• July 24, 2021 /  Fitness, Food

    I talk to a lot of people who are interested in becoming personal trainers. In this article, I will briefly share some thoughts on motives, attitudes and resources if you are thinking of becoming a personal trainer. I would recommend that you start by getting a legitimate certification. You can research the internet or talk to personal trainers at health clubs or private studios. As a suggestion, you could check out the International Association of Resistance Trainers, ISSA or ACE. These three certification organizations can be found on the internet and have several areas for you to consider. When considering a legitimate certification program, check out personal training / liability insurance.

    Be sure that the certificate you earn will have clear guidelines on how to purchase insurance once you actually start to train clients. There are many fitness certifications that are not recognized by any insurance companies, stay away from these. If you choose to train without insurance, you are taking a big risk. Depending on the physical location of where you will train your clients (club, private training studio, corporate fitness center) you will need to check with their individual requirements regarding acceptable certifications and insurance policies.

    After you have done your research on the above issues, if you are still interested, get started today! Whether you remain interested (out of the people who go into fitness training, many more drop out than stick with it) you can always use the information to further your own personal fitness programming. I believe that your initial training / certification will never be a waste. You will want to check out other certification programs later (may be required based on place of employment) in order to get plenty of exposure to all the different training methodologies.

    Try to stay grounded – many programs are not that reality based. With any training information, ask yourself the question: How will I use this for my own, as well as my clients, fitness program? I have many doctors, other trainers and people with sports / human performance degrees who hire me to help with training issues. The rubber hits the road when you have a client who is depending on you to give them a cardio, strength training, eating, supplementation, injury recovery and / or flexibility program complete with personalized scheduling. You do not need to have all the answers but try to establish your own process for giving them the answers or effective referrals for what they need.

    Not knowing what your previous experience is regarding working with people in general, I would suggest that you assess what your tolerance is for complainers and whiners as there are so many issues for so many people that you will need to address at some level (as a fitness professional). If you want to be a good trainer, you need to commit to the total client. I think too many trainers end up wanting to legitimize their own training priorities and believe that by becoming a personal trainer / fitness professional, they can focus all their time on themselves (not an acceptable mindset). They should stay out of personal training if they are not ready to commit to their clients. Do not fall prey to canned programs or using a cookie cutter approach for everyone you will train.

    I come from a human service background (double major in Social Work / Criminal Justice) and worked my way up to manager in a juvenile diversion program over a period of 10 years before getting into personal training. BUT, in the first three years of being a personal trainer, I placed in three international personal trainer contests. These were great experiences but in all three instances, success was based on the commitment to the client more than caring about winning any contests.

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  • July 21, 2021 /  Food

    Depending on the day, coffee is either the number one or two most consumed beverage in the world. It is enjoyed daily by hundreds of millions of people in virtually every country around the globe.

    Many fresh roasted coffee lovers have no idea how their favorite morning cup of coffee is ‘made’. This article briefly explains the process of roasting gourmet coffee beans and how those wonderful flavors and aromas’ get into your morning cup!

    It takes around fifteen to twenty minutes to roast gourmet coffee beans using a typical small commercial gas roaster. The usual rule-of-thumb is the quicker the roast, the better the coffee.

    Short roasting retains the largest percentage of the gourmet coffee bean’s aromatic properties. Slow roasting gourmet coffee beans results in the beans baking and usually prevents them from developing fully. Also slow roasting normally won’t produce bright roasts and typically makes the beans hard instead of brittle even after the color standard has been attained.

    Gourmet coffee beans have varying degrees of moisture when they are green or raw. The best fresh roasted coffee is created by first starting the roasting process with a slow fire until some of the moisture has been driven out of the bean. If too much heat is used at the beginning of the roasting process there is a high risk of “tipping” or charring the little germ at the end of the bean which is the most sensitive part of the bean.

    Kissing The Cheeks” of a gourmet coffee bean is caused by loading too many beans in the roasting cylinder at one time and revolving the roasting cylinder too fast. This causes some of the beans to ride the cylinder walls for a complete revolution instead of falling off the sides into the cylinder as it revolves. As a result one face of the gourmet coffee bean gets burned or ‘kissed’.

    There are no universal standards for coffee roasting. Because roasting is part ‘art’, a roaster will develop a personal blend and roast combination and establish that blend/roast combination as a sample ‘type’ to be used as the in-house standard the next time a batch of that blend/roast is roasted. Coffee drinker’s tastes run the entire gambit of roasting possibilities, from light roasted to extremely dark roasts.

    Many roasters use the following roasting classifications:

    • Light
    • Cinnamon
    • Medium
    • High
    • City
    • Full City
    • French
    • Italian

    A city roast is a dark roasted bean. A full city roast is a few degrees darker yet. A French roasted bean is cooked until the natural oil appears on the surface. And an Italian roasted bean is roasted until it is carbonized so it can be easily powdered.

    In the United States, lighter roasted beans are favored on the west coast, the darkest roasts are enjoyed in the south and a medium-colored roast is the primary roast enjoyed on the east coast. Coffee drinkers in Boston especially enjoy cinnamon roasted coffee.

    Coffee loses weight during the roasting process. The amount of weight lost varies according to the degree of roasting and the nature of the bean. Green beans, on average, loose sixteen (16%) percent of their weight during the roasting process. Typically one hundred pounds of coffee in the cherry produces twenty-five pounds in the parchment. One hundred pounds in parchment produces eighty-four pounds of cleaned coffee. And one hundred pounds of cleaned coffee produces eighty-four pounds of fresh roasted coffee.

    During the roasting process the gourmet coffee bean undergoes both physical and chemical changes. After it has been in the roasting cylinder a short time the color of the bean turns a yellowish brown which gradually darkens the longer it is cooked. Likewise as the beans heat up they shrivel up until they reach the halfway point of the roasting process called the “developing” point. At this stage the beans start to swell back up and “pop open” increasing their physical size by fifty percent. When the developing point is reached the heat is turned up and the roasting is finished as quickly as possible.

    “Dry” and “Wet” Roasts

    A coffee roaster uses a utensil called a “trier” (it looks like an elongated spoon) to check the progress of the beans often during the roasting process. The trier is slipped into the cylinder taking a sample of the roasting beans and compared to a type sample. When the coffee has reached the desired level of roasting the heat is shut off to “check” or stop the cooking by reducing the temperature of the coffee and roasting cylinder as quickly as possible.

    In the wet roast method the coffee is sprayed with water while the roasting cylinder is still revolving to cool the beans and stop the cooking.

    In the dry roast method the beans are poured out of the roasting cylinder into a large colander type basket where they are stirred rapidly while air is blown through the beans to cool them down as quickly as possible to stop the cooking.

    Excessive watering of coffee in and after the roasting process to reduce shrinkage is typically frowned upon. “Heading” the coffee or checking the roast before removing it from the roasting cylinder is considered a legitimate practice.

    When water is used to quench the roast and stop the cooking most of the water turns to steam and does not get absorbed by the beans. However the beans do tend to swell slightly and brighten the coffee. Even though some water is used to check the roast it is still considered to be a “dry roast”.

    It is doubtful that more than a handful of American coffee roasters use an absolutely “dry” roasting method – it is difficult to maintain consistent results from one batch to another and usually doesn’t provide the best possible product. The term “dry roasted” has been abused for years by coffee company marketing departments. Of course “dry roasted” coffee as described above will always make better coffee than beans that have been soaked with water but the word “dry” needs to be defined as to what exactly that means among roasters before the term can provide any real meaning or value to consumers.

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  • July 21, 2021 /  Food

    Whenever you think about culinary arts and skills, think gourmet foods and white truffles. Gourmet foods come with high quality and taste. These dishes are very common in the United Kingdom, despite being originally from Alba, Italy. They are as well among the most highly upheld and traditional foods of exotic cooking that have been passed down from one generation to another by the Roman culture. Read the rest of this entry »

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  • July 20, 2021 /  Food

    Coffee cultivation is not an exact science, but it has a tremendous impact on coffee quality. Although there are many factors and conditions that are likely to lead to the production of high quality coffee, there are many things that affect the taste of coffee that would appear to be more or less random. As powerful as it can be when sipped hot in the morning, it is a very adaptive crop, and when it comes to producing the highest quality, most expensive coffee, here are a some factors that influence it more than others. Read the rest of this entry »

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  • July 19, 2021 /  Food

    What is traditional Christmas cooking? Well, that depends on you and your family. Tradition is something you make up as you go along. A traditional Christmas is what is traditional in your home. It may be a recipe handed down from your great grandmother or it may be something you thought of in a desperate hurry last Christmas Eve. Anything can become a tradition. What makes something traditional depends on how we feel about it.

    That said, once something becomes traditional then you change it at your peril. If your children expect to come home to stir the Christmas pudding and put in the family favors then you had better not change it. For more details www.cooking-chinese-style.com .They may be away at college or carving out a big career for themselves in the city but they will still expect Christmas to be the Christmas they remember. Christmas cooking is a big part, maybe the biggest part, of the way we remember Christmas.

    Every part of Christmas is accompanied by food of one sort or another. The tastes and smells of that food fixes the memory of Christmas in our minds. That smell of cinnamon or hot sugar. If we catch a hint of it anywhere at anytime we are transported instantly back in time to a Christmas kitchen of our childhood. That is the power of traditional Christmas cooking.

    I remember how when my mother-in-law was alive and would come to us for Christmas dinner, I had to cook a big traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings. Turkey seemed a very dry meat to me so I looked through one of my cookery books and found a recipe that involved glazing the turkey with apricot jam for the last 15 minutes of cooking. As a “proper” cook I was appalled, but it seemed to work, so every year I poured a pot of apricot jam over my turkey and, I have to confess, it was delicious.

    When my mother-in-law died I saw the opportunity to change our family’s traditional Christmas cooking routine. At last my culinary skills would find true expression in a Christmas dinner that would be original and exciting. No more apricot jam for me. I would amaze family and friends with my creations. For more details www.atkins-diets-recipes.com But no matter what I tried in subsequent years nothing was quite as good as the old turkey recipe with its apricot jam. It had become part of our family’s traditional Christmas cooking. So I gave in and everyone was much happier, even me.

    However good a cook you are and whatever new recipes you may attempt in the rest of the year Christmas is a time to come back to traditional Christmas cooking whatever that might be for you and your family. There is a profound wisdom in that which cooks too easily forget. When we cook we are engaging in one of the great acts of social ritual. We are not just cooking for ourselves we are cooking for other people. Our Christmas dinner table expresses not just our skill but our human relationships. Traditional Christmas cooking encapsulates all those relationships, gathered over the years, with people still living and people long since dead that go into making us what we are. At Christmas ghosts sit down at out tables. Traditional Christmas cooking makes sure they are happy ones.

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  • July 18, 2021 /  Food

    Coffee may be the most popular beverage in the world. Recent statistics indicate that over 50% of the American population are coffee drinkers and this number would more than likely hold true in many other countries as well. This more than any thing else helps to explain why there is such a wide range of coffee makers available for purchase today.

    With such a diverse range of coffee machines, there is more choice for the coffee drinking public than ever before. Main stream popular styles include the Automatic and Manual Drip, Pod, Automatic Espresso, French Press, Percolator, Stovetop Espresso and the Vacuum. Each one of these styles has some unique characteristic that are sure to appeal to a certain segment of the coffee drinking public.

    Automatic and Manual Drip Coffee Machines

    The most popular style of coffee maker continues to be the automatic drip coffee maker. The basic design is very simple and efficient. Add fresh water to the built-in reservoir, insert a filter in to the handy filter holder, measure your favorite coffee grounds and pour into the filter and then press the start button. Within minutes your senses are excited by the smell of freshly brewed hot coffee! Most models also have a built-in timer and a pot warmer included so that you can set your coffee to brew and be ready at any hour of the day or night, and kept constantly warm as well.

    Manual drip coffee brewers do take a bit more work since you need to boil the water using another heat source, but after that it is basically the same coffee making process of putting coffee grounds in the filter and pouring the hot water through the filter so that the coffee liquid is collected in the pot or container below. One great advantage of the manual drip coffee machine is that is can go most any where with you as it is not dependent upon having electricity to operate so it is great for camping and other outdoor activities.

    Pod Coffee Machines

    These are becoming very trendy and popular in recent years. Working similar to the automatic drip machines, they feature the ability to use pre-packaged containers or pods of specialty coffees to brew great tasting coffee. With many reputable coffee chains such as Starbucks now selling their most popular coffee blends in the pod format, consumers can get the same tasting cup of specialty coffee at home that they had to go out and purchase before at a much higher price.

    Automatic Espresso Coffee Brewer

    Espresso coffee makers have become much more affordable in recent years and because of this, they are gaining in popularity amongst serious coffee drinkers wanting something more than just a normal cup of coffee. There are currently three types of espresso coffee brewers to choose from, namely semi automatic, fully automatic, and super automatic. As a rule, the more automatic the espresso maker is, the less you need to do to brew your coffee, but unfortunately the more expensive it is to purchase. For example, where a semi-automatic model will tamp the coffee grounds, brew the coffee, fill your cup and eject the old grounds, an entirely automatic model will also grind the coffee for you as well, and the super automatic espresso coffee maker will do all of the above plus having additional features such as built-in water filters and self-cleaning.

    Stovetop Espresso Coffee Maker

    The stovetop espresso coffee brewers are basically a manual method for preparing espresso coffee when you do not have access to an automatic version or an electrical source of energy. This makes it an ideal coffee maker for taking outdoors on camping or fishing trips if you feel the need to make an espresso cup of coffee. First water is placed inside the underside boiler and then a cone filter is situated inside the boiler and filled with coffee grounds. Next the top is lightly tightened and the brewer is place over the heat source. After a few minutes, once the top of the boiler is filled with the freshly brewed coffee it is removed from the heat supply and the coffee is ready to be served. Here again, the absence of any warming feature means the coffee has to be served immediately.

    French Press Coffee Maker

    Also known as “press pots” or “plunger pots”, the French Press coffee makers are not as common as they once were. Preparing coffee is more work than it would be using any of the coffee makers already discussed as it is a manual coffee machine. The pot is actually a glass or porcelain tube consisted of a stainless, mesh plunger that acts like a filter. To make the coffee you must first measure the coffee grounds into the pot, then pour in almost boiling water. After allowing the coffee mixture to steep for a few minutes, the plunger is then pushed downwards and the liquid beverage is forced into the waiting cup or container. As there is no built-in heating plate or element beneath the coffee container, you must serve the coffee beverage immediately or place it into an insulated container to keep it hot for later.

    Percolator Coffee Maker

    At one time percolator coffee makers were the standard type of coffee brewers in most households, a role now held by the automatic drip machines. Although not as popular today, they still have their place when a coffee maker is required that can brew large volumes of coffee rather than the 10-14 cup limit or less in most other popular coffee machines sold these days. Modern percolators are available as stove top models and electric and can be programmed like other automatic coffee machines. The coffee making process is based on running water continuously over the coffee grounds, held within a metal filter, as the water is boiled. One drawback of this method is that the coffee often gets stronger and more bitter tasting the longer it goes through the brewing cycle.

    Vacuum Coffee Maker

    Perhaps the strangest looking type of coffee machine is the vacuum coffee maker. Looking like something from a science fiction movie, the apparatus is made up of two overlapping containers connect by a siphon tube. The filter is located in the bottom section of the upper container. To brew coffee, the user first adds coffee grounds to the upper container, then pours water into the lower container. Next the brewer is placed on top of a stove where the water is then boiled and the resulting steam is passed along through the siphon tube into the upper container. After about 3 minutes the container is removed from the heat source and the steam condenses back into liquid water which is forced through the filter and back into the lower unit. Your fresh pot of coffee is now sitting in the lower unit. An interesting way to brew a cup or pot of coffee!

    Needless to say, coffee lovers can select from a wide variety of coffee makers. From cheap stove top coffee pots to high end super automatic coffee machines, there is a coffee machine for every inclination as well as for every budget. Fantastic news! Now here is the unpleasant news. With all the many coffee machines to choose from today, even knowing the style you favor is not enough. Within each of the coffee maker styles noted above there are numerous different brand names and models to choose from.

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  • July 14, 2021 /  Food

    Bread is a variation of the cake that was not too difficult to make, and the ingredients were easily obtainable. Herman Ahmad, Baker PT ASA Food (manufacturer of bakery Pane del Giorno) reveals the main ingredient of bread making are only four types, namely wheat flour, water, salt, and yeast (yeast).

    “This is the main ingredient. Yet in its development, there are other additives that are used to make it more tender and delicious. Example eggs, butter, and others-others,” said Herman, currently cooking demonstrations in Sentul, Bogor.

    Other additives are also used to make bread to be more savory, tender, and delicious is milk. Basically milk with any formula, both liquid and powdered milk, can be used. But really notice when making dose milk. In addition, the milk of any kind either skim milk or full cream milk can also be used as you see fit.

    Perhaps you think that milk is full cream milk the most appropriate to make bread, because it is more savory. The savory flavor of creamy milk is due to the high fat content in it. Then if skim milk is not good to make bread?

    “It is often mistaken. Was true fat milk will make it more enjoyable. However use any kind of milk will have no effect because both are equally milk contains fat,” he added.

    Skim milk that is lower in fat than full cream milk. However, this does not mean that skim milk does not make the bread so much more enjoyable.

    “Do not forget that you also add the butter or margarine into the dough. Dough is formed between skim milk and butter will be the fat that makes it more delicious. So might as well use the full cream milk,” he said.

    Besides as good with full cream milk, skim milk adding the batter can also make your own bread is healthier and safer for you who are on a diet.

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  • July 13, 2021 /  Food

    Looking for the best cup of coffee? Do your homework first! Coffee is coffee, right? Wrong! Quality coffee is the RIGHT coffee. Ignorance is bliss, yes? Wrong again! An informed consumer is always ahead of the game. Choosing your coffee is not any different from picking out a holiday ham. You are fussy about the bread you buy or how much sugar is hiding in your kids cereal. Be discriminating about your coffee. Be informed. The informed coffee consumer is always ahead of the game. From the freshly roasted coffee beans, all the way to the cup you use, choose your coffee wisely. Don’t stick your head in the consumer sand bucket and settle for less than the best. Being willing to accept the coffee commercials and hype they feed us as gospel can cause you to settle for second-rate, low quality coffee beans from a year ago. Vacuum sealed cans were designed to make you think your coffee is fresh and bursting with flavor, when you hear the seal pop. Don’t buy it!

    If you start with fresh you get fresh. Quality gourmet coffee is roasted hours prior to shipping and is at your door step within…at the most a week of roasting. It should arrive in a vacuum sealed bag with a breathing seal. Starting with fresh high quality beans means being willing to settle for nothing less than the best high quality coffee beans you can find. Most sites that sell coffee offer fresh ground coffee beans as an option. If you don’t own a coffee grinder, this may work for you until you can purchase one. Purchasing coffee from one of the coffee sites offering this option will at least ensure that your coffee is reasonably fresh, however, it needs to be used up right away, or stored properly. If you buy coffee already ground, you as the consumer want to bear in mind that already ground coffee loses the original quality quickly. Storing coffee in a mason jar with a tight lid on a cool shelf in the pantry is a wonderful way to keep it palatable for up to a month.

    Ever purchase ground coffee in the store, open the can, take a whiff, and it smells wonderful? Inside of 24 hours that same can of coffee will not only lose potency, but will smell like it’s been sitting there on the counter for months (a trained nose detects this after a little bit of practice). There are two basic reasons for this phenomenon:

    1. The coffee in the can is gleaned from poor quality beans to maximize the profit margins of the mass producing retail market industry. These coffee beans are either low quality arabica beans or they are robusta beans, which are like a weed in the coffee world.

    2. The coffee was roasted months ago, vacuum sealed and the quality in the fresh roasted coffee beans is broken down significantly. This is done to meet mass demand in a hurry.

    3. (I know I said there were only two, but this one is nagging at me) When you lose flavor you destroy the antioxidants! Antioxidants are our justification for drinking coffee in the first place! Justify your case!

    Are you convinced by now that there is no substitute for good quality coffee? Buying quality freshly roasted beans is the best option. Although it does require an initial investment of a good quality grinder, it is well worth the investment. A decent quality grinder can be purchased at your favorite online coffee retailer for between thirty to fifty dollars. Put it on your Christmas wish list to Santa! Hang on, I need a second cup of coffee. There, that’s much better. By the way, I had to make a second pot. Fresh ground and freshly brewed coffee doesn’t last at our house more than 5 minutes, and our pot holds 10 cups. We like it fresh to the last drop! A dyed-in-the-wool coffee lover craves the freshly ground bean.

    To complete your investigation and make an informed decision regarding the purchase of freshly roasted coffee beans, you will discover an interesting difference in the spent coffee grounds when comparing store run-of-the-mill name brand coffee to freshly ground. After brewing, grocery store coffee grounds are dead and fall in a heap when they are discarded. They stick together, plop out of the basket, and are not fluffy as they should be. Freshly ground, high quality spent coffee beans are fluffy and moist. You can run your fingers through the fluffy spent grounds and they almost float and feel alive. Once you’ve handled fresh ground gourmet coffee beans in your hand, after brewing, you will agree there is no contest. Freshly ground coffee beans are superior to any other. It is no small wonder that your plants love the spent grounds from fresh ground coffee. They thrive on it as much as we do our first delectable cup…second…and third. Even plants prefer the freshly ground coffee beans and seem to thrive on the hidden nutrients still looming in the recyclable beans. Another justification for our love of good coffee. Not that we need any.

    Still not convinced? Does your coffee taste old or burnt an hour after brewing? Coffee made from freshly ground beans stays fresh in the carafe as much as 4 times longer, if it lasts that long at your house. The acid build up is at a minimum and the quality is mouth-watering. There is nothing like it on the planet known to man, beast, and plant life. Once you switch to freshly ground coffee beans, you will never want another cup of stored grocery store coffee again! You think you are addicted to coffee now? Just try freshly ground quality coffee beans. You will be hooked for life! Choose freshly ground coffee, grind it fresh, brew it fresh, drink it fresh. Find a quiet spot, sit back, savor the taste, and simply enjoy the drink of a lifetime. The best cup of Joe begins with freshly roasted high quality coffee beans.

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  • July 13, 2021 /  Food

    Raw food detox diet involves eating food in its uncooked form, referring to anything that occurs naturally. There are immense benefits to be derived from a diet consisting primarily or sole of raw organic vegan food. Eating raw foods gives you 100 percent of the available nutrition. But you can lose up to 85 percent of the original nutritional value when you cook the same food.

    Raw food detox diet also provides enzymes that help digest your food. Living foods not exposed to temperatures above 116 degrees Fahrenheit keep their enzymes intact; otherwise, the enzymes break up and your body has to work harder to digest your meals. Enzyme-rich foods give you a more realistic and efficient energy source. They rapidly break down in our stomach and immediately begin to provide energy and nutrition.

    One of the most life enhancing benefits is the abundant amount of energy that is available to you. Energy that is usually use to digest cooked food is freed up for you to spend for other things, when eating raw. You will find that you will need to sleep less to feel rested.

    Many athletes have found that light raw meals give a more sustainable form of energy and improve their performance. Students find that raw food detox diet gives them a more stable blood sugar level, helping them to think more clearly and stay more focused. Eating in this manner is also known to enhance your beauty. Most of all, when you eat well you feel good – and feeling good is the essence of life.

    To start your raw food detox diet, increase the amount of fresh produce in your cooked food diet. The cleansing process begins and helps flush out old toxins. Greens and fresh fruits are especially effective in pushing debris out of your cells and colon. These two primary raw sources attune your body to eating more and more raw food.

    As you feel fuller and more nourished from the increased quantities of raw food, you may consider trying to let go of cooked meals. Cultured items (like tofu) help initiate beneficial flora. Dried foods assist your transition by giving a raw food way to satisfy a cooked food craving for something heavy. The goal in a raw food detox diet is to achieve the ideal balanced diet of 60 per cent fresh foods, 20 per cent sprouted foods, 10 per cent dried foods, and 10 per cent cultured foods. Try to achieve that to make the most of healthy, energy and culinary enjoyment!

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  • Which Ingredients Make Good Pet Foods?

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    July 10, 2021 /  Food

    When you are considering which pet food to choose for your pet the most important consideration should always be the ingredients. The quality of the ingredients are what truly set premium foods apart from the poorer grades of foods.

    When you look at a pet food label the ingredients are required to be listed in order of weight or predominance in the food. However, this can be slightly misleading. This is weight prior to processing. This means that if whole chicken is used in the food it may be listed first in the ingredient list, which sounds very appealing to the customer. Whole chicken contains a great deal of moisture. By the time the chicken is processed it weighs much less. For this reason, some people prefer to see things like chicken meal, or lamb meal in the first few spots in the ingredient list since these ingredients have already had the moisture removed from them prior to weighing for use in making the pet food.

    According to the respected Whole Dog Journal, and other sources, for dogs it’s good to see multiple sources of animal protein in the first five ingredients of a premium dog food. It’s especially important to have a good source of protein in the first couple of ingredients. The exception would be with foods that are sold as pre-mixes, such as dehydrated or freeze dried foods, which are intended to be supplemented with protein sources by the owner. In these cases you would not expect to see protein sources among the first few ingredients.

    Many concerned owners look for the following in their pet foods:

    You should avoid generic ingredients such as “meat meal” or “animal fat.” Instead look for named sources such as beef fat, chicken fat, lamb meal, fish, etc.

    Look for human grade, USDA approved ingredients. Pet food cannot, by law, be sold for human consumption, but look for companies that are committed to using human grade ingredients. You can also seek out hormone- and antibiotic-free meats. All poultry is already raised hormone-free in the U.S. but other meats are not necessarily raised this way unless specified.

    Try to avoid foods that use corn gluten meal and other glutens. Many dogs are allergic to corn. Corn gluten is often a cheap protein filler and waste product from other industries. There can be similar problems with wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate, which are also used as fillers.

    Avoid “meat by-products” and “meat digests.” When reading pet food labels look for specific, named sources of protein, such as lamb, chicken, tuna, beef, and so on. The term “meat” is a catch-all phrase that allows the pet food industry to be very unspecific about what kind of meat it’s using, so you don’t know what you could be feeding your pet.

    There’s also a vast difference in preparation between “whole” chicken, chicken “meal,” chicken “by-products,” and chicken “digests.” Each term describes different preparation and parts of the chicken used. As a consumer and pet owner, you want to purchase foods which rely primarily on whole foods and meals. These are the foods which are closest to their original, live form and contain the most nutrition. By-products and digests contain necks, feet, intestines and other parts of the animal that you would not consider fit for human consumption.

    Many foods may contain these ingredients as well as the more premium ingredients. But the primary ingredients you should look for should be whole foods and meals made from named meat sources.

    Avoid BHA, BHT and Ethoxyquin. These are artificial preservatives and often used in poor quality foods. Ethoxyquin is banned in foods for human consumption except as a color preservative in spices.

    Avoid artificial colors, sugars and sweeteners.

    Another thing to watch for on the ingredient list is “splitting” — many times an ingredient such as corn is split into multiple listings — ground yellow corn, corn gluten meal, and other corn sources. Singly they are not a big presence, but added together, corn can become the biggest ingredient in your dog’s diet.

    Taurine was added to cat foods in the 1970s when cats began going blind and dying due to taurine deficiencies. Dogs were thought not to need taurine but now links are being found that suggest they do require it. Some companies have begun adding it to dog foods.

    Many people also prefer to buy from companies that have U.S.-grown ingredients. This isn’t simply patriotism. The United States has some of the strictest regulations in the world for growing and manufacturing foods. Some companies list the source of their ingredients on their Web sites but it is more difficult to find out this information from other companies.

    Some people prefer to feed their pets so-called “exotic” protein diets — venison, buffalo, duck, trout, etc. They may be trying to find foods that won’t trigger allergies in their pets. In general, it’s considered good advice to avoid feeding your dog (or cat) such unusual proteins unless he or she already has an allergy problem. If your pet does well on a more common protein it’s a good idea to stick with it and save the exotic proteins for a time when it’s needed. That way you know you have some options if you run into problems. If your pet should develop an allergy to the exotic proteins you would have nowhere to go.

    High protein diets are very popular at the moment. The old ideas about excessive protein possibly harming your pet’s kidneys seem to have been debunked. However, if you wish to try a high protein diet, or one of the new grain-free diets, make sure that you find a food that has the AAFCO Nutritional Adequacy statement. You want to make sure that you are feeding a food that is nutritionally balanced.

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