Turtle food is food that is specially formulated for turtles. Many pet stores stock this product, as do stores which cater to aquarists, and some people prefer to make their own turtle food at home. It is important to be aware that there are many different kinds of turtles, all of which require unique diets, and that tortoises may look similar to turtles, but they have very different dietary needs. For first-time turtle owners, it's a good idea to ask about what kind of turtle is being purchased, to ensure that it gets the right diet.
Some turtles are strictly herbivorous, which means that they want only plant materials in their diets. Others are carnivores, preferring a diet composed primarily of meat, while some are omnivorous, appreciating a balance of foods. In all cases, the important feature of a good diet is variety, with plenty of calcium to keep the turtle's shell healthy. Many commercial turtle foods provide basic nutrition, but they can be very boring for the turtle, so it's a good idea to supplement.
Herbivores and omnivores love greens, vegetables, fruits, and flowers of all kinds. Many people find that some experimentation is required to find the food that a turtle prefers. Some, for example, go crazy for grapes, but turn up their noses at strawberries. Plant foods should be as fresh as possible, and they should be washed to remove any herbicides or pesticides which might be present. If a turtle rejects food, it's a good idea to take note of what was offered so that it is not tried again. Calcium supplements can be used to keep calcium levels high, or the animals can be fed calcium-rich greens like kale, chard, and broccoli.
Carnivorous turtles cannot eat just any meats. Turtles generally need lean meats, which makes things like hamburger a bad choice. Some turtles enjoy live food such as mealworms, earthworms, or crickets, while others are perfectly happy with chunks of chicken, beef, and other meats trimmed of their fat. Formulated turtle food for carnivores is often high on carbohydrate fillers, so pet owners should keep an eye on the health of their turtles when feeding primarily packaged foods.
There are some foods which should not be given to turtles. Dairy is not recommended, because turtles lack the enzymes to digest it, and poisonous plants like poinsettias and poison ivy should also be kept away from turtles, as the animals may chew on the plants when they get bored. Refined foods including white bread and anything with sugar are also a bad idea for turtles, as are diets heavy on grains. When preparing turtle food, it can help to think about which foods might be present in the animal's natural environment: a carrot or two is plausible, for example, but a cupcake tree is unlikely.