Even though our birds have the advantages of the latest avian diets and treats, we still enjoy supplementing their meals with people food and snacks. Many of the foods we eat make nutritious supplements to our birds’ diets. But wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to worry over every morsel? Modify your diet to suit your bird. Here’s how:
Cut down on salt: Too much salt can result in salt toxicity in birds, and it can exacerbate high blood pressure problems in humans. Stop adding salt to food when cooking, and leave the salt shaker off the dinner table at meal time. Most food is loaded with enough natural salt to flavor it and, once you become accustomed to less salt, you’ll begin to enjoy flavors you hadn’t formerly perceived. Forego salty snacks like olives, anchovies, hard cheeses, potato chips and other commercially prepared munchies, and serve unsalted popcorn, salt-free nuts and trail mix and organic vegetable chips instead.
Canned and powdered soup, canned vegetables, prepared frozen meals, processed meats and convenience foods are often laden with salt. Look for low-salt versions of these items, and use frozen vegetables instead of the canned variety. When Cracker insists on sharing some of my favorite canned vegetable soup, I rinse the vegetables in a colander to remove some residual salt before I serve them to her.
Watch those sweet treats: How sweet is too sweet? You probably weigh more than 100 times your bird’s weight. If you give your bird a jellybean, it’s equal to you ingesting 100 or more of these sugary morsels. Avoid feeding your birds high doses of sugar and empty calories. Instead, share a piece of fruit or a bit of no-sugar added applesauce.
Crack open the cookbook: Convenience food and take-out meals have become a mainstay in our busy lives, but are they really good for us and the birds we share them with? The expense of prepared meals might also be cutting into your bird’s toy budget. Save money and gain better health by setting aside an hour or two a week to prepare some nutritious meals to eat throughout the week.
Forbid frying: Fried food isn’t good for you or your bird, and even the fumes from high-temperature frying can be harmful. Instead, bake, broil, steam or braise most foods. Oven-roasted potato strips are just as tasty as french fries, and your birds will enjoy them just as much. Slice a combination of white and sweet potatoes, place them on a greased cookie sheet or roasting pan, lightly spray with olive oil, and roast at 450-degrees Fahrenheit until golden brown, turning them once or twice during the cooking process.
Practice safe cooking: Avoid nonstick cookware or appliances. Fumes emitted from the polymers in nonstick coatings can kill birds quickly. Don’t keep your birds in the kitchen or where they are exposed to fumes or smoke. Ventilate your home well, especially while cooking. Practice safe eating too. Don’t feed your bird from your fork or (gasp!) your mouth. Instead, reserve your pet’s share of your meal on a separate plate, and use separate utensils for serving.
Make meals bird-friendly: Restrict butter, cream, fatty meats and preservative laden ingredients. Use whole-wheat pasta instead of the semolina flour variety. Bake your own muffins instead of buying them ready-made. I use a boxed mix to make my breakfast muffins, and replace the oil called for in the instructions with applesauce. I grate carrots into the mixture for added nutrition and use egg whites or cholesterol-free egg substitutes instead of whole eggs. I also add some unprocessed bran for fiber and my almost home-made muffins are better for my flock and me.
Avoid fast food: You have no control over how fast food is stored, handled or prepared. Food-borne illnesses can be fatal, especially to your bird. Never feed your bird ground beef (hamburgers, chili, etc.) from a fast food restaurant. In light of the ground beef recalls of last fall, it’s probably a good idea to leave it out of your bird’s diet altogether. Any meat you do offer your bird should be well cooked.
Read package labels. You’ll be surprised at the amount of salt and preservatives in some foods. Read the labels before you buy, and opt for foods with fewer potentially harmful ingredients.
Be sneaky: Jessica Seinfeld (spouse of Jerry) wrote a great cookbook called "Deceptively Delicious.” It’s based on the principle of sneaking nutritious things into children’s food. Seinfeld purees various vegetables and blends them into child-pleasing recipes. Try this with your flock.