Last weekend I went to Houston Zoo’s annual “Feast With The Beasts” – one of the zoo’s largest fundraisers. It’s a really fun event at night where about 75 of Houston’s best restaurants & chefs set up stations all through the zoo so you can sample their food while you stroll around and get to see some cool animal demos from zookeepers and their animals. Of course I love sampling all the great food (this year they had a lot of great vegetarian options too!) but one of my favorite food stations doesn’t involve lobster or soufflé…but rather cactus, insects and primate biscuits! Yep, these tasty treats can be found at the zookeepers’ table as part of a demo to show what the zoo animals will be dining on that night. It’s really cool to compare what we eat to some of their most fascinating creatures including the Galapagos Tortoise, Chimpanzee and Giraffes.
What do most of the zoo animals eat? Well, most eat a super “clean” diet meaning that they eat fruits, veggies, nuts/seeds and meat. You won’t find a chimpanzee eating a bag of chips or a giraffe chomping on cookies and Pop Tarts. Animals (even the really muscular ones like Gorillas) have a healthy plant-based diet and the carnivores eat lean meat…not fried foods. They must or they won’t be able to survive in the wild. They wouldn’t be able to catch their prey if they were loaded down by junk food. When you look at most zoo mammals, most are very lean and muscular…even the ones that are primarily herbivores (plant eaters). How is this? Well, their bodies are designed to thrive off of a plant based diet and it’s what has worked for that species for centuries because they have evolved to eat that way (due to habitat, etc). We humans think that we can digest 100 calorie packs and things that come in a box – but the reality is that we aren’t meant to eat junk like that. Our bodies, like animals, function much better (and look better!) if we eat things that come from the Earth rather than things that contain chemicals, were made to stay on shelves for a decade and were “flavored” to taste good. So, next time you are at the store – think about those zoo animals and how tasty and rich in color their diet is and how it makes them strong and healthy. It’s a good lesson for all of us to learn.