Braces are a right of tween passage and often necessary for straight teeth and a stunning smile. Braces, however, can make mouths sore and food choices difficult as the orthodontist gives patients a long list of foods that are off limits during treatment. It's good to have an idea of what soft foods will work best before you have a cranky tween on your hands
Word of parental advice: the first week is the worst. Getting braces can make a tween's mouth feel uncomfortable, and a sore mouth makes eating a challenge. A hungry, ouchy tween can be a lot to handle. Prepare to be extra patient in those first few days. But it does get better, and quickly. You may, however, have to go back to the patience well and soft foods when the orthodontist tightens the braces, causing a new round of tenderness.
My tween has had braces for the past year, and here are some foods that helped us adjust to a braces-friendly diet and get through the teeth straightening period.
- Smoothies My tween wasn't really up for chewing the first few days, and the cold of the smoothie took some of the edge off the discomfort. Ask your tween about favorite smoothie flavors prior to getting the braces. They may be more amenable and you can stock up ahead of time. When I asked for favorite smoothie recipes, a friend suggested this Pinterest board, which looks fabulous. Most other smoothie gurus I asked, though, said that they don't adhere to strict recipes and suggested tossing in fruit, fresh or frozen, yogurt, juice or milk and making it up as they go. Others were big believes in kale. Maybe braces will be the perfect change to get your tween to love such a nutritional pack smoothie. I love that the Pinterest page features the smoothies in fun glasses, which is a great tip: fun or fancy presentation to your sore tween may be just what's needed to take their mind off their discomfort and a good way to bring a little fun to the event. It's true that fun presentation makes things feel special, and that may be just the dose of TLC your new braces-wearer needs.
- Eggs Scrambled eggs are easy to eat, but getting braces is what convinced my tween to make friends with all kinds of egg preparations.
- Yogurt This is also a good lunch option.
- Carrot Ribbons Most orthodontist's list of forbidden foods include carrots, because they are hard enough to break off a bracket. My tween is not a big fan of carrots cooked enough to be soft, so there went that good option. We navigated around that by making carrot ribbons. Shredded carrot is another option, but the tiny pieces are easily caught in braces and can give your tween a very orange smile.
- Cucumbers and pepper slices are other braces-friendly vegetables that have frequently made their way into my tween's school lunches.
- Although apples are on the don't eat list, we found that slicing them thinly was fine and our orthodontist okayed eating them that way.
- Quinoa In addition to braces, my tween had an expander and a habit breaker, meaning that she had a whole mouth full of metal. Pasta was tricky, as it would get caught in the expander and the other appliance. Quinoa worked well for us. It's small enough that it doesn't get stuck in the appliances, and has a fair amount of protein, which was good as my tween worked her way up to chewing meat. The Whole Grains Counsel (didn't know there was such a thing) designated Quinoa as its grain of the month for March and has information on its impressive nutritional value and 10 yummy recipes here.
- Soups My tween isn't a huge soup fan, but the pieces in Campbell's Chicken Noodle were small enough to not cause any problems with the braces. Corn chowder was also good. The recipe is below. Ups and Downs of a Yoga Mom has some wonderful soup recipes as part of her Meatless Monday collection.
- Mashed potatoes (sweet or regular) Make it fun by having a mashed potato bar with some favorite toppings (cheese, chives, other herbs, pesto, butter, sauteed onions and/or mushrooms)
The usual options of ice cream and milk shakes work well, but try out this Pumpkin cake is easy to eat and provides great nutrients.
Of all the foods on the "can't eat" list, my tween has missed popcorn the most, especially when we go to the movie theater. There are also a ton of sticky foods available at the snack counter. Ideally, skip the snacks all together. When that isn't possible, though opt for the plain M&Ms or Reese's Pieces.
At home, we've also found Pirate Booty to be a good substitute for an occasional treat.
Hail and Farewell
Becca of Our Crazy Boys put together a fun gift bag with her tween son's favorite chewy foods that she gave to him the week before he got his braces. She has fun ideas for what to include and a cute printable you can download when making your own gift bag.
If all goes as planned at our next orthodontist appointment, my tween will be getting round 1 of her braces off and enjoying a reprieve for at least a bit. Hooray! Our family is pretty excited to go back to eating corn on the cob and bagels and all the other forbidden foods. To celebrate, we're giving her a bag of popcorn kernels, a pack of gum and some of her favorite stick food that's been off limits, like Starburst and Skittles.
Make it Special
Like using the special glassware or stemware, try to put a positive spin on the whole experience. Use a special plate, have a favorite relative or older friend who's had braces write a note of encouragement or just put on your cheerleader hat and let them know how supported they are, the benefits and how fortunate your child is to have a family and community in which getting braces is even possible.
Please share in the comments or on our Facebook page what foods worked well for you and your tween, and how you cope(d) with the popcorn moratorium. It will make me smile and show off my straight teeth that needed braces twice. (Thanks, Mom & Dad!)
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