Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Creative Ways to Increase Vitamin A Intake

Let's face it... we can spend a great deal of time fretting over (I mean 'considering') our parrot's diet, and contemplating ways to get them to eat healthier.  What do you do if you have a particularly picky parrot?  (Not that any of us do, of course...!)

One important factor in assuring nutrition-compliance is most decidedly presentation.  For example, Coco is not particularly enamored with fresh sliced carrot rounds.  She eats them haphazardly and minimally at best  However, when I use the potato peeler to slice long thin pieces from the carrot, she gobbles them down by the handful!  The same carrot, but a different texture and appearance = acceptance.

Ideally, each day we could provide a wide variety of fresh foods for our birds that were readily and consistently accepted.  Unfortunately, even if your picky parrot loves his squash fresh and diced today, tomorrow he may turn up his beak at the exact same item.  (However, always bear in mind that birds naturally shy away from something different or unexpected, and that we should continue offering it to give them ample opportunity to adjust, taste and accept foods.)  

The process of preparing and presenting food in a variety of ways can be time consuming, and when picky beaks look skyward, it can leave us worried if they are receiving optimal nutrition.  While I view Coco's diet in its totality, two things to which I pay particularly special attention are:

1) Omega Fatty Acids
2) Vitamin A Rich Vegetables

For natural oils and healthy fats, I like to serve almonds, walnuts and pecans.  These are the nuts most readily and consistently accepted by Coco, and provide plenty of nutrients beyond their beneficial oils.  I also give her a few drops of organic hemp seed oil several times a week.  Quality sources of omega fatty acids are essential, and in my book, hemp seed oil is at the head of the class.  It is inexpensive, and a little bit of it goes a very long way.  Be sure to keep it refrigerated, and keep an eye on the expiration date.  At such small amounts, an 8 ounce bottle will last forever.  So be sure to include it in your diet also, as it is healthy for humans too!  

Getting Coco to eat her nuts is certainly no problem.  There are also many ways to get her to consume a little hemp seed oil.  One of her favorite is  for a few drops to be mixed in with a nut butter and placed on a small sliver of toast... she loves nut butters, and hemp seed oil has a naturally nutty flavor.  She polishes it off before I can close the jar!  Additionally, grains or veggies (either cooked or raw) can easily be tossed in a few drops of oil.  But since she may not eat the entire amount, I prefer to disguise the oil in something I know will be consumed.  

Vitamin A is an essential nutrient for all living beings - especially our birds.  Dark leafy greens, carrots, peppers, squash and sweet potato are just a few great sources of vitamin A.  Birds that live on junk-seed diets are at high risk for vitamin A deficiencies.  

Occasionally Coco will go through a stage where she just seems to turn up her nose at anything green, orange, red or yellow (not counting bananas)!  Whether raw, cooked, sliced, diced or served on the finest china nothing impresses her.  I have realized I need new ways of serving veggies, especially those high in vitamin A, that are both readily (and preferably consistently) accepted.  So I will share one of my secrets with you:

Enter - baby food.  While the toddler foods are slightly chunkier, Coco still prefers a bit of a thicker formula.  So it is easy to add cooked oatmeal, some rice, couscous or other healthy grain to give the mixture some body.  

For example, place a tablespoon of rolled oats in a ramekin, add a couple tablespoons of water, and microwave for 45-60 seconds.  Let cool, and then mix into this 1/2 teaspoon of carrots, and 1/2 teaspoon of apple/squash baby food.  

This is worth the price of admission. The Diva loves oatmeal, and I can even sneak a few drops of the hemp seed oil into this mixture.  Consider adding some shredded dark leafy vegetables to the mixture, mashed cooked beans as a thickener, different grains, mashed banana, diced apple, or select different varieties of baby food such as spinach or sweet potatoes just to name a couple.  The possibilities are endless!

This is not only a great option for busy days, but can also be handy if you have a friend caring for your bird and want to ensure that they get some veggies while you're gone.  Experiment in advance  to find a variety of different recipes that are accepted.  

Actually... this might be a way to increase my own veggie-intake too!  
Hmmm... I wonder if apple-buckleberry surprise has any vegetables in it??!!

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