Melissa Kaplan's
Herp Care Collection
Last updated January 1, 2014

"MK Diet" - The Short Version

This is an abbreviated form of the iguana diet from my Iguana Care, Feeding and Socialization article. I strongly recommend that you read the full section on food selection and preparation that appears in the ICFS article for the full discussion on foods, rationale, etc. using this page only as a quick reminder when you forget the basics.

©1995 Melissa Kaplan


How to make iguana salad
First, you capture an iguana...!

The Basic Salad is just part of the total diet. It is served along with the leafy greens. If at first your iguana ignores the Basic Salad and eats only the greens, try withholding the greens until he starts eating the Basic Salad. Once he is eating the salad without hesitation, then you can reintroduce the greens.

Basic Salad Recipe

1/2 cup shredded raw green beans

1/2 cup shredded raw orange-fleshed squash (such as acorn, banana, kabocha, spaghetti, and pumpkin) - you can occasionally alternate with carrots

1 medium or 2 small raw shredded parsnips (in areas where these are seasonally hard to find, you can substitute with asparagus or cooked or canned lima, navy or kidney beans that have been well rinsed and minced or mashed. If you use beans, add extra calcium to offset their high phosphorus) *

1/4 cup mashed/minced fruit (strawberries, raspberries, mangos, papaya, figs, cantaloupe, cactus pear)

Alfalfa **

Multivitamin and calcium supplements

* If parsnips are a seasonal vegetable where you live, you can use 1/2 cup shredded asparagus, trading off with 1/2 cup drained, rinsed, and chopped canned cooked lima beans, plus additional calcium to make up for the lousy calcium:phosphorus ratio in beans. Cooked beans are acceptable for short term use only due to their phosphorous content and other chemicals that can impede the uptake of minerals and trace elements. Asparagus is comparable in protein to parsnip, but does contain oxalates, so should not be a long-term staple.

** The quantity of alfalfa you use will depend upon the alfalfa product you are using. You want to add about 15 grams of protein. That is about 1/2 cup of alfalfa rabbit pellets, or about 1/4 cup or less of alfalfa leaf tea or a tablespoon or so of alfalfa powder. The older the healthy iguana is, the less protein they need, so you may end up using only a couple of teaspoons for an adult iguana.

Thoroughly mix all the Basic Salad Recipe ingredients together. Makes about 3.5-4 cups.

Add in a multivitamin supplement (any multivitamin supplement for birds or reptiles is fine, but the best, actually, is powder from a crushed Centrum tablet) and a calcium supplement. You do not need to get a calcium supplement that has phosphorous or D3 in it, as the iguana is already getting considerably phosphorous from the plants and multivitamin, and their D3 is best manufactured in their bodies by regular exposure to direct sunlight or special UVB-producing fluorescents.

If you will be freezing any of the food, mix in some thiamine (B1) to replace the thiamine that will be lost when the green vegetables are thawed.

Serve the salad in the morning.

Leafy Greens
Collard, mustard, dandelion, escarole. Wash and tear into pieces about the size of the iguana's head, or smaller. Whole leaves can also be suspended in their enclosure or area to give them something to work at when they want a snack.

Feeding Time
Iguanas have evolved as late morning/early afternoon feeders; if you feed them when convenient for YOU rather than when they need to eat, you end up with an iguana who is not eating as much as it should and who is not digesting as effectively as it could. Iguanas can only extract out 40% of the nutrients in the food they eat, making it imperative that we not only feed them only healthy nutrition-loaded foods, but that we feed them at the proper times, as well.

Related Articles

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Illustrated "MK Diet"

Green Iguana Diet: Not just a matter of calcium:phosphorous ratios

Vegetable and Fruit Name Translations

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Why commercial iguana foods aren't the answer...

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