If you’re cooking Christmas Dinner this year you might be wondering if your bearded dragons / omnivorous lizards / tortoises can eat any of your Christmas vegetables (especially with the supermarket price wars).
Remember that leafy greens are always going to be your staple, so this is very much a list of secondary foods that you might have leftovers from Christmas Dinner – but a varied diet of safe food is always good.
You can feed cooked vegetables but it does reduce the nutrients slightly, generally things should be given raw or lightly cooked, but it won’t hurt to feed cooked veg if you have leftovers that are listed below as safe that were going to go in the bin. I’ve collated this information based on the current known nutritional information for these vegetables and my knowledge of keeping and breeding reptiles over the last 20 years. Bear in mind I’m not a veterinarian and you should always discuss health or dietary concerns with your vet and complete your own research.
Feeding vegetables that have been frozen is fine – but defrost them thoroughly first.
You Can Feed Regularly
Red Cabbage is great! High fibre, high vitamin c, B6 and K, antoexidants, potassium, magnesium, higher calcium than phosphorous so in the healthy range – they could be eating this twice a week. However if you are buying a Christmas red cabbage mix that has juice or sugar added, then you shouldn’t feed it – just the raw vegetable.
A little bit less of everything than red cabbage, but still all in the healthy range. Red is better than green, but green is also perfectly good to feed.
Good levels of magnesium, potassium and Vitamin C. Can eat regularly. Peel it and chop it small or grate it to serve.
Green / String Beans
Green beans are a great source of nutrients, with plenty of vitamin A, B, C, K, Fibre, beta carotene and folic acid. The calcium to phosphorous ratio isn’t exactly what we’re looking for, at around 1:1, but it’s not going to hurt them either. They shouldn’t be the staple – so you wouldn’t want to replace your leafy greens with them which are the best to eat, but they can certainly be added in regularly for a varied diet.
Good calcium, vitamin A and K, but high in phosphorous compared to calcium, so this puts them firmly in the occasional list. A few peas from Christmas dinner won’t hurt, but don’t start feeding them regularly or in large quantities.
High in Vitamin A, beta carotene and fibre with an equal calcium to phosphorous rating (so not good or bad). If fed regularly along with a multivitamin supplement, there is a risk of Vitamin A toxicity as they’re so high in it, so another occasional feed here. Can be fed raw or cooked. Same as sprouts really, okay to give a few leftovers after the Christmas dinner but don’t add them to the diet.
Broccoli has great protein for a vegetable and is very low in sugar too. Although it has good levels of calcium, it has high phosphorous so an unbalanced ratio, and it also has medium oxelates, which isn’t great. You can certainly feed it occasionally – once or twice a month could be good, so they can have some Christmas dinner leftovers, but don’t add this one to the weekly list.
Feed Very Occasionally – Okay as a treat in small quantities
I personally wouldn’t consider Brussel Sprouts a “treat”, but maybe you disagree? High in vitamin C, K and fibre, but very low in calcium, high in oxelates and have a poor calcium to phosphorous ratio. Can feed very occasionally, so giving them a few leftovers mixed in is fine but don’t add to the diet regularly.
They have a range of low level good nutrients, but have a very poor calcium to phosphorous ratio, meaning they’re safe to eat occasionally, but really shouldn’t be added to the diet on any regular basis.
Sweet Potato has good amounts of vitamin A and beta carotene, but like carrots, this can lead to Vitamin A toxicity if fed in larger quantities alongside a multivitamin supplement. They also don’t have a balanced calcium to phosphorous ratio. They’re going in the very occasional column.
Avoid feeding these
Unfortunately savoy cabbage has high acid levels and more phosphorous than calcium, so avoid this one.
Swede / Turnip
I’m personally putting this on the avoid list as it contains high levels of goitrogens which can be bad. Goitrogens are a substrate that can disrupt the production of thyroid hormones, eventually leading to the medical condition goiter. Some places list it as an occasional food but I personally don’t feel we know enough about this one. A bite is unlikely to hurt, but don’t add it in to the diet generally.
As with Swede, it contains high levels of goitrogens and also has an unbalanced calcium to phosphorous ratio. You could feed a very small amount (under 10g a month), so a bite from Christmas dinner won’t hurt, but it’s not one you want to add in more than that.
We wouldn’t recommend feeding onion to your reptiles, it doesn’t have nutritional value to them and has potential toxicity issues.
Although you might be tempted to give your bearded dragon or tortoise a mouthful of turkey, sausagemeat, stuffing or apple sauce, I personally wouldn’t recommend it. There’s a lot of about nutrition and digestion in reptiles we still don’t know. Although none of the above are likely to be seriously adverse when it comes to a single mouthful, it just sets a precedent of feeding your pets unhealthy human foods. Obesity is also a major killer of reptiles and it’s best to try and keep the diet as healthy, raw and natural as possible.