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Non-GMO, organic, free-range what? With all the new food trends coming up nowadays, it can be hard to keep track of what is actually healthy for you and what’s simply a fad. The best way to ensure you’re getting the sustenance you need is by speaking to a nutritionist. There’s no one-size-fits-all mentality when it comes to food – your diet should be catered to your specific needs and body type.

If you’re specifically looking for a braces-friendly diet, however, our orthodontists at Orthodontics LA in Encino can help! With all the new dietary restrictions that accompany braces, it can be difficult getting all the vitamins and minerals you normally get. To make things a little easier, our orthodontists have compiled a grocery list of all the foods you can eat and where you can find them here in Encino. Let’s get started!

Vegetables

Even if you have an allergy or sensitivity to a certain type of vegetable, there’s still a huge variety of delicious vegetables to choose from. Doctors recommend 4 – 5 servings of vegetables a day because they are low in fat and calories, but they’re still loaded with dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

If you want to build your enamel and gum health, look for vegetables with high levels of calcium and folic acid, like kale, spinach, bok choy, broccoli, chard, and cabbage. These leafy greens are also great for dental health because they are packed with magnesium, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and beta carotene. And the benefits don’t stop there! The fibrous texture of these vegetables can also naturally clean teeth by breaking apart plaque.

We know these crunchy greens can easily get stuck in your teeth and braces when eaten raw, so to save you the embarrassment, here’s how to prepare them in a braces-friendly way:

  • Blend: You heard us! Blend up your spinach and kale in a smoothie along with your regular ingredients (berries, bananas, yogurt, etc). Surprisingly, you won’t even taste it and it’s super easy to sip through a straw.
  • Saute: It’s actually easier for the body to absorb nutrients from spinach and bok choy when they’re cooked. Adding ingredients, like lemon juice or garlic, can intensify the healthy effects of these veggies as well.
  • Steam: Boiling vegetables can break down a lot of important fiber and release much needed nutrients. Instead, chop and steam your broccoli, cabbage, and chard to retain their nutritional value and make them easier  to chew.

These days, a big concern for conscientious shoppers is where their produce is coming from and how it is grown. At the Encino Farmers Market on Victory Boulevard, you can purchase fresh, organic, locally grown products from small farms and businesses. It’s open from 8 AM to 1 PM every Sunday and you can ask the vendors exactly how they cultivate their crops!

Fruits

Another excellent source for essential vitamins and minerals is fruit. Like vegetables, they are vital for the overall health and maintenance of your body. Elements commonly found in fruit like potassium, folate, Vitamin C, and Vitamin A can reduce the risk of chronic illnesses when they’re consumed regularly.

Because of the high fiber content, however, a lot of fruits are too crunchy for the teeth. For example, apples are known to help scrub plaque away and kill bad bacteria, but they’re way too crunchy for regular brackets and wires to handle. Instead, look for an unsweetened applesauce or apple puree. For our adventurous patients, papaya is another great alternative. The fruit has softer flesh and more fiber than a medium apple.

Try incorporating more oranges, mandarins, grapefruit, kumquats, and other citric fruits, into your diet, too. Not only are they easy to eat, they have lots of Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that can simulate the production of collagen for healthy gums. The sour taste also prompts the mouth to salivate and flush away cavity-causing food debris.

To get natural and organic fruit that’s in season, head to your local Whole Foods Market. There are two locations in Encino, on Ventura Boulevard and Sepulveda Boulevard. They have plenty of natural and organic foods. Gelson’s Market and Encino Glatt Market also sell fresh produce on Ventura Boulevard if you prefer to support local businesses.

Dairy

Many people depend on dairy products to get the calcium and phosphate they need for the development of strong teeth and bones. However, dairy products are not all made the same, so make sure to read the labels of items before purchasing them to evaluate whether they’re really good for  you.

A delicious way to get your calcium is cheese. It can be eaten in a sandwich, with crackers, or even on its own! With the rise in demand for more convenient, affordable products, however, many cheese-labeled products in the market are not nutritious as they seem. These include:

  • American cheese
  • Pre-packaged cheese dips
  • Cheese spray
  • Imitation cheese
  • Cheese powder

Many companies create cheese products with a combination of starches, emulsifiers, food coloring, preservatives, and chemicals that give them a longer shelf-life and lower production cost. Lasts longer and costs less? What the problem, you may ask. Well, since these items have less real cheese and more fat and salt, they don’t provide as much calcium or phosphate as real cheese. While you can still enjoy them, they’re just not that healthy. In contrast, authentic cheese is high in calcium and casein, a protein that can strengthen enamel against cavities.

Next time you go grocery shopping, look for products with unmodified names that are produced in their country of origin. Most importantly, check the list of ingredients! Cheese isn’t complicated – it’s just milk, salt, and natural enzymes. If you have sensitive teeth from a recent braces adjustment, try cottage cheese or brie. These are super soft cheeses that require little to no chewing.

Yogurt is another dairy product that does wonders for the teeth because of its high calcium and protein content. Certain yogurts also contain cultures of lactic-acid bacteria that can balance out the pH levels in the mouth (and gut!) to eliminate bad bacteria. Make sure to check your yogurt label to see if your yogurt has the National Yogurt Association’s “Live and Active Cultures” label to get the most out of your creamy treat.

Since the natural flavor of yogurt isn’t palatable for everyone, brands often add fat and sugar to their yogurt. Take a peek at the ingredients and nutrition facts on your yogurt before eating it. If there’s too much sugar, it could actually be detrimental to your dental health because cavity-causing bacteria feed off sugar. Our orthodontists recommend plain Greek yogurt with a handful of fruit or honey instead. Yogurt is also a great braces-friendly lunchtime snack if you’re in a rush.

As much as we love yogurt and cheese, it’s possible to get all the calcium you need without them. Vegetables and plant-based products also contain enough calcium and Vitamin D to nourish your teeth. For our lactose intolerant patients, there are plenty of calcium fortified plant milk, yogurt, and cheese available as well!

Trader Joe’s on Burbank Boulevard in Encino stocks its shelves with a wide array of authentic cheeses, nonfat probiotic yogurts, and plant-based milks. Another contemporary market with a range of organic, gourmet, and vegan faux dairy options is Gelson’s Market in Encino.

Protein

You don’t live in LA if you don’t have a gym pass and meal prep plan. All jokes aside, protein is necessary for the growth of muscles, including the ones connected to your jaw! It also contains phosphorus, an essential mineral for the development of teeth and bones.

For our die-hard meat-eating Ron Swanson types, lean meats are the way to go. Lean meat low in fat, but they still provide all the nutrients you need from protein. Other animal products that are high in protein, vitamins, minerals, and omega 3 fatty acids are seafood and eggs. Not only are seafood and eggs soft on the teeth, they’re rich in Vitamin D, which helps with the absorption of calcium for healthy teeth.

Unfortunately, meat can be tough to chew if it’s overcooked and potentially deadly if it’s undercooked. Luckily, you can get all the protein you need from mushrooms, beans, and legumes. If nuts are too hard on your braces, grab a jar of non sticky almond butter or cook lentils and quinoa for dinner. There are also many soy products that are easy to cook and eat, like tempeh, tofu, and seitan.

You can pick up most of these products at your local grocery store. Ralph’s and Smart & Final both have fresh poultry, seafood, and meat daily. For our kosher friends in Encino, Shalom’s Kosher Butcher is right down Ventura Boulevard and Super Sal Market sells kosher meat and Israeli goods as well.

Healthy eating is key to your dental and overall well being, but we understand it can be hard to adhere to such a strict diet all the time. It’s totally okay to treat yourself once in a while. The general rule is to stay away from anything too sticky, chewy, or crunchy because that could damage your braces, but other than that, make the most out of your cheat day!

We hope our orthodontic guide to braces-friendly grocery shopping helps you next time you’re in a rush! Encino has tons of healthy foods to choose from and we want our patients to be well informed about their options, especially when it comes to something as important as eating. At Orthodontics LA in Encino, your orthodontic experience is important to us and we want to give you all the resources you need for it to be positive. Let us know if you have any questions about your dietary restrictions while you’re on braces and we’ll be happy to help!