Bearded dragons, unlike many human children, love their veggies. They will eat a wide variety of vegetables and fruits when given the opportunity. Providing your bearded friend with an array of appropriate vegetables can sometimes get a bit exhausting, so some beardie parents may wonder about alternatives.
Can I feed my bearded dragon baby food? No, you should not feed your bearded dragon baby food. Baby food might be an appropriate alternative if your bearded dragon is sick or malnourished. If you believe this to be the case, always consult your veterinarian, and stick to fresh vegetables otherwise.
While giving your bearded dragon baby food may seem like a quick, convenient way to work fruits and vegetables into his diet, it is not the healthiest option. Bearded dragons need whole, fresh vegetables, particularly leafy greens, to receive the full range of nutritional benefits necessary for good health.
Why isn’t Baby Food Good for Bearded Dragons?
Many baby foods on the market today are high in sugar. In fact, the World Health Organization states that a majority of baby foods they studied derived 30 percent of their calories from sugars.1 This isn’t ideal for a human baby, much less a bearded dragon of any age.
Bearded dragons do not require sugar in their diet for any nutritional reason. In the wild, a bearded dragon’s diet consists of mostly insects, as well as grasses, flowers, and leaves. You should always attempt to maintain a captive diet that is as close to a wild dragon’s diet as possible.
Bearded dragons need several vitamins and minerals to stay healthy. First, they need calcium. Ensuring that your bearded dragon gets the necessary amount of calcium in their diet is crucial, especially when they are babies and their skeletal systems are developing.
Bearded dragons also require vitamin A and iron, which they receive mostly from fresh vegetables. Processed baby foods are simply not as nutrient-rich and will fall short of providing the full amount of essential nutrients that your beardie requires.
In addition, giving your bearded dragon baby food is not necessarily the most financially beneficial option. Though it might seem a lot more convenient, since you don’t have to cut up and potentially cook the food yourself (in the case of butternut squash, for example), you’ll be paying a lot more for baby food than you will for fresh produce.
Let’s look at one example. The average butternut squash weighs 2-3 pounds (that’s 32-48 ounces) and costs about $1.29.
One jar of organic butternut squash baby food contains a mere 4 ounces of food and costs $1.19! I personally hate math, so I’m going to bore you with as little of it as possible, but this means that the baby food is a whopping 29 cents per ounce and the whole, fresh butternut squash ranges from 4-2 cents per ounce, depending on the size of the squash. It simply doesn’t make good financial sense to go with the baby food.
What Should I Be Feeding My Bearded Dragon Instead of Baby Food?
Baby food isn’t a great option for your beardie. You’ve got that. So what should you be feeding him instead?
First of all, he should be eating protein in the form of live insects. Younger bearded dragons need to consume a larger ratio of insects than their adult counterparts. Insects should make up approximately 80% of your baby bearded dragon’s diet, with fresh vegetables making up the other 20%2.
Once your bearded dragon reaches adulthood, most veterinarians recommend a diet that is closer to 50% insects and 50% plant-based foods3.
Live insects given to your beardie can include gut-loaded crickets and dubia roaches, superworms, hornworms, and silkworms. You can also give your beardie waxworms and mealworms as treats, but not too often since they are much higher in fat and are not as easily digestible.
As previously mentioned, beardies need calcium in their diet. Some of this calcium will come from fresh vegetables. Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, bok choy, carrots, collard greens, kale, and turnip greens are all excellent sources of calcium and are safe for bearded dragons.
In addition to these calcium-rich veggies, you also need to provide your beardie with a calcium supplement. More on that later.
You also need to make sure your bearded dragon is receiving adequate amounts of vitamin A and iron. Collard greens, carrots, and sweet potatoes are all high in vitamin A. Collard greens are also high in iron and, luckily for you, can be given to your bearded dragon every day. Lentils, kale, and pumpkin are also high in iron and can be served occasionally.
In addition to the vegetables mentioned above, the following fresh veggies are all highly recommended for bearded dragons4: Acorn squash, bell peppers, endive, mustard greens, spaghetti squash, yellow squash, and dandelion greens.
VCA Animal Hospitals recommend that “Most (80-90%) of the plant material [given to your dragon] should be vegetables and flowers, and only 10-20% should be fruits.”3
Fruit, given in the form of occasional treats, can include apples, apricots, mangos, blueberries, strawberries, watermelon, peaches, pineapple, and grapes. You can also give your dragon certain flowers and plants such as Clover, Basil, Geraniums, and Impatiens.
Fruits and vegetables should always be chopped into appropriately sized pieces (no larger than the space between your bearded dragons eyes).
What Should I Avoid Giving My Bearded Dragon?
In addition to avoiding baby food, there are also certain insects, fresh fruits and vegetables, and other plants that you should never serve to your beardie.
Glowworms, fireflies, and any other insect that “glows” should never be fed to a bearded dragon. The chemical responsible for bioluminescence in these insects can be lethal to your reptilian friend.
In this same vein, never feed your bearded dragon any insect that you catch outdoors. Wild insects can be a source of pesticides and other harmful substances. They can pose a serious threat to the health of your dragon and should never be offered as a meal. Only give your dragon insects that you have obtained from a reputable feeder insect seller.
Certain vegetables are considered nutrient-poor and are best avoided in a beardie’s diet, including iceberg lettuce and celery.
Avoid giving your bearded dragon cabbage, chard, and too much kale. These veggies are high in calcium oxalates and can cause metabolic bone disease and calcium deficiency. You should also avoid large amounts of spinach, broccoli, and parsley in your beardie’s diet. These vegetables contain high levels of goitrogens, which can negatively impact your dragon’s thyroid function.
Besides vegetables that are simply too low in valuable nutrients, or too high in substances that can harm your beardie, there is also a long list of plants that are downright toxic to your bearded dragon.
These plants include, but are not limited to: Avocados, Amaryllis, Azalea, Boxwood, Buttercup, Calla Lily, Clematis, Crocus, Wild Daffodils, Elderberry, Holly, Hydrangea, Iris, Ivy, Marijunana, Morning Glory, Oak, Peony, Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, Poinsettia, Red Maple, Sweet Pea, and Tulip.
More Bearded Dragon Nutrition Tips
In addition to providing your bearded dragon with the right forms of protein and plant-based snacks, you should always provide him with a shallow dish of fresh water. Bearded dragons can obtain some hydration from the vegetables and fruits you give them, but also require constant access to a clean water source. You should wash and refill your dragon’s water bowl daily.
Another great way to promote hydration in your dragon is via a warm bath 2-3 times per week. Many beardies are more inclined to sip the bathwater surrounding them than they are to drink from their water bowl.
Provide your dragon with his own little bathtub (a plastic storage container is the perfect way to go) in case he defecates in the bath, which dragons are likely to do. A beardie’s bathwater should be 1-3 inches deep (no higher than his shoulder joints) and should be approximately 90-96 degrees Fahrenheit.
Your bearded dragon will also need the right dietary supplements. According to VCA Animal Hospital, veterinarians usually recommend that, 2-3 times per week, you lightly sprinkle your bearded dragon’s food with a calcium powder that does not contain vitamin D3, and an additional 2-3 times per week, you lightly sprinkle their food with a separate calcium powder that does contain vitamin D3.
Once a week you should also lightly sprinkle their food with a reptile mineral supplement. These types of powders stick best when sprinkled onto moist fruits or vegetables. The sprinkled portion of your dragon’s salad should be served to him at the beginning of the meal to ensure that he consumes it all.
Be sure to talk to your veterinarian about the proper supplementation for your bearded dragon, as these needs can also change with age.
Even though human baby food might seem convenient for certain reasons, it is not the best option when it comes to feeding your bearded dragon. If you want to ensure that your bearded buddy stays properly nourished, feed him a wide variety of live insects, fresh, nutrient-rich vegetables, and the occasional fruit treat. He’ll thank you for it in the end.