What is the best food for my dog?

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What is the best food for my dog?

At Slobber & Chops, we love to share our knowledge and experience openly and transparently. We asked Elaine, an amazing vet, to write an unbiased guide to choosing the right dog food for you and your dog. We believe that making the right choice for you is more important than sales and hope this guide helps you find great quality dog food.

We all want the best for our dogs, and what they eat is essential to their well-being. Let’s face it, dogs aren’t always picky about what they eat, so they rely on us - their owners - to make the best decisions for them. Choosing a suitable dog food can seem overwhelming. But don’t worry - whether you choose wet, dry, cold-pressed or raw, we’re here to help you navigate the options.

Elaine McNamara is a vet who has been treating dogs and advising their owners for the past 14 years. She knows a thing or two about nutrition so we asked her to create this guide. We’ll give you all the information you need - breaking down the terms, explaining the different food types and helping you choose the best food for your dog.

The Golden Rules

This guide is here to help you choose the right dog food for you and your dog. We will go into the different decisions that you may need to make when choosing a healthy dog food but here are my golden rules:

Feed balanced and complete - complete dog food is one that has all the nutrition your dog needs. Balanced means that everything is present in the right amounts. Dogs need a diet that is both balanced and complete.

Don’t feed scraps and ‘off the table’ - this is not a healthy way to feed your dog - It’s also very important to be aware of potential toxins. Lots of foods that we can eat without thinking are poisonous to dogs.

Feed for the lifestage of your dog - your dog will have individual needs, which vary with things like their age, activity levels, size, whether they’re neutered, and whether they have any health conditions. For example, food can be aimed at puppies, seniors, working or neutered dogs. Dog’s food needs are different at each stage of their life, so you need food for a dog's life stage that describes your dog as closely as possible.

Every dog Is different – much like us humans, dogs are unique; their personalities, behaviour, experience, and background are all special to them. At times, your dog will have specific issues or requirements that their food must meet. This may mean your first choice won’t work out!


What next?

So now you know my golden rules, where do you start? The next thing to consider is the type of the dog food as this will help you narrow down your search.


What do we mean by dog food types?

Dog foods are typically described by how they appear, or how they’re prepared. In the UK the main food types are:

Wet Dog Food
Dry Dog Food
Raw Dog Food
Cold Pressed Dog Food

Each has its own benefits that might make it more suitable for certain dogs - but the type you choose will largely depend on what you and your dog prefer, the time you have, the level of convenience and the needs of your dog. To help you understand more about the different types, we’ve prepared a guide to each - just click on the links above.

Of course, you don’t have to buy dog food - some people make their own. It’s tricky to get this right: you need to plan recipes carefully and follow specialist advice to include all the essential nutrients in the correct amounts.

Once you have decided what type of food will work for you and your dog, it’s time to start looking into the different brands of dog food and what they print on their labels. Sadly, whichever food type you choose, there are great quality foods and less great foods. So how do you chose the best dog food for your budget?


What should be on the label?

Quality dog food should tell you everything that is in it with no confusing jargon. A good food company should want you to understand what you're feeding your dog. This is referred to as clear labelling.

At a minimum, the package should display three lists:

  • Composition or ingredients
  • Analytical constituents (or analytical ingredients)
  • Additives

Composition is the list of ingredients in the food. The biggest ingredient comes first, and the smallest last. If you imagine it applied to a creamy lasagne, white sauce would probably be the first ingredient, and a dash of salt would come near the end.

Coming back to dog food, it’s useful to look at the ingredients of a good quality product:

Salmon & trout 50% (including freshly prepared salmon & trout 36%, dried salmon 12% & salmon stock 2%), sweet potato (24%), peas (9%), potato, beet pulp, linseed, omega 3 supplement, minerals, vitamins, vegetable stock, asparagus (0.3%), FOS (96 mg/kg), MOS (24 mg/kg)

This list tells us that half the ingredients in this food are fish (salmon and trout). It gives us the breakdown of the types of salmon and trout used and in what amounts (freshly prepared salmon and trout 36%, dried salmon 12%, salmon stock 2%). We can then see that sweet potato is the second most important ingredient (almost a quarter) then peas and so on. We know immediately from this label what ingredients are used and in what proportions.

As a general guideline, you should choose a dog food with high-quality meat as the main ingredient.

Analytical constituents (or analytical ingredients) is similar to the way supermarkets label your own food to show how much energy, protein, carbs, fibre and fat are in there.

For the same salmon and trout food, the breakdown is: crude protein 22%, crude fat 11%, crude fibre 3%, crude ash 8% moisture 8%, NFE 48%, metabolisable energy 356 kcal/100g, omega 6 1.1%, omega 3 3%, calcium 1.4%, phosphorus 0.9%

This tells us that this food contains 48% carbohydrates (NFE is an indirect measurement of carbohydrates), 22% protein, 11% fat and 8% crude ash - we explain all about crude ash here. There’s also 8% moisture and 3% fibre. Overall the food contains 356kcal of energy per 100g.

The label also tells us that this food contains specific essential fatty acids (omega 6 and omega 3), and their amounts (1.1% and 3.3% respectively). Finally, it lists how much calcium and phosphorus the food contains (1.4% and 0.9% respectively).

Your dog’s needs for protein, carbs, fibre and fat will depend on their breed, and may vary with their level of exercise and lifestage. Generally, puppies need more protein and calories, while older dogs need fewer calories with a higher protein ratio. Adult dogs need to balance their calorie-intake with their activity level. As a rough guideline, dogs need a minimum of between 18-20g per 100g dry matter depending on their activity level (you can see how to calculate dry matter here).

Additives are additional vitamins, flavours, preservatives, antioxidants and colours that are added to the food. They’re usually there for the same reasons we see them in human food: they might help the food last longer, provide additional nutritional benefits, or help standardise colours.

Going back to our salmon and trout food again the list is: nutritional additives per kilo: vitamin A 15,000 IU, vitamin D3 2,000 IU, vitamin E 95 IU

We know from this label that vitamins A and D3 and antioxidants (vitamin E) have been added to the food as nutritional supplements.

Now you know what you’re looking at, what you should be looking for? The most important thing is to understand the ingredients and their proportions in your dog’s food. The label should be a clear reflection of what is in the product, and if you don’t understand what you read there, you should be able to ask someone to explain.

How often and how much should you feed your dog?

Once you’ve found the right food for your dog, you need to make sure they’re getting the right amounts. How much you feed your dog depends on the type and brand of food. Good quality food should display a feeding guide on the label, so check the package for guidelines. Start by feeding the suggested amount and adjust it according to your dog’s weight and body condition. If you’re concerned about your dog’s weight, always speak to your vet for advice.

Divide your dog’s daily food allowance into 1-3 meals provided over the course of the day. Puppies need to eat more frequently than older dogs, but for most dogs, little-and-often is a sensible approach.

So what should you feed your dog?

Well, there’s no one right answer to optimal dog feeding. Your dog is an individual, so their diet should be individual too. The type and amount of food you feed them should be based on factors including their body condition score, age, activity level, and any medical conditions they have.

Remember, too, that the three most important things your dog needs are:

  • Food that is balanced and complete
  • Food that is appropriate for their age and lifestyle
  • Food that is good quality with no hidden ingredients


Where can I get more advice?

Our guides to dog food should answer most of the questions you could have, but if you’re after more advice, check out the links provided below. Always remember that, if you have any questions or concerns specific to your dog, you should discuss them with your vet.


Helpful resources and references


Dog Food Types: Wet Food

Canned dog food has been a familiar sight on supermarket shelves since it was developed in the 1920's. It rapidly became the most popular way of feeding pet dogs and, although it has since been overtaken by dry food in sales, it remains an extremely popular dog food type - with good reason, as we will see below.

Key points about wet food

  • High moisture content: your dog will drink less water
  • Convenient: easy to store and feed
  • Good palatability: high in taste and smell

Good for:

  • Dogs with teeth problems: softer food is easier to chew
  • Dogs that need lots of water: those with urinary or kidney problems
  • Dogs that are prone to weight gain: the moisture content improves satiety


What is wet food?

Wet dog food is soft food that is commercially available and has a high moisture content.

Although you can make homemade wet food, you would normally buy it from shops pre-cooked and packaged. It comes in a variety of containers (cans, trays and pouches) and is prepared into chunks, meatloaf or pate, with added gravy or jelly. You can also buy bags of frozen or chilled wet food, although these are less common.

The food itself is made by combining the raw ingredients, which are then cooked and packaged into containers. Before going to shops, the containers are sealed under pressure and sterilised at high temperatures to kill any bugs.


Compared with dry, wet food is less concentrated and has fewer calories for its weight, which means you need to feed more wet food than dry. While this is not convenient for all dogs, particularly large or energetic dogs, it is good for dogs that struggle with their weight; they have to eat a larger amount to get the same number of calories, which makes them feel fuller. The high moisture content of the food also makes them feel fuller - like drinking a pint of water with your dinner.

Of course, to meet the energy needs of a non-dieting dog, you will need to feed larger portions of wet food than other food types. This may make a wet diet a more expensive option if your dog is one of the bigger breeds. More importantly, large and growing dogs may feel full before they get all the nutrients they need so have to be fed more frequently or have supplementary food.

Although wet food is usually high in fat and protein, it is really only useful for weight gain in smaller breed dogs because of the amount that needs to be fed. Dry or cold-pressed food is usually a better option if you want your large-breed dog to gain weight, but some very concentrated veterinary wet foods are available if they prefer wet food.

Because of the high moisture content, your dog will get most of the water they need from their food and won’t need to drink as much water separately. The extra moisture content in wet food is particularly useful if you are trying to get your dog to drink more, for example, those dogs that suffer from urinary or kidney problems.


Wet food tends to be easier than dry food to digest. When dogs are under the weather, vets quite often recommend a wet diet. So it’s a good option if your dog has a sensitive stomach or is recovering from an illness. Additionally, because of its softness, it’s a particularly good option for dogs with sore mouths or missing teeth, as it’s so easy to chew.

Wet food may stick to the surface of teeth more than dry food does. Although wet food in itself doesn’t cause dental disease, it is worthwhile brushing your dog’s teeth daily to reduce the risk. Many of our dogs’ teeth problems can be avoided with regular brushing.

Convenience/Hygiene and Controlling Infection

Wet food is an easy and convenient option for your dog; good quality wet food is readily available in shops, comes in a variety of flavours and textures, and is balanced and complete, which means that a tin should meet all your dog’s requirements.

An additional convenience of wet food is its long shelf life. Because of the way it is packaged and prepared, it can be kept for considerable time on the shelf, and you can keep opened food for 5-7 days as long as it’s covered and refrigerated. If your dog doesn’t finish their meal, however, you will need to remove any uneaten food for hygiene purposes, particularly in hot weather.


Wet food is a good no-frills option for most dogs. It’s an easy, safe way to feed your dog. Its taste and texture appeal to most dogs and it’s a handy way of getting your dog to take in more water. Good quality wet food has been around for a long time and, given its advantages, is likely to be around for a long time to come.


Dog Food Types: Dry Food

Out of all the food types, dry food is the one we’re probably all most familiar with. Whatever we call it, kibble, biscuit, dry food, it comes in many shapes and sizes. It was invented over 150 years ago as a way of preserving dog food for longer and is now the most popular food we feed our dogs

Let’s have a look at why it’s so popular and why it might be the right choice for your dog. And, remember, not all dog food is equal, so whichever type of food you choose, it’s always worth doing your research.

Key points about dry food

  • High energy: you need to feed less dry food than wet
  • Convenient: easy to store, easy to weigh, and low mess
  • Cost-effective: usually cheaper than other types of food

Good for:

  • Grazers: dogs that eat little and often
  • Overweight dogs or those prone to weight gain
  • Dogs with teeth problems (some specific foods)


What is dry dog food?

Dry dog food, or ‘kibble’, is an energy-dense biscuit food that comes in various shapes, sizes and flavours. It is either made by ‘baking’ or using a process called ‘extrusion’. Traditionally extruded dry food is cooked under high pressure and temperature, whereas baked dry food is cooked for longer at lower temperatures. As a result of the gentle cooking method, baking tends to retain more goodness from the ingredients than traditional extrusion.

However, extrusion has evolved. Companies like Bone Idol now employ a modern extrusion process using much lower temperatures to create the kibble. As with baking, these lower cooking temperatures preserve the nutrients. Look for references indicating the use of lower temperatures or ask the company about their process to create the food.

Cooking removes most of the moisture from dry food so that only around 10% remains (compare that with about 80% in wet food). The lower water content extends its shelf life and decreases its weight. But, as your dog won’t be getting much water from their diet, it’s important to give them access to fresh water at all times.


Compared with wet food, dry food is more concentrated, so it contains more calories for its weight. This means you don’t need to feed as much dry food as wet, which is particularly good for large or energetic dogs, and dogs that need to gain weight. It is also useful for dogs that need to gain weight, after an illness, for example.

On the other hand, because of the number of different dry foods available, it can be a handy option for dogs that need to lose weight too. Dry food is usually available in low-calorie varieties, which can make the transition from regular to diet dry food extremely easy. And because the amount you need to feed is similar, your dog will barely notice that they are getting fewer calories.


Dry food feeding is possibly the easiest food type to feed your dog: there is no preparation, it has a long shelf life, it is easy to weigh out what you need, and there is very little cleaning. Even the messiest eaters will find it difficult to spread around the house!

Dry food is available almost everywhere. It comes in a range of brands and flavours for all breeds, activity levels and ages to suit most dogs. If your dog doesn’t take to one, there are plenty more options available, including veterinary formulations to manage medical conditions, like kidney, liver or dental disease.

A real benefit of dry food is its versatility; for dogs that eat little and often or are home while you’re at work, it can be left down so your dog can graze throughout the day. Puzzle feeders and scatter feeding can prevent boredom and increase activity in dogs that are left alone during the day, and dry food is ideal for either.

Presoaking dry food is an excellent way of helping dogs eat. If your dog struggles with poor digestion, presoaking their food with warm water may make it easier on their tummy. Equally, if your dog has a sore mouth, softening the food will make chewing easier. Once it’s soaked, you can also warm dry food to release more of the flavour, which will encourage dogs with a poor appetite.


The pet food industry has strict quality-controls that regulate the production of dry food. In combination with the high temperatures used to produce dry food, the quality controls ensure that it is very safe to feed your dog. The risk of any bacteria contaminating the food and surviving the temperatures is tiny, for example.

Does it prevent dental disease?

Not exactly. You may have heard that dry food prevents dental disease, but this isn’t strictly true.

As a general rule, although dry food may reduce some of the visible tartar, it does not improve the underlying periodontal disease. So although teeth may look better, the dental disease is not substantially improved. However, some dry foods, known as dental diets, are specially designed to prevent plaque and tartar, and these are very effective. Just like in people, though, the best way to avoid teeth problems is regular, daily tooth brushing. So combining dry food feeding with daily tooth brushing is an excellent way of preventing dental disease.


Dry food is a great all-rounder that can be feed to almost all dogs.

A good quality dry food is convenient, healthy and economical and provides complete nutrition to your dog simply and safely.


Dog Food Types: Raw food

Let’s get it out of the way: raw food is controversial. BARF diets (bones and raw food/biologically appropriate raw food) or the less catchy RMBDs (raw meat-based diets) polarise opinion. Supporters claim it can improve a dogs energy, digestion and teeth, while detractors argue it risks nutritional deficiencies, infections and dental damage. So what’s the truth? Should you feed it to your dog? And if you do, how can you do so safely? Let’s have a look at the pros and cons in more detail.

Key points about raw food

  • Unprocessed: raw feeding requires fresh preparation or freezing
  • High protein: you may need to feed less to meet protein requirements
  • Requires responsible feeding: exercise good hygiene, keep up to date with your dog’s worming and pick up their poo.

Good for:

  • Healthy adult dogs: dogs over 18 months with no underlying illnesses
  • Dogs with poor stool quality: raw feeding may produce firmer, smaller stools
  • Energetic dogs: those with high exercise needs, like working collies, that need more protein


What is raw food?

Raw food is just that - raw; its ingredients haven’t undergone cooking of any sort.

The diet is made from meat, offal, and bone, along with fruit, vegetables, oils, nuts and seeds. You can prepare meals at home following a recipe, or you can buy packaged raw diets. The commercially-prepared meals come fresh, frozen or freeze-dried, and are either complete (they provide all your dog needs) or complementary (you add raw meat at home).

How did it come about?

Raw feeding comes from the idea that pet dogs should be fed the same diet as wild dogs and wolves. As people began to recognise the risks of processed foods in their own diets, the natural feeding movement gathered pace. The issue with the feeding raw food to pets is that their biology and lifestyle have evolved from their wild cousins; domestic dogs live healthier, longer lives and, biologically, they no longer need the same diet. In fact, in an ironic twist, experts now advocate feeding captive wild dogs a diet of mainly processed dog food!1

Nonetheless, the fact that your dog doesn’t need a raw diet doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t benefit from one. Let’s look at some of the advantages.


Most of the energy in raw food comes from protein. For energetic dogs who exercise a lot, like working collies and huskies, eating a diet high in meat is an efficient way of consuming enough protein. Bear in mind, of course, that most dogs don’t exercise to this level so don’t need as much protein. As a rough guide, dogs need a minimum of 18-20g per 100g dry matter depending on their activity level (you can see how to calculate dry matter here).


While there is no research into the digestibility of raw diets, feeding one to already healthy dogs does improve stool quality; raw-fed dogs produce smaller, firmer stools.2 Additionally, the faecal microbiome (the number of microorganisms in stool) in raw-fed dogs is more varied.2 However, how a diverse faecal microbiome affects your dog’s health is so far unclear.


In terms of planning, storage and preparation, raw food is not very convenient. However, with sufficient space (freezer or work surfaces) and time, preparing raw food can easily fit into a busy life.

Excellent handling and hygiene practices are essential. Without the cooking that destroys bacteria and parasites in meat, your dog is more exposed to infection. So, prepare your dog’s food using the precautions you would use to prepare raw chicken: wash your hands thoroughly, disinfect the surfaces, and don’t use the same utensils for other foods.

On top of having more risk of infection, your dog can carry and excrete bacteria without being ill, which they can pass it on to you. The very old and very young are susceptible to infection, and if you or anyone in your household has an immune disease or undergoes chemotherapy, be particularly careful. So make sure to pick up your dog’s poo, keep up to date with their worming and avoid letting them lick your face.

It’s equally important to store and dispose of raw products correctly. For example, don’t leave raw food down in your dog’s bowl for them to come back to. Messy eaters will need a thorough clean-up afterwards, and unlike other food types, raw food should not be left in Kongs or Lickimats.

Balanced Nutrition

If you chose to prepare raw food from scratch, recipes should be created with input from a veterinary nutritionist because it’s easy to over- or under-feed certain elements. This is important in any dog but more so in puppies, dogs with kidney disease, cancer, immune disease or any special dietary needs.


Cleaner teeth are one of the rumoured benefits of raw feeding, and anything that improves our dogs’ teeth is very welcome. As yet, unfortunately, there is no evidence to support this.3,4 What we do know is that wild animals have less tartar (the visible accumulation of mineralised plaque on teeth) compared to domestic animals. However, tartar is different from periodontal disease, which is the underlying problem in pets. So while animals look better without tartar, their dental health is not substantially improved.

We need to be careful feeding bones in any case because material harder than enamel can break teeth, and damage the mouth and gut. So finely ground bone is fine but avoid feeding larger pieces. An additional concern with the gut is the potential for obstruction; large pieces of bone can get stuck and stop food getting through. This is a frequent emergency in vet clinics, but one you can avoid by ensuring that the bone in your dog’s food is finely ground.


When choosing a raw food, make sure you look for one that is balanced, complete, and made from quality ingredients. All the Pet Food Manufacturers Association (PFMA) member companies will meet these criteria. If you chose to feed your dog a homemade raw diet, speak to a veterinary nutritionist to ensure it is complete, balanced and tailored to your dog. Once you and your dog have found a product you like, store and prepare it with care, and always feed your dog the right amount.

In short, raw feeding is trickier to get right than other types of diets, but that doesn’t make it wrong for you. With careful planning and responsible feeding, your dog can thrive on a raw diet.


  1. Davies RH, Lawes JR, Wales AD. Raw diets for dogs and cats: a review, with particular reference to microbiological hazards. J Small Anim Pract. 2019;60(6):329-339.
  2. Sandri M, Dal Monego S, Conte G, Sgorlon S, Stefanon B. Raw meat based diet influences faecal microbiome and end products of fermentation in healthy dogs. BMC Vet Res. 2017;13(1):65.
  3. van Veggel N, Armstrong M. In Dogs with Periodontal Disease Is Feeding a Complete Raw Meat Diet More Effective Than a Complete Kibble “Dental” Diet at Reducing Periodontal Disease? 1. 2017;2(2). doi:10.18849/ve.v2i2.88
  4. van Veggel N, Oxley J. In Dogs Does Feeding Raw Dietary Treats Reduce or Prevent Periodontal Disease? Veterinary Evidence. 2018;3(3). doi:10.18849/ve.v3i3.153


Dog Food Types: Cold-pressed food

While there’s a good chance you’ll be familiar with dry, wet and even raw dog food, there’s another type you may not have encountered. Cold-pressed dog food is relatively new to the shelves and yet to hit the mainstream. Let’s see how it differs from other foods, and why it might be a good choice for your dog.

Key points about cold-pressed food

  • High energy: you need to feed less than other types
  • Easily digested: breaks down easily in the stomach
  • Convenient: easy to store and feed

Good for:

  • Picky eaters: they don’t have to eat as much
  • Energetic dogs with large appetites: they can get their calories by eating less
  • Dogs that need small, frequent meals: those with upset tummies, for example


What is cold-pressed food?

The first thing to understand about cold-pressed dog food is that it’s made by gently and quickly pressing ingredients together. This is done at a comparatively low temperature which, together with a short cooking time, minimises the damage that preparing the food does to some of the nutrients.

In other words, it’s a cooler, shorter process that retains more of the goodness: some vitamins and antioxidants, for example, are particularly prone to heat damage, so this way of cooking preserves more of them. The end result of cold-pressing is an energy-dense pellet dog food that hasn’t been heavily processed.


The pellet formulation of cold-pressed food is similar to dry kibble, but it has more energy. That means that cold-pressed food contains more calories than the same weight of dry food. So, when you feed cold-pressed food to your dog, you need less. In a direct weight comparison, dogs need about 30% less cold-pressed food compared to dry kibble.

Being able to feed smaller amounts is helpful for some owners. Dogs with small appetites risk not getting the nutrients they need from other foods because they don’t eat enough. These dogs (and those that need hand-feeding) in particular, can benefit from eating more calories in fewer pellets, but there’s a bonus: because cold-pressed food retains much of the fresh ingredients’ taste and smell, it can encourage reluctant dogs to eat.

Dogs with big appetites can also benefit. Rather than needing to eat constantly to meet their high metabolic demands, large, energetic dogs can satisfy them by eating less (and then quickly go back to running around!)

Cold-pressed food can also be a good choice for dogs recovering from an upset stomach, as it allows them to take on plenty of calories while still meeting the need to be fed little and often. Because of the way that cold-pressed food breaks down, the stomach doesn’t get overfull. Importantly, cold-pressed food may help reduce the risks in dogs that are predisposed to bloat. As an overfull stomach is a possible risk factor, feeding a more energy-dense food in smaller amounts may help manage the condition.


When cold-pressed pellets reach your dog’s stomach, they crumble rather than swell, because they are pressed, not cooked, into shape. As a result, they’re easier for your dog to digest and lots of the food’s goodness is absorbed. This property can make cold-pressed dog food a sensible choice for dogs with poor or slow digestion - you can make it even easier to digest by pre-soaking it in warm water.

In fact, as cold-pressed food is designed to crumble, you will often find powder in the food bag. A good tip to tempt picky eaters is to add water to this powder to make a paste, then spread it over food to make it more enticing. If you’ve got the opposite problem of a dog that likes to wolf his food down, you can use the same paste in a Lickimat or Kong.


Because cold-pressed dog food is cooked, albeit gently, it can be stored for longer than fresh or uncooked food. It doesn’t need to be refrigerated or frozen, so you can keep it on the shelf. While this long shelf life is convenient, like any food you should always store cold-pressed food correctly and use it within its date. Proper storage is especially important for raw foods, however.

It is also a convenient way to feed your dog because all the preparation is already done. If you’re feeding col-pressed, you don’t need to defrost, prepare or cook anything and the cleaning-up afterwards is minimal.


When choosing a cold-pressed dog food, make sure you look for quality ingredients. Once you and your dog have found a product you like, store it correctly, and always feed your dog the right amount.

Overall, cold-pressed food is a welcome addition to the shelves and is a great choice for most dogs. It’s likely to prove economical and convenient for you, while it provides your dog with a healthy, high-energy food.

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