7 Human Foods You Should Never Feed to Turtles

Written by Kirstin Harrington
Published: October 15, 2023
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Having a pet turtle can be great! While they may not be as cuddly as a dog, cat, or guinea pig, in return, they don’t bark and beg for food. Many domesticated animals can live off of human food. To ensure your pet lives a long time, it’s important to know which human foods you should never feed turtles.

These are seven human foods you should never feed to turtles

In fact, having a pet turtle requires you to feed them plenty of fresh fruits and veggies. Have you ever wanted to give your turtle a bite of your dinner? Below you’ll find the foods that you should never feed your pet turtle. 

In addition, we have a section just for you that’s dedicated to human foods that are not only safe for turtles, but they love munching on them! Let’s get started! 

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Human Food You Should Never Feed Turtles

It can be tempting to want to give your pet a bite of all the goodies you eat. Some are quite dangerous for turtles to ingest. Here are the foods you’ll want to avoid giving them at all costs! 

1. Refined Sugars and Fried Food

Homemade Deep Fried Wisconsin Cheese Curds

Cheese curds may be tasty, but they are dangerous for turtles.

©bhofack2/iStock via Getty Images

Fried food has a lot of oil and fat, which is bad for your turtle. These will not just be difficult for them to digest, but they are additionally harmful to their well-being. You’ll also want to avoid anything with refined sugar, as there’s no benefit for the animal.

2. Dairy

Colorful ice cream cones of different flavors. Melting scoops. Top view,  steel metal backgroun

Ice cream made with dairy can harm reptiles.

©Foxys_forest_manufacture/iStock via Getty Images

Dairy is another human food that you shouldn’t feed turtles. Turtles don’t have the enzymes required to digest dairy products. This implies that you should never feed them cheese, ice cream, milk, yogurt, or butter. 

3. Chocolate

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Buckeye Candies

The processed sugar in chocolate is dangerous to turtles.

©Kevin B. Photography/Shutterstock.com

Although it’s arguably one of the best treats, chocolate can be deadly to your pet turtle. This is yet another human food that should be avoided. 

4. Nuts

Roasted pine nuts in the wooden bowl. isolated on white background.

Turtles should not eat nuts.


Oxalates, which are abundant in nuts and prevent calcium absorption, should be avoided. If a turtle eats an excessive amount of nuts, it won’t be long until it dies because these creatures require a lot of calcium.

5. Carbs

Shelf in the kitchen with various cereals and seeds - peas split, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, beans, rice, pasta, oatmeal, couscous, lentils, bulgur in glass jars

There are no health benefits to feeding a turtle pasta.

©Olga Peshkova/iStock via Getty Images

Noodles, bread, and other carbs don’t benefit turtles at all. In fact, they have no nutritional value. Additionally, turtles can’t digest dense carbs like bread properly. If they eat this type of food, it can be fatal. 

6. Certain Fruits and Vegetables

Onion anzur or Onion Suvorov or elephant garlic (Allium suworowii) is a species of onion native to Afghanistan and Central Asia

Garlic is dangerous to most domestic animals, including cats and dogs.

©SHARKY PHOTOGRAPHY/Shutterstock.com

There are specific fruits and vegetables that can actually make your turtle quite sick. We know these animals love fruits and veggies. Make sure to avoid iceberg lettuce, cloves of garlic, shallots, spicy peppers, and anything with citrus. 

Carefully wash vegetables before giving them to your turtle because they can have rogue pesticides on them and ingesting these can harm your pet.

7. Processed Meat

Slim Jim

Keep any processed meat packed with sodium away from your reptile.

©Hong Vo/Shutterstock.com

Processed meat, breakfast sausage, and other foods that are high in sodium and preservatives fall into this group. Simply said, despite being tasty, they’re harmful to your turtle.

Human Foods Turtles Love

Now that you know which human foods to avoid, what do these critters love to snack on? In addition to plenty of water, they can enjoy these goodies.

Fruits and Veggies

Pet Turtle Eating Lettuce-Header

Dark, leafy greens are one of turtles’ favorites!


It’s likely that your reptile will enjoy snacking on fresh produce as much as you do. They enjoy leafy green vegetables in particular. Kale, collard greens, and mustard greens are excellent and healthful options for them. 

Along with that, they’ll eat celery, zucchini, green beans, and peas. In terms of fruits, you may offer them items like bananas, apples, and pears. Although these animals can eat canned fruits and veggies, make sure to avoid anything in oil, anything pickled, or with a lot of refined sugars. 


Cooking tuna steak. Fresh Atlantic bluefin tuna steak, with spices and ready for fry. The yellowfin tuna raw fresh medallion. close-up.

Make sure you’re feeding fish to your turtle in moderation.


Due to their natural environment, turtles adore snacking on fish. They love tuna, sardines, and anchovies! Before placing the fish in the tank, give it a quick rinse in cool water to get rid of any remaining salt, pesticides, or potentially toxic materials. 

Use the same rule for fish as you do with canned produce. Make sure it isn’t sitting in oil or excessive salt. If you have fresh fish around, feel free to give your turtle one or two bites a month. 

Cooked Meat 

Beef cubed steaks

Cooked meat CAN be given to turtles occasionally, though it doesn’t do much for their diet.

©BWFolsom/iStock via Getty Images

Unexpectedly, turtles have sufficiently acclimated to consuming meat that you are welcome to give them one or two bites a month. Several individuals will advise you not to give your turtle pork, beef, or chicken because these are not foods that turtles are able to consume. 

These foods are completely unnecessary for your turtle, and they lack the nourishment that turtles require to survive. But you can give them a bite or two as a treat. Do not make meat a regular part of their diet. 

Again, make sure there is no oil or seasoning on any of the meat before giving it to your turtle. 

Summary of Human Foods Turtles Cannot Eat

NumberType of Food
1Refined Sugars and Fried Food
6Certain Fruits and Vegetable
7Processed meat

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Juice Verve/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Kirstin is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering animals, news topics, fun places, and helpful tips. Kirstin has been writing on a variety of topics for over five years. She has her real estate license, along with an associates degree in another field. A resident of Minnesota, Kirstin treats her two cats (Spook and Finlay) like the children they are. She never misses an opportunity to explore a thrift store with a coffee in hand, especially if it’s a cold autumn day!

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