Healthy low calorie dog treat recipes that taste yummy too? You bet!
Every low-cal dog treat on this page is packed full of wholesome and delicious ingredients that are good for your dog... and they taste great too. My dogs are the taste testers and they heartily endorse every one.
Is your dog a little on the chubby side? Is his metabolism slowing down due to age? Or do you just want to make sure he stays at a healthy weight to help avoid the health issues associated with being overweight?
Whatever the reason, low calorie treats are a great way to reward his 'good boy' moments without feeling guilty!
As a rule of thumb, no more than 10% of your dog's daily calorie intake should come from treats. Obviously even when giving low calorie goodies you don't want to be overly-generous, but the lower calorie the treat the more he's allowed. Even if you only offer treats on special occasions.
There's no hard-and-fast rule as to how many calories a treat must contain to be considered in the 'low calorie' bracket. My personal threshold is 20 calories per treat or less.
Some of the recipes below have treats that contain far fewer than this. Others are closer to the top end of the scale.
Here are recipes for some of my favorite low calorie dog treats, none contain more than 20 calories per treat.
They're pretty varied in terms of ingredients, process, prep time and so on, but each and every one has been dog-taste-tested and approved... and I know your dog/s will enjoy them just as much.
Following a recipe that has been created to produce low cal treats is obviously the easiest way to get those chubby-dog friendly goodies!
But if you like to make up your own recipes, enjoy being creative with substitutions or are working around food sensitivities or allergies, here are some tips you might find helpful:
Not all flours are created equal. They vary in a lot of different ways, including their calorie count.
I don't use white flour in my recipes because it is a highly processed flour which has no appreciable nutritional value, or fiber. Wholewheat flour is a much better option and is a good source of many vitamins and mineral as well as fiber.
White flour is moderate in terms of calories per cup (455 calories per cup), but those calories are EMPTY calories, so they have no value whatsoever.
There are a range of other flours, many of them gluten free, that I like to use as each one has a different nutritional profile, taste, texture.... and calorie count.
Calories per cup for some of my favorite flours:
So as you can see, chickpea flour is the lowest calorie flour in my favorites list, while almond flour is the highest.
When you're making low-calorie dog treats this is valuable information, and is part of the decision making. I always consider the nutrient value of any ingredient I'm using, and when counting calories is not the first priority this can often be the deciding factor.
So which are the healthiest (ie most nutritious) flours to use when baking dog treats?
Check out this page to learn about a whole variety of flours, including what they're made from, nutritional information, when to use them, how to store them and much more.
There are a huge variety of different ingredients that can be used to make dog treats, and some of them are more suitable for low calorie recipes than others.
First, and probably no surprise to you, come fresh fruits and vegetables. These are high in fiber and nutrients, and low in calories so they're all around winners!
Some of my favorites low calorie dog treat ingredients include:
Bone broth is a fantastic super-food ingredient which isn't just low in calories, but also extremely nutrient dense. Substitute for water or milk for a nutritious and tasty boost.
If your recipe calls for egg/s, you can shave off a few calories by using a flax-egg. Flax eggs are also cholesterol free, lower in fat and higher in fiber. Eggs contain more protein than flax seeds but I don't find this to be too important when making my treats.
Herbs and spices can add flavor with negligible calories and are a great way to add a little extra 'yum'.
When it comes to using oil in low calorie recipes, there's not a lot of difference between them as all oils are basically fats. My first choice is extra-virgin olive oil, but I also love to use coconut oil. However, I try to use the minimum amount of any oil in a low-cal recipe.
If a recipe calls for oil you can reduce calories a little by substituting unsweetened applesauce for up to 50% of the oil.
If you want to add cheese, use cottage cheese instead of block or cream cheese. Or try Nutritional Yeast, which adds a nutty/cheesy flavor, is low calorie and also vegetarian/vegan friendly.
For animal protein, I'd suggest shredded, cooked, lean chicken breast as a first choice. Salmon or tuna, either fresh, or packed in WATER, not oil) is another good option.
Most dogs adore peanut butter but creamy or chunky pb in a jar is high in calories and oil, but did you know there's a lower calorie peanut butter option? Well, it's true... enter peanut butter powder! With about 25% of the calorie content of regular peanut butter but all the nutritional value it's a great choice.
Here are a few of the ingredients to avoid, or at least use in moderation, when creating (or making substitutions) to low-calorie dog treat recipes:
This option doesn't work for all recipes, but if you want to make a favorite treat low-cal in a hurry, or are keen to try a new one but the calorie count is too high, it's worth considering...
It's common sense that large treats contain more calories than smaller ones, so if you break up a large treat into several pieces and offer one piece as a treat in it's own right, then each piece might then fit in the low cal category.
Breaking up store bought treats is perfectly doable, in most situations, but with home-made dog treats YOU control the size of each individual treat and may be able to make low-calorie treats out of recipes which weren't necessarily designed that way.
If we take twenty calories as the number we want as a maximum per treat then all you need to do is divide the total calorie content of the recipe by twenty (or less) to get twenty individual treats which come in under the threshold. It's that easy.
But be aware that this only works with recipes which produce medium to large sized treats because if the original treats are already small, you may not be able to make them smaller.
I have some super tiny cookie cutters that I like to use when I'm making small treats. They're so cute! Another option is to mark a line (or two) into larger treats before baking them so that they're easier to break into several equally sized pieces. Usually I use a sharp knife to mark the treats at the halfway point (so it can be broken in half) but square or circular treats can be divided into quarters, and it's possible to get creative with other shapes too.
All my recipes show the number of servings and the calories per serving in the nutrition facts box at the bottom of each recipe page. This information is all you need to make this calculation. For example:
For this example, if I divide by 15 (because I want each treat to contain approx. 15 calories) the dough should make fifty-six, fifteen calorie treats.