While I'm not one to argue with Fred and Ginger, I do think there is only one way to pronounce potato, and its not with a tah at the end. However, this post is not about any controversy around potato pronunciation (I just thought it would be a good opener), its about potatoes in dog food. As grain free dog foods have become more popular more and more dogs are eating foods that eliminate grains like corn and wheat and instead turn to potatoes for carbohydrates. My own dogs eat a rotation of grain free kibbles, all of which feature potatoes some where on the ingredients list. Still potatoes and dogs can be a somewhat contreversial topic.
Dogs do not require any carbohydrates to survive. The nutrients needed for a dog to function and be healthy are proteins and fats. Unfortunately proteins and fats can be pricey, particularly high quality proteins, and many dog food companies bulk up their foods with low cost carbohydrates such as corn and wheat. These ingredients provide a low cost source of energy for dogs but they don't provide optimal nutrition. Concerned about their dogs getting too many carbohydrates and not enough protein and wanting to closely match a dog's ancestral diet, more and more owners are feeding their dogs raw food, and often prey model raw.
Unfortunately owners who want to feed kibble but also want to feed as close to a natural diet as possible are left with a problem: a completely carb free kibble is an impossibility as some form of carbohydrate is essential to the kibble making process. However, owners don't need to panic, carbs are not necessarily bad for dogs. Even though they are not essential to the canine diet they do provide energy and nutrition and when they are of high quality carbs they can even be beneficial. When looking for a good quality kibble its important to look for one with a high protein content, the first ingredients listed should be meat or fish products such as chicken, chicken meal, salmon, etc. Farther down on the list should be your carbohydrate sources and ideally those should not be form corn, wheat or soy. Wheat, corn, and soy are difficult for dogs to digest, provide no nutritional value, and often trigger allergies. A much better source of carbohydrates is the potato.
Sweet potatoes and white potatoes both contain important nutrients, such as calcium and potassium. Of the two sweet potatoes pack more nutritional punch then white potatoes. They have a lower glycemic index then white potatoes which can be important for dogs with diabetes as foods with high glycemic index cause blood sugar levels to rise. There is also evidence that foods with lower glycemic index and more healthy overall and can help in weight control. Sweet potatoes also have high levels of beta-carotene, a powerful anti-oxident, and plenty of fiber. These are all reasons that I'm happy when I see sweet potatoes listed on the ingredients list in my dogs food.
Of course sweet potatoes aren't just for kibble. I often add sweet potatoes to the kibble topper stews I make for my dogs and they enjoy dried sweet potato chews. This weekend I made stuffed potatoes for my husband and myself and I got to thinking about how I could create a similar treat for my dogs. Luckily Kolchak puggle had already come up with a terrific potato treat for Super Sunday Potato Skins. The only change I made was to use sweet potatoes and to top them with some fat free yogurt.
In case your interested in the people friendly recipe here it is:
Baked Stuffed Potatoes
4 large russet potatoes
1 cup diced brocolli
1 minced shallot
1 1/2 cup diced mushrooms
1 tbsp butter
8 ounces sour cream or greek yogurt
1/2 to 1 and 1/2 cup shredded or diced cheddar
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prick potatoes with a fork and rub with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake 1 hour and 15 minutes until tender when pierced with a fork. Turn down oven to 350. Meanwhile, saute the shallot, broccoli, and mushrooms until wilted, about ten minutes. Cut a little of the top of the potatoes. Scoop out the potato flesh leaving just enough so that the potatoes still have a structure. Mix in the sour cream or yogurt, cheddar, or vegetables and season with salt and pepper. Spoon back into the potatoes and sprinkle with paprika if you have extra filling, which you probably will, spoon some into a small baking dish and bake side along the potatoes for fifteen minutes.