An Anti-Junk Food Bird
July 21, 2011 § 5 Comments
My sister offered Lola a potato chip the other day and Lola took one bite and spit it out, then turned her back on it! Had I been there I would have protested before it could have happened– but I heard all of this secondhand from my dear sisters. After they told me, they said, “Watch, she won’t even eat a graham cracker!” and again, before I could object, they offered it up to her, she took a lick, and she turned away. I couldn’t help but beam a little. I raised my little girl to dislike junk food!
I didn’t think a lot about it afterward until yesterday, when a friend of mine posted an excellent article on parrot diet and nutrition. I always like reading about diet in general, but this article in particular made a very interesting argument– that parrots probably have the innate ability to know what types of nutrients they need in their diet (as evidenced in studies on both rats and human children), but that things like added sugars, fat, and salts can “pervert the appetite,” a phrase I had not heard before. I think it is a very fitting one.
I think most birds parents allow their birds the occasional junk food treat– a small bit of cake or a muffin, for example, or a cheeto, or some pizza. “Everything in moderation,” after all, right? My family is very much like this with their Hahn’s, Karat– she goes crazy for the occasional bite of a doughnut or really, anything she shouldn’t be eating. Well, I have always been one of those crazy overbearing bird parents who has never allowed her birds to have junk food of any sort. Never ever. Neither the budgies nor Lola have ever had a single junk food item. And after reading the article above, I don’t quite feel so much like a “Food Nazi” (as I’ve been called by my family) as I do proud: Lola’s appetite has never been perverted by tasting any sort of processed snack or sugary baked good, and she simply doesn’t have an appetite for it.
This also reinforces for me why parrots should not be eating any pellet or nugget or other type of food mix that contains added sugars (and you’d be surprised by how many do, even “reputable” ones). Added sugars are by no means necessary to the diet, and in fact can be quite detrimental.
Of course, none of my flock were rehomed to me; they all arrived as babies, so it has been easy for me to control their diet and shape their tastes, so to speak. But I think that this is an important observation for any bird owner. The article further states that just as eating sugar will lead us to crave sugar, the converse is also true: if we convert ourselves to a healthier diet, we will crave healthier foods, and reject the more sugary or fattening ones. So it is never too late to start making positive changes to your parrot’s diet– or your own!