Dentists and orthodontists have been helping people improve their smiles and bite with braces for decades. According to the facts and figures, it’s estimated that about four million people in the United States have braces, and a whopping 25% of them are adults! If you or your children have or are about to get braces, you surely are not alone.
With braces, comes checkup visits to the orthodontist, some pain and tenderness as your teeth shift and figuring out what foods to eat and avoid. Braces can feel unsettling at first, you have to get used to this new hardware in your mouth and may have to stay away from some of your favorite foods.
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And, believe me, I get it! As a young teenager, I had braces for a few years and distinctly remember the orthodontist visits. I always looked forward to picking out the elastic colors, especially the glow-in-the-dark ones for the Halloween season, but did not enjoy the tenderness and soreness that came with straightening my teeth.
Now, I wasn’t the best at avoiding hard, crunchy snack foods either. Because of this I did break a few brackets which resulted in extra visits to the office. My parents were not happy with the unplanned time they had to take off from work to scoot me other there and fix such a preventable issue!
So, if you or your child have braces, knowing what snack foods to eat with them can help save you money, time in the dentist’s chair and make this unique experience feel a bit less limiting. Of course, the period of life with braces doesn’t mean it is a hall pass to eat ice cream shakes and chocolate milk all day, every day. What we eat impacts if we develop cavities, the strength of our teeth, gum health as well as overall health.
As a child and teen, I had a lot of cavities along with braces and was all too familiar with the inside of the dentist and orthodontist’s office. Looking back, I wish took more seriously what I was eating and how it would impact the development and health of my teeth.
Now, as a registered dietitian I am here to spread the word on all things dental nutrition, With all that being said, here are 15 healthy, tasty snacks to eat with braces (in no particular order) as well as a list of snacks to avoid with braces and some additional braces and nutrition tips.
15 Healthy, Tasty Snacks To Eat With Braces
1. Fruit Smoothies
Fruit smoothies tend to be packed with a variety of nutrients. You can amp up the nutrition and get a serving of veggies by adding a handful of spinach or kale. Throw in some protein powder, ground flaxseed, chia seeds, Greek yogurt and/or kefir and you’ve got yourself a liquid health powerhouse.
Fruit smoothies can be made quickly too. For a less than five-minute snack try blending one and a half cups of frozen tropical fruit medley with a handful of spinach, vanilla protein powder, half a cup of kefir or Greek yogurt and some water. This smoothie is filled with calcium, fiber, anti-inflammatory antioxidants and protein. All nutrients the mouth needs for optimal health as well as the entire body.
2. Banana Nice Cream
As the name implies, this snack is a nice alternative to ice cream. It can be made by blending frozen bananas with milk, peanut butter and cocoa powder or chocolate protein powder. It has significantly less added sugar and ingredients than typical ice cream and way more quality protein, healthy fat and potassium. Yup, all nutrients that make those teeth and gums happy!
3. Hummus With Tortilla And Veggie Dippers
Hummus can be made with chickpeas and tahini or purchased at most grocery stores. The dip is a delicious plant-based source of protein along with some micronutrients. Softer veggies such as bell peppers and cucumbers can be cut into thin bit size slices and dipped into hummus. Bell peppers and cucumbers are hydrating as well as being full of vitamin C and fiber.
Whole grain or whole wheat tortilla bread can be microwaved to soften it up and cut into triangles to make for another great hummus dipper. Whole grain or whole wheat tortilla bread is another source of quality fiber and carbohydrates!
4. Caprese Salad Skewers
Caprese salad skewers make for a nice snack presentation and elevated feel of a snack. It can be something that you look forward to and feel relaxed and happy while enjoying! These skewers are made by combining one small mozzarella ball with one cherry tomato, half of a basil leaf on a skewer and some balsamic drizzle to top it off.
Cherry tomatoes are another food filled with vitamin C and fiber. Mozzarella is a nice source of calcium and some protein. And the basil leaf adds some magnesium as well as anti-inflammatory properties. Cheers to this healthy chic snack.
5. Guacamole With Softened Tortillas
Avocado has had a glow-up over the years and for good reason. It contains healthy fats (think mono and polyunsaturated fats), fiber, protein and potassium. Guacamole can be made by mashing avocado and mixing it with lime or lemon juice, spices and diced tomatoes and onions. Or it can be purchased pre-made at many convenience and grocery stores. When all combined you’ll have a soft food dip full of healing nutrients for sore mouths.
Just like with the hummus dip, guacamole can be consumed by using softened whole grain or whole wheat sliced tortillas. Yum!
6. Chocolate Tofu Pudding
Don’t let the tofu throw you off, if it wasn’t included in the name you’d never know it was in it. This decadent snack is made by blending melted chocolate with silken tofu and some vanilla extract. The tofu is another great plant-based source of protein and chocolate can surely satisfy a sweet tooth. To up the nutritional value of this pudding try using 70% dark chocolate chips and/or topping the pudding off with some soft, diced banana and pineapple!
7. Mini Quiches or Sliced Quiche
Quiches are an egg-based savory breakfast-style pie. You can make them a snack by making mini quiches or slicing a small piece off of a quiche pie. Aside from egg, what’s in a quiche varies. You can purchase or make quiches with foods such as bacon, sausage, veggies, and cheese. Eggs themselves are a powerhouse food for most health. They are packed with quality protein, vitamin D and antioxidant carotenoids. Carotenoids have a whole host of oral and overall health benefits, you can learn more about this in my other post “21 Foods That Are Orange“.
If looking to amp up the nutritional value of a quiche snack go for one with veggies and made with whole eggs since the yolk of the egg is where many of the teeth and gum health nutrients are housed.
8. Cream Cheese, Veggie, Salmon Pinwheels
Pinwheels are wrap-style sandwiches that are cut into slivers and make for great finger food. Vitamin D is a crucial component for nourishing strong teeth and can be hard to consume enough vitamin D-rich foods every day. Salmon is a solid food source of vitamin D as well as the healthy fat omega-3. Fun fact, vitamin D absorbs better into your body when consumed alongside a healthy fat. Yay for salmon with the one-two punch by containing both!
This flavorful snack makes for an awesome softer food braces-friendly snack. To maximize the nutritional value of it try making pinwheels with whole wheat or whole grain wrap, spinach, cucumber, wild-caught smoked salmon, and cream cheese and for added taste sprinkle in everything but the bagel seasoning!
9. Snack Sized Overnight Oats
Overnight oats of course are made with oats then typically include some form of milk, seeds, and fruit. Oftentimes, overnight oats are consumed as a breakfast meal, but the portion size of each ingredient can be adjusted to make for a nutritious grab-and-go snack.
A versatile snack, they can be made with cocoa powder or chocolate protein to add a more rich flavor to it. Braces are put on to correct bite and straighten teeth, but along with a beautiful, functional smile strong teeth are important too. Collagen is a protein that helps strengthen gum tissues as well as teeth and unflavored collagen powder makes for a great addition to most overnight oats recipes.
So, when searching for an overnight oat concoction that fits your tastebuds, if it doesn’t include collagen powder feel free to add some and try adjusting the serving size to meet the portion size of a snack. More information on what differentiates a snack size and meal size can be found in the additional tips section further on down.
10. Turmeric Tuna Salad Sandwich on Softened Bread
Tuna, just like salmon is packed with omega-3 and may have some vitamin D. On top of that, ground powdered turmeric makes for a great anti-inflammatory spice. Sometimes with braces (especially with tightening them), the mouth can be sore, so chowing down on some inflammation-reducing soft food may help!
Turmeric is best absorbed when combined with black pepper. If a tuna salad recipe doesn’t call for turmeric, no problem. Try adding a few dashes of turmeric powder with some ground pepper. Put the salad between two slices of whole grain or whole wheat soft bread and you have yourself a snack. Now, typically a tuna salad sandwich snack size is about one-half of a sandwich. This makes for a healthy snack now and another grab-and-go one later.
11. Slices of Protein Waffles and Berry Jam
Protein waffles are the typical waffle, yet made with ingredients that increase the amount of protein in them. They can be purchased remade in the store or made with a specific protein waffle mix or by adding protein powder to the usual waffle mix. Amped-up protein waffles mean you can still enjoy the classic breakfast food while consuming quality protein.
This can be made into a snack by cutting up a waffle into slices and then using berry jam as a dipper. The jam will soften the waffle to make it more braces-friendly. Plus, depending on what berry jam you go for, you’ll be dipping into some antioxidant-filled liquid that may help with a sore, inflamed mouth too!
Soup can be associated with warm liquid goodness that can feel comforting and calming. Most soups are good to go when it comes to a tasty, soft food snack for braces. For the most nutritional value bang for your sip, try to go for chicken noodle soup. Chicken is filled with mouth-nourishing protein, the broth is hydrating and the vegetables in it contain an array of micronutrients vital for well-being. This soup can be enhanced nutritionally by adding ground turmeric and black pepper for some inflammation-fighting goodness.
If chicken noodle soup isn’t your thing, a serving of black bean soup or tomato soup is great too. Black bean soup is filled with plant-based protein and fiber. Tomato soup is filled with vitamins C, K and A. These three soups are lovely sources of mostly whole foods-based nutrition.
13. Cheese and Fruit
Cheese and fruit are great examples of a quick, go-to balanced snack. Cheese provides protein and calcium while the fruit provides fiber and a variety of nutrients depending on what fruit you prefer. The fat and protein content in the cheese along with the healthy, carbohydrate content of the fruit helps to balance blood sugar levels and lessens the acidic environment in the mouth. When picking fruit, aim for a softer one, but if you do prefer apples or pears cut them up into bite-size pieces to avoid breaking a bracket.
Many fruits tend to be acidic, when eaten solo acidic foods could lead to cavities. So, it is always good to have acidic foods with less acidic ones, like cheese! To learn more about acidic foods and how they can harm teeth, check out my article “Alkaline Acid Food Chart: See The pH of Foods“.
14. Oatmeal Chocolate Muffins
As may be noticed from this list, there are a few chocolate snacks listed. That’s because chocolate can be part of a healthy, balanced diet. Oatmeal chocolate muffins are another braces-friendly nutritious snack. The oatmeal provides fiber and a healthy carbohydrate source and chocolate contains antioxidants and flavonoids which help manage inflammation.
Depending on what oatmeal chocolate muffin recipe is chosen can impact the nutrition. When perusing a recipe, look for one with minimal added sugar and one that uses applesauce as an ingredient. If you have trouble finding one that seems healthy enough, try substituting whole wheat flour instead of white flour and chocolate chips can be added to almost any muffin recipe. Enjoy!
15. Deviled Eggs With Soft Fruit
As mentioned earlier, eggs are packed with nutrition that fuels the mouth and entire health! Soft fruits like pineapple, banana or berries are filled with antioxidants and fiber that too support all sorts of functions within us. This snack is another example of a balanced bite with eggs serving as the healthy protein and fat and fruit serving as the healthy carbohydrate. So, have fun biting down on this all-around nutritious combo!
Foods To Avoid With Braces
When it comes to foods to avoid with braces, try to avoid foods that when bitten into could break the bracket off. Think hard, crunchy, and/or sticky foods. Some examples are provided below. As always, this is not an all encompassing list, please follow the orthodontist and/or dentist guidance too!
- Hard Candies: such as, jawbreakers, lollipops, certain mints, cough drops, candy canes
- Sticky or Chewy Candies: such as caramels, gummy bears, gummy worms, taffy
- Whole Nuts: such as, cashews, Brazil nuts, almonds, walnuts, peanuts
- Chewing Gum
- Hard Pretzels
- Hard Cookies
- Whole Crunchy Veggies: such as, carrot sticks, celery, corn on the cob
- Whole Hard Fruits: such as, whole apples, pears
- Crusty, Hard Bread: such as, pizza bread crust
- Tough, Chewy Meats: such as, beef jerky or steak
If you choose to have some of the food in this list, try breaking it or cutting it up into small, bite size pieces to reduce the potential wear and tear on your braces. Plus, this could reduce the likelihood of breaking a bracket and an additional trip to the orthodontist!
Additional Nutrition and Healthy Eating Tips With Braces
Tip #1 Meal and Snack Plan
Meal and snack planning doesn’t have to involve a big trip to the grocery store and then hours in the kitchen cooking up food, and portioning it out to have it all set for the week. Meal and snack planning can be as simple as having some of your favorite go-to prepackaged snacks stocked in the house having some ingredients on hand to whip up your preferred snack to taking a few minutes here and there to plan for the next snack or days of food.
Whatever time you do have available for a meal and snack plan can help make healthier choices when hungry that much easier. Sometimes having a snack you are looking forward to ready to grab from the fridge can make all the difference. Especially with braces, since several foods are advised to avoid, planning some meals and snacks out can lessen the mental load of what to eat and make for a more nourishing, enjoyable experience.
Tip #2 Know What Exactly Is The Serving Size of Snacks
A snack portion, calorie-wise can vary from person to person depending on a variety of needs and reasons. In general, for most people, a snack size is typically anywhere between 100 – 300 calories. The purpose of a snack is to satisfy hunger, provide energy, nutrition and hold you over until the next meal. A snack should not be so calorie dense that it means you’re not hungry for any meals nor should it be so calorie low that it leaves you ravishing for more!
Tip #3 Build Balance Snacks For Balanced Energy and Health
As mentioned in tip #2 a snack shouldn’t be so calorie low that it leaves you super hungry. However, a snack could also leave you super hungry if it is not a macronutrient-balanced snack. A snack could leave you hungry due to many other reasons, but here we will just focus on calories and macronutrients. FYI macronutrients are fats, proteins and carbohydrates. The three main components a body needs in larger quantities for optimal functioning and energy.
In an effort to maintain a steady energy balance as well as support oral health try to consume snacks that combine fat and/or protein with a carbohydrate. For example, from the 15 healthy snacks list cheese and fruit or deviled eggs and soft fruit are snack combos with a blend of all three macronutrients! A balanced snack within the snack calorie range makes for a nourishing bite.
Tip #4 Don’t Forget To Enjoy Your Less Nutritious Favorite Foods Too!
Balance is important in many aspects of life and a balanced diet is no exception. It is important to have a reasonable balance of healthy, nourishing foods along with some of your favorite not-so-healthy foods. This holds valid not just when you have braces, but anytime! So, go ahead and enjoy the fruit and spinach smoothie, but don’t forget to include some ice cream or a milkshake now and again too! A healthy diet nourishes not only the physical self but the mental and emotional self too!
Although, at times it can feel like those braces will be on forever, this period of life with this hardware can last just a few short months or years. There are plenty of healthy, tasty, and nutritious softer food snack options to enjoy while waiting for your teeth to straighten up. Remember, dental work along with a balanced, healthy diet could potentially mean fewer trips to the dentist over time and maybe even lessen the chance of developing a chronic lifestyle-related disease.
Hope you find this article useful. If you’ve liked any of the 15 soft food snack ideas or have more ideas, please let me know in the comments. As always, as a registered dietitian specializing in dental wellness and someone who’s had braces before, I am here to be a resource on all things nutrition for mouth health. For any questions, inquiries or how I can help please reach out to me via any method on the contact page.
Cheers to Soft Food Snacks and Straight Teeth!