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dog parent basics

The healthiest food for a pup is a dog food formulated specifically for them. But if you’re scouring around the pantry for a human option to give them instead, below are a few of the healthiest options you probably already have on hand:

Watermelon. Your dog can eat small doses of seedless watermelon. Like lots of other fruits, it’s a great source of vitamins and can even provide your pup with a boost of hydration. While watermelon is healthy, it does contain sugar, which should always be consumed in moderation. In addition, be sure to keep the seeds and the rind away from your dog, both of which can cause intestinal blockages.

Broccoli. Dogs can enjoy small amounts of broccoli. Since raw broccoli can be quite tough, it’s best to cut it into easy-to-chew pieces, especially if you’re feeding it to a senior dog. In large amounts, broccoli can cause stomach irritation in dogs due to the isothiocyanates it contains. To avoid this issue, it’s best to track how much you give your pup.

Carrots. Carrots are a great treat alternative for your pup. Raw carrots not only taste delicious but also can serve as an edible chew toy for pups that are into that sort of thing. For the more refined palate, cooked carrots could be just the ticket. Just be sure to avoid any seasoning like garlic or onion powder, which would make the carrots unsafe for your pup.

Cucumbers. While not all dogs are crazy about the taste of cucumbers, some pups just can’t get enough. Cucumbers are very low in calories, and lots of dogs delight in the crunch factor. Just be sure to cut your pup’s cucumbers to the appropriate size to reduce their risk of choking.

Cooked white rice. This food is especially useful if your dog is recovering from tummy troubles. Cooked white rice is an easy-to-stomach meal that’s full of good carbs. Cooking white rice in a low-sodium chicken broth will also make it more palatable to your pup.

Mangos. This summer fruit is safe to share with your dog in small amounts. Just be sure to remove the skin and pit as these could cause your dog to choke. To share, cut the fleshy part of the fruit into little pieces and feed to Fido!

Superfoods that are the healthiest super snacks for your dog

While the foods mentioned above are safe for your pup, these foods are the best of all. Most are great options for humans as well, making them healthy treats the whole house will love.

Bananas. Peeled bananas are a great option for your dog because they’re high in healthy nutrients like potassium, fiber, and vitamins. Just be sure not to overdo it, as, like most fruits, they do contain sugar.

Green beans. As long as they don’t have any toxic seasoning involved, green beans can be a great treat for both you and your dog. They’re high in vitamins, low in calories, and a vegetable we can all get behind. Just make sure the pods are soft to ensure your pup has an easy time digesting them.

Blueberries. Loaded with healthy vitamins, blueberries are an ideal on-the-go snack for your pooch. Instead of giving your pup a dog treat, toss them a blueberry. They’ll be doing tricks for this healthy and delicious treat in no time!

Lean meat. Cooked lean meats, like boneless, skinless chicken and turkey, can be great options for dogs. Lean meats are high in protein and amino acids. Whitefish can be another great choice, too. A note about lean ground beef, though: While it has “lean” in its name, it’s not entirely fat-free. Keep in mind that too much fat can cause a host of health problems for pups.

Cooked salmon. Salmon is super high in omega-3 fatty acids, making it a great way to add fish oil to your dog’s diet without the smelly pill. Fish oil is hugely beneficial to a dog’s immune system and can even help sooth dry and itchy skin.

Sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are high in fiber and contain cancer-fighting antioxidants, making them a great occasional treat for dogs. That said, they should never be the bulk of a dog’s diet.

Pumpkin. Pumpkin is a great source of fiber and nutrients and a good staple to keep around in case your dog ever suffers from constipation. If you’re buying it canned, look for plain pumpkin without added ingredients, and be sure not to overfeed your dog. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), one to four tablespoons of pureed pumpkin in your dog’s food should be plenty. And always start with a smaller amount to see how your dog handles it.

Cooked egg whites. High in amino acids and protein, egg whites are a healthy treat for your pup. They also have a lot of beneficial vitamins and minerals. Bonus: Eggs are easy on the digestive tract, so if your dog’s in recovery, cook up some eggs! However, remember that egg yolks are high in fat and cholesterol, so it’s better to use just the whites.

Apples. Seeded and cored apples contain lots of fiber, and the crunch factor helps clean dogs’ teeth. They’re an ideal treat supplement or replacement if you’re concerned that your dog is getting too many puppy cookies.

Dog looking at food in fridge

Dogs can eat many human foods, like blueberries, cooked eggs, carrots, and more.

Pup-safe recommendations

Whenever you choose to give your dog a treat or meal that isn’t their normal kibble, there are a few best practices to keep in mind. Below are some vet-approved tips to follow when giving your dog human food:

Keep weight management in mind — According to AKC, upwards of 56% of dogs in the U.S. are considered overweight. Many human foods, but especially those high in fat and sodium, can be harmful to pups. Human food should really only be an occasional treat for dogs — not a daily habit.

👉 For more information, check out betterpet’s comprehensive guide to exactly how much you should feed your pup. 

Beware of certain fruits — Some fruits, like peaches for example, are safe for dogs. But that doesn’t mean they’re entirely free of risk. If swallowed, fruit pits can get stuck in a dog’s throat or intestinal tract, causing a dangerous and life-threatening obstruction. If you’re going to give your pup a peach, you’ll need to cut it up first and carefully remove the pit.

Do the math — Tools like Merck’s dog food calculator can be your best friend when it comes to determining how many calories your dog should eat per day. Keep in mind that the recommendations provided on the back of most dog foods don’t take into account that neutered or spayed dogs require less food than dogs that aren’t fixed. Other factors, like exercise and age, can also impact how much your dog should eat per day.

Know the risks — In addition to weight gain, human food can lead to health issues in pets that can range from pancreatitis to allergic reactions and more. Just as people can be allergic to certain foods, so can dogs. When in doubt, make sure to check with your vet to determine what human treats (if any) might be best for your dog.

Never feed your pup from your plate — This isn’t just about the risk of germs, which is one factor to consider when allowing your dog to lick from your plate. The real concern, though, is that some dogs might start to prefer human foods and refuse to eat their kibble as a result. Giving your pup a blueberry or slice of apple should be no different from giving them a dog treat — these items should be no more than occasional rewards for good behavior.

Remember that not all foods are safe — A significant number of foods that are safe for humans, like garlic, onions, chocolate, and more, are toxic to pups. Always err on the side of caution when considering whether or not to give your dog a human-safe snack. Unless you’re certain that the food is safe for your pup, it’s simply not worth the risk.

Frequently asked questions

What are the best “people foods” for dogs?

The best food for your dog is one that’s specially formulated for them. That said, there are some healthy human options, like apples, carrots, and bananas, that can be quite good for pups. Like all things, though, be sure to feed your pup human foods in moderation.

Is it bad to let my dog eat human food?

Not necessarily. An occasional treat like an apple or some fresh pumpkin spooned on top of their kibble can be a great healthy treat for Fido. That said, the vast majority of your pup’s daily calorie intake should come from dog food created with your pup’s health and nutritional requirements in mind.

What kind of foods can dogs and people eat?

A lot of human food isn’t healthy for pups because of the sodium and fat content. That said, there are some great, healthy options that both pets and people can enjoy, like certain fruits, vegetables, and even lean meats or fish. Just be sure to check with your veterinarian before making any changes to your dog’s daily diet. And when in doubt, opt for a dog treat instead.

What can I feed my dog instead of dog food?

Dogs can eat a variety of “people foods,” including sweet potatoes, cooked lean meats, bananas, apples, blueberries, and more. On occasion, foods such as these can be quite healthy and nourishing for pups. But keep in mind that many human-safe foods can be toxic to your pup, so always be sure to check with your veterinarian before giving your dog a snack.

Is it OK to feed your dog human food every day?

Human foods should really only be an occasional treat for your dog. The fat and sodium content in many human foods can be dangerous to dogs, and pups that eat human food consistently have an increased risk of developing pancreatitis, obesity, and more. At the end of the day, “people food” is best for the humans of the house, and a vet-recommended kibble is best for your dog.