By Kymythy R. Schultze

If you have children, then you know they’re a magnet for hovering hounds and mooching mousers. Living in a busy home that includes kids, pets, and adults, the line between who eats what can sometimes become blurry! Picking up dog or cat treats at the store can seem pointless if your furry family member is gobbling up whatever the kids are eating. And it can be frustrating to constantly guard the toddler from eating the pet’s treats!

But hey, you’re in good company; humans have been sharing food with their animal companions since the beginning of our relationship with them. The practice dates back to the time when early human first invited their primitive pet into the sanctity of their home and, much to the animal’s delight, their kitchen. Perhaps it was a child that first earned the affection of a wild kitten or pup by sharing her lunch with them. Sharing food with our animal friends is a time-honored tradition that has helped bond our species together. Plus, it’s fun! It brings out the nurturer, the companion, and the guardian in us; even in young children. It feels good to share a special treat with a furry friend, and millions of animal-lovers do it on a regular basis.

Before you allow the kids to share their snacks, you should determine if it will help or harm your child and your pet’s health. Many of today’s processed foods are not good for any body; human, canine or feline as they contain rancid fats, sugar, and questionable chemicals. They offer little nutritional value when compared to fresh natural foods. Also many dogs and cats, like many children and adults, have negative reactions to ingredients they may be sensitive to such as dairy, wheat, yeast, and others.

Home-made treats are a healthy and delicious option to processed products. Nutritious treats and snacks can easily be made at home and you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing exactly what you’re giving all of the members of your family. And children learn so much from the example set by adults, so preparing and enjoying healthy and delicious food is an invaluable habit to instill in them.

The following recipe is super-easy to make and so delicious that everyone in your house will want some. And that’s okay; it’s good for everyone…the kids, you, and your pets!

You’ll notice that the recipe calls for carob (a powder you’ll find in health food stores and many regular grocery stores) instead of chocolate. There’s good reason for the substitution:  Cocoa and chocolate contain theobromine, an alkaloid that can be lethal for some animals, including dogs and cats. Plus, it contains caffeine, which most kids and pets definitely don’t need. So, hooray for carob, the chocolate alternative! Not only is it safe and delicious, but it’s nutritious as well, and contains 60 percent fewer calories than chocolate. Carob is a great source of calcium, vitamins, and essential amino acids. Plus, carob’s high pectin content makes it useful for digestive disorders, especially children’s diarrhea.

To get the most flavor and nutrients from your food, you’ll want to purchase organically-grown food whenever possible. Organically grown food is the fastest-growing sector of agriculture today, and for good reason: It has higher levels of nutrients, including cancer-fighting compounds, than most conventionally grown food. Plus, the Environmental Protection Agency warns that 60 percent of the herbicides, 90 percent of the fungicides, and 30 percent of the insecticides that may be used on non-organic crops are carcinogenic (cancer-causing). Children and pets are especially affected by these toxins.

If you cannot get organically-grown food, don’t let it deter you from enjoying the great taste and nutrition of fresh whole foods. Fresh food is much healthier than processed food products. Just buy the best quality that you can and be sure to wash all produce before using.

The following recipe is a great alternative to unhealthy sweets. This simple recipe will allow you to make delicious treats for you, your children and pets, and also treat yourself to peace of mind, knowing that it is actually good for all the members of your family!

Almond Fudge Logs

1 cup raw almond butter

1/2 cup raw shelled almonds, chopped

1/4 cup raw carob powder

1/4 cup raw honey

Combine almond butter, carob, and honey until well blended. Form into “log” shapes (if they’re too sticky, add more carob) or roll into 1” balls. Roll in chopped nuts, chill until firm, and slice logs into pieces. Keep refrigerated. Makes about 1 1/2 cups, or three 7” logs. Children love helping roll the fudge into balls and coating them in nuts (or try shredded coconut). If you have a baby less than one year of age, it is recommended to avoid honey, so use pure maple syrup instead.