Nutro Natural Choice Wholesome Essentials (Dry)


Rating: ★★★½☆

Nutro Natural Choice Wholesome Essentials Dog Food receives the Advisor’s mid-tier rating of 3.5 stars.

The Nutro Natural Choice Wholesome Essentials product line lists four dry dog foods, one claimed to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for growth, one for growth and maintenance and two for adult maintenance.

The following is a list of recipes available at the time of this review.

  • Nutro Natural Choice Wholesome Essentials Senior
  • Nutro Natural Choice Wholesome Essentials Young Adult
  • Nutro Natural Choice Wholesome Essentials Adult (3 stars)
  • Nutro Natural Choice Wholesome Essentials Puppy (4 stars)

Nutro Natural Choice Wholesome Essentials Adult was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review.

Nutro Natural Choice Wholesome Essentials Adult

Dry Dog Food

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

Protein = 24% | Fat = 16% | Carbs = 52%

Ingredients: Chicken, chicken meal, whole brown rice, brewers rice, rice bran, whole grain oatmeal, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), natural flavor, pea protein, dried plain beet pulp, sunflower oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), soybean oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), potassium chloride, choline chloride, dl-methionine, salt, vitamin E supplement, zinc sulfate, niacin supplement, l-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate (source of vitamin C), calcium pantothenate, riboflavin supplement (vitamin B2), pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), vitamin B12 supplement, copper proteinate, iron proteinate, selenium yeast, biotin, manganese proteinate, vitamin A supplement, potassium iodide, thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B1), vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid, rosemary extract, decaffeinated green tea extract, spearmint extract

Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 3.9%

Red items when present indicate controversial ingredients

Estimated Nutrient Content
Guaranteed Analysis22%14%NA
Dry Matter Basis24%16%52%
Calorie Weighted Basis21%33%46%

The first ingredient in this dog food lists chicken. Although it is a quality item, raw chicken contains about 80% water. After cooking, most of that moisture is lost, reducing the meat content to just a fraction of its original weight.

After processing, this item would probably account for a smaller part of the total content of the finished product.

The second ingredient is chicken meal. Chicken meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh chicken.

The third ingredient lists brown rice, a complex carbohydrate that (once cooked) can be fairly easy to digest. However, aside from its natural energy content, rice is of only modest nutritional value to a dog.

The fourth ingredient is brewers rice. Brewers rice is a cereal grain by-product consisting of the small fragments left over after milling whole rice. Aside from the caloric energy it contains, this item is of only modest nutritional value to a dog.

The fifth ingredient lists rice bran, a healthy by-product of milling whole grain rice. The bran is the fiber-rich outer layer of the grain containing starch, protein, fat as well as vitamins and minerals.

The sixth ingredient is oatmeal, a whole-grain product made from coarsely ground oats. Oatmeal is naturally rich in B-vitamins, dietary fiber and can be (depending upon its level of purity) gluten-free.

The seventh ingredient is chicken fat. Chicken fat is obtained from rendering chicken, a process similar to making soup in which the fat itself is skimmed from the surface of the liquid.

Chicken fat is high in linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid essential for life. Although it doesn’t sound very appetizing, chicken fat is actually a quality ingredient.

After the natural flavor, we find pea protein, what remains of a pea after removing the starchy part of the vegetable.

Even though it contains over 80% protein, this ingredient would be expected to have a lower biological value than meat.

And less costly plant-based products like this can notably boost the total protein reported on the label — a factor that must be considered when judging the actual meat content of this dog food.

The tenth ingredient lists beet pulp. Beet pulp is a controversial ingredient, a high fiber by-product of sugar beet processing.

Some denounce beet pulp as an inexpensive filler while others cite its outstanding intestinal health and blood sugar benefits.

We only call your attention here to the controversy and believe the inclusion of beet pulp in reasonable amounts in most dog foods is entirely acceptable.

The next ingredient is sunflower oil. Sunflower oil is nutritionally similar to safflower oil. Since these oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids and contain no omega-3′s, they’re considered less nutritious than canola or flaxseed oils.

Sunflower oil is notable for its resistance to heat damage during cooking.

There are several different types of sunflower oil, some better than others. Without knowing more, it’s impossible to judge the quality of this ingredient.

From here, the list goes on to include a number of other items.

But to be realistic, ingredients located this far down the list (other than nutritional supplements) are not likely to affect the overall rating of this product.

With four notable exceptions

First, soybean oil is red flagged here only due to its rumored (yet unlikely) link to canine food allergies.

However, since soybean oil is high in omega-6 fatty acids and contains no omega-3′s, it’s considered less nutritious than flaxseed oil or a named animal fat.

Next, this recipe also contains selenium yeast. Unlike the more common inorganic form of selenium (sodium selenite), this natural yeast supplement is considered a safer anti-cancer alternative.

In addition, we find no mention of probiotics, friendly bacteria applied to the surface of the kibble after processing to help with digestion.

And lastly, this food also contains chelated minerals, minerals that have been chemically attached to protein. This makes them easier to absorb. Chelated minerals are usually found in better dog foods.

Nutro Natural Choice Wholesome Essentials
The Bottom Line

Judging by its ingredients alone, Nutro Natural Choice Wholesome Essentials dog food looks like an above average dry product.

But ingredient quality by itself cannot tell the whole story. We still need to estimate the product’s meat content before determining a final rating.

The dashboard displays a dry matter protein reading of 24%, a fat level of 16% and estimated carbohydrates of about 52%.

As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 27% and a mean fat level of 16%. Together, these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 49% for the overall product line.

And a fat-to-protein ratio of about 59%.

Near-average protein. Near-average fat. And near-average carbs when compared to a typical dry dog food.

When you consider the protein-boosting effect of the pea protein, this looks like the profile of a kibble containing a below-average amount of meat.

Bottom line?

Nutro Natural Choice Wholesome Essentials is a rice-based dry dog food using a below average amount of chicken meal as its main source of animal protein, thus earning the brand 3.5 stars.


Please note some products may have been given higher or lower ratings based upon our estimate of their total meat content.

Special Alert

Rice ingredients can sometimes contain arsenic. Until the US FDA establishes safe upper levels for arsenic content, pet owners may wish to limit the total amount of rice fed in a dog's daily diet.

A Final Word

The descriptions and analyses expressed in this and every article on this website represent the views and opinions of the author.

Although it's our goal to ensure all the information on this website is correct, we cannot guarantee its completeness or its accuracy; nor can we commit to ensuring all the material is kept up-to-date on a daily basis.

Each review is offered in good faith and has been designed to help you make a more informed decision when buying dog food.

However, our rating system is not intended to suggest feeding a particular product will result in specific health benefits for your pet.

For a better understanding of how we analyze each product, please read our article, "The Problem with Dog Food Reviews".

Remember, no dog food can possibly be appropriate for every life stage, lifestyle or health condition. So, choose wisely. And when in doubt, consult a qualified veterinary professional for help.

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Have an opinion about this dog food? Or maybe the review itself? Please know we welcome your comments.

Notes and Updates

01/11/2013 Original review
01/10/2013 Last Update

  • Bob K

    Troy – The label on the bag indicates the package contents from the dog food mfg.. The mfg. produces the label as required by law. Dog food mfgs. can use multiple sources for ingredients that goes into their kibbles, to control costs and availability. Today the rice may be from Thailand and tomorrow Vietnam. It is expensive to test all the raw ingredients and track the data on computers. Doing this level of testing would drive up the costs of dog kibble significantly. If you are concerned, contact the dog food mfg and ask. See if they ask you the specific batch number to track and trace the test details. Then ask who conducted the test and was it certified. Ask who did the test certification.

  • Crazy4cats

    Dr. Mike does not do any testing of the food. He analyzes the ingredients. Did you see the special alert regarding rice ingredients? The FDA is finding low levels of arsenic in rice. They have not determined a safe limit yet, however. I would and am not going to feed a food with rice for an extended amount of time just to be safe.

  • Troy Daboi

    How can you do all this testing and yet not test for arsnic in the rice, we’ve feed this to our dog to avoid his alergens, healthy happy boy, though I’d be interested to see the arsenic tests done as well as the maths and asumtions of what parts of grains etc are used “generally” in all dog foods – Do these numbers and info just come from package conents on the label or where they gathered from the producer

  • fifi

    I just (slowly) switched my 1 1/2 yr old lhaso/bichon to Nutro Natural Essentials because she had a tummy virus. After 10 days she is doing well. Then someone in my small dog group said her dog for sick on this same food & another said there is a recall? Is there a recall?

  • Hot_Pockets_Ding

    I’m glad I found this web site. I am currently switching my Puppy Dash from Purina Puppy chow to Nutro Natural Choice Wholesome Essentials Puppy. I’m making the slow transition over a few weeks period of time hoping he doesn’t have any negative reactions to the change. I keep reading about no sudden changes. He’s my first puppy. So far he’s taken to it quite well. I’ve had to hide the bag though, because he wont leave it alone. He really likes it.