding our cats the right amounts of proteins and fats.
Calculate Those Calories. It’s easy to lose track of what you eat throughout the day so calculate calories for both you and your pet, and try measuring out your food to get into the habit of eating correct portion sizes. Here is a useful chart to find out how many calories per day YOU should be consuming. And if you don’t know how many calories your pet needs each day, don’t just rely on the bag of food to tell you. A good starting point for indoor spayed or neutered dogs and cats weighing between 6 and 60 pounds is:
Divide your pet’s weight by 2.2.
Multiply this figure times 30.
Now you’ve got a general idea of how many calories you should be feeding a typical inactive, indoor spayed or neutered dog or cat weighing between 6 and 60 pounds.
**However, just like in humans, the metabolism of each pet is different so consult with your vet to get the most accurate information.
Cut down on the carbs. By now we all know the benefits of cutting back on carbohydrates for weight loss, but low carb diets also help to impede serious conditions such as metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. And a low carb diet is also just as beneficial for our pets! Though you should certainly consult your vet before changing their diet drastically, most pets don’t need or benefit from a high-carb diet. But unfortunately, that’s what we very often end up feeding them . The ‘filler’ that is in most pet food consists of high carb/starchy ingredients and some pet foods contain 60% or more carbohydrates! Most vets recommend a higher protein/low carb diet for a healthy pet. But again, make sure to consult with your vet before you change your pet food because pets with conditions such as Kidney Disease need a different type of diet altogether.
Cut back on unhealthy treats! For yourself, concentrate on eating healthier snacks throughout the day like berries, almonds, veggies and hummus. We want to feed ourselves often, but in smaller portions and with foods that have healthy fats that our body can break down easily. For your pet, if they have treats they already love but aren’t the most healthy for them, try breaking them in 1/2 or into even in smaller portions. Also try feeding them healthy treats like sweet potato, small pieces of salmon, a cashew here and there or a small piece of cheese. Carrots are great too! Here is a great reference on human foods that are safe and unsafe for dogs and cats. But the most important thing to remember is to keep track of these snacking calories both you and your fur baby are consuming.
Cook at home more often and prep prep prep! With our hectic lifestyles and schedules it can be difficult to come home after a long day and figure out what we are going to make for dinner. As New Yorkers we understand how easy it is to fall into the trap of ordering delivery or going out to eat a few times a week, especially since our food options are unlimited! Try sticking to a schedule of cooking at home at least 5 times a week and give yourself the other 2 nights to indulge in your favorite Thai or Italian dish from around the corner.
A great way to do this is to prep your foods for the week. Take advantage of your lazy Sundays and prep some meats and vegetables for your weekly meals. Even just measuring out and cutting up ingredients will make it that much easier to motivate yourself to cook when you get home each night.
And while you are prepping, include foods for your pets as well. Remember those healthy treats we were talking about? Boil up some sweet potatoes and salmon and cut them into bite size pieces for your pet throughout the week. And if you are feeling really motivated, you can try making your own dog and cat food.
All in all, eating healthy can be a great way to bond with your pet while ensuring a healthy and happy lifestyle for you both!