Plant Foods for Your Box Turtle

 

Tilly the Eastern box turtle with her bowl of greens and vegetables.

Tilly the Eastern box turtle with her salad
Cropped version of “Tilly the Eastern Box Turtle” by David Starner. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

 

About half of your box turtle’s diet should be plant-based foods. About 40% of the plant matter should be vegetables, and 20% each fruits, greens and fungi. No, fungi aren’t really plants, but they’re included here for ease of explanation.

Vegetables for Your Box Turtle

Most vegetables are suitable for box turtles, but some are better than others.

Squash is always a good choice, and just about any kind will do—acorn, butternut, yellow, pumpkin, etc. Zucchini, too (no, your turtle will never eat enough zucchini to help you get rid of that bumper crop every year, but he’ll still enjoy helping). When feeding summer squash, keep in mind that the rinds are more nutritious than the flesh. For winter squash, shred and lightly steam them to make them easier to eat.

Other good vegetable choice include:

  • Bell peppers
  • Carrots—shred them first
  • Green beans
  • Okra
  • Cactus pad and fruit—make sure you get rid of all the spines!
  • Sweet potatoes—cook and shred, or grate first and then microwave briefly
  • Potatoes

Other vegetables are less nutritious but can still be a part of your turtle’s varied diet:

  • Corn
  • Tomatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Beets

Leafy Greens for Your Box Turtle

Whatever greens you use for yourself are also appropriate for your turtle. Again, though, some greens are more nutritious than others, especially when it comes to lettuce. Romaine is probably one of the best choices of lettuce. Bibb, escarole and red leaf lettuces are also good once in a while.

Avoid giving your turtle too much iceberg lettuce, because it really doesn’t have much nutritional value, and you don’t want to fill her up on something without enough vitamins and minerals.

Iceberg does have a high water content, so it can be useful as a sort of “drink,” especially on hot days or if your indoor turtle doesn’t have water available 24/7. (Do note that if you’re not providing water constantly, you should still give it regularly, both for drinking and bathing.)

Other good greens include:

Kale and spinach are also nutritious, but in limited quantities.

If you don’t eat a lot of greens yourself, you can also collect weeds and leaves from your yard, as long as they have not been treated with pesticides

Fresh vegetables are best, when possible, but frozen vegetables are fine too. If you’re cooking frozen veggies for yourself, save a tablespoon or so for your turtle. Let them cool before serving!

Fruits for Your Box Turtle

Box turtles love their sweet fruit! Many will have a favorite, just like humans, and often that is berries. See what your pet thinks about strawberries, raspberries, cranberries and blackberries. Consider planting berries in his enclosure, if you have room.

Remember that just because he loves fruit, that doesn’t mean he should have too much of it. For most feedings, mix it with vegetables and/or protein, although a treat of just fruit once in a while is fine, too.

Try these:

  • Apples
  • Apricots
  • Bananas
  • Figs
  • Grapes
  • Kiwis
  • Melons
  • Peaches
  • Plums

Fungi for Your Box Turtle

Box turtles can eat any mushrooms, from Chanterelles to Morels and Puffballs. The easiest thing to do, if you eat mushrooms yourself, is just to share yours with your turtle. If you don’t eat mushrooms, then at least buy him some button mushrooms (the common ones at the grocery store) once in a while.

Box turtle eating strawberry

As you can see, as long as you eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, it’s pretty easy to keep your box turtle’s diet varied, too.

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2 thoughts on “Plant Foods for Your Box Turtle

    1. boxturtleworld Post author

      Yep, they sure can!

      But they shouldn’t eat too many of them. Grapes contain a compound that makes it hard to absorb iodine. Your turtle needs iodine. As long as your boxie eats lots of different foods, adding grapes once in a while is just fine.

      You can learn more about foods that are best in small amounts on our Foods to Limit page.

      Reply

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