Orthodontist’s Guide to Picnics in Encino

Posted on November 30, 2018

Encino is filled with lush gardens and breezy parks year round. If you’re planning on having a picnic, our little city is the perfect place to do it. For orthodontic patients, we understand it can be difficult to keep track of all your dietary restrictions when you’re going out. Since we also love enjoying time outdoors, we’ve compiled a list of braces-friendly foods that are also super portable and easy to eat.

Main Course

If you’re going on a picnic, there’s bound to plenty of physical activity involved, whether it’s playing with your dog, climbing trees, or going on a hike afterward. You’ll need plenty of sustenance to give you energy for the rest of the day. Consider bringing 2 or even 3 options for your main course. Here are our suggestions for a fulfilling lunch in the park:

  • Sandwiches: Sandwiches are great for picnics because they can be eaten anywhere, anytime. For braces patients, try using softer breads that are easy to chew, like rye, pita, and sourdough. Breads that are too crusty or toasty can be rough on the braces and get stuck in between the teeth, creating a breeding ground for plaque. If you’ve recently had your braces adjusted and you’re feeling a little sensitive, you can opt for softer fillings like tuna salad, Caprese, or grilled cheese. Although we love peanut butter and jelly, it’s better to avoid anything with sticky or crunchy peanut butter and sugar-laden jelly.
  • Pasta: Fettuccini, penne, and rigatoni are just a few types of pasta. This dish comes in many shapes and forms, but it’s always a delicious, filling meal. At Orthodontics LA, we recommend gnocchi, orzo, and angel hair pasta because they’re easy to cook into a soft texture. Gnocchi is a soft dough dumpling made with flour, eggs, and potato. Once cooked, it should be extremely light and fluffy. Orzo is a bite-sized rice-like pasta that goes well with most salads, veggies, and sauces. Angel hair is a thin, long pasta that can be cooked well-done quickly because it’s not thick.
  • Poke: This Hawaiian dish was introduced into the mainstream a few years ago and has gained tons of popularity since. Poke is often compared to sushi because the two consist of the same basic ingredients – raw fish and rice. However, poke bowls have a mix of fish, rice, sauces, herbs, and greens. Most restaurants allow customers to customize their poke to their liking, so you can choose exactly what you want.
  • Steamed bao buns: There are many varieties of bao buns in different Asian cultures. Also called tai pao, banh bao, siopao, these sweet, fluffy buns are made of soft white bread and filled with minced meats, egg, or barbecue pork. They can also be enjoyed as a dessert when they’re filled with custard or red bean. Just make sure not to oversteam the buns or else the squishy bread can get stuck in your braces!
  • Stuffed grape leaves: Like bao buns, stuffed grape leaves can be filled with almost anything. The leaves are boiled in broth and seasonings until they’re soft. Then, they can be used to wrap up rice and veggies or meat. Stuffed grape leaves are a simple, refreshing finger food you can take on any picnic.
  • Tamales: Tacos might be too messy for picnics, but you can still get your fill of Mexican food on your picnic. Tamales are made of masa and filled with vegetables or meat. Since they’re wrapped in corn husks or banana leaves, you can use their natural wrappers as a plate and then throw them away after your meal. No clean up required!

Sometimes, eating food can cause wires and brackets can move into uncomfortable positions. If this is the case, ask your orthodontist to adjust or cut your wires at your next appointment. You can also use orthodontic wax to soften the edges of your braces as you eat. Since the wax is made of natural materials like beeswax, carnauba wax, or paraffin wax, they’re completely safe to ingest. That’s not to say you should be eating your orthodontic wax, but if you accidentally swallow it, you’ll be fine.

Sides

Normally, we would bring portable snacks like apples and potato chips for sides at a picnic. Unfortunately, these foods are not so braces-friendly, but there are still plenty of tasty snacks you can pack for your picnic in the park.

  • String cheese: Most cheeses make excellent snacks, but string cheese is the easiest to eat on its own when you’re out in nature. Cheese is rich in calcium and protein, which can strengthen the enamel for defense against cavity-causing bacteria.
  • Yogurt: Like cheese, yogurt has important properties for growing strong, healthy teeth. Plus, it’s easy to eat and requires little to no chewing for anyone whose teeth are feeling sore from braces. Studies have shown that yogurt also has pH balancing elements that can fight bacteria, too.
  • Hummus and pita bread: Carrots and chips may be a little too crunchy for anyone with braces to eat with hummus, but pita bread is just as satisfying. You can also turn this snack into a sandwich by adding in a few slices of chicken and lettuce.
  • Egg salad: Egg salad is welcome at any occasion. Best of all, they’re creamy and smooth enough for braces wearers to enjoy, too. Try adding a sprinkle of paprika for extra flavor.
  • Applesauce: Replace your juicy apple with a cup of applesauce! Since many applesauce brands need to preserved, they can be loaded with sugar, so make sure to check the labels for sugar content before purchasing. Too much sugar can cause dental decay.
  • Diced fruit: Bite-sized fruit like cubed watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, and grapes pose no threat to orthodontic appliances. Fruit also have high water content, fiber, and vitamins that contribute to healthy teeth.

Desserts

For dessert, patients with braces should watch out for any items that are too sticky, chewy, or crunchy. Brackets and wires aren’t indestructible and any damage to them can delay the orthodontic process for weeks. Instead of munching on crunchy cookies or chewy taffy, there are tons of other braces-friendly desserts you can bring on your picnic. Here are a few:

  • Sponge cake: Unlike other dense, sugary cakes, sponge cake is light and airy. It’s a delightful treat that won’t leave you feeling bloated.
  • Custard: Custard is a silky, smooth dessert made from whipped egg, sugar, and cream. It can be eaten with tarts, fruit, or plain.
  • Cheesecake bites: Bringing an entire cheesecake or even a slice of cheesecake can take up too much space in your picnic basket, so bring cheesecake bites instead! They’re miniature pieces of cheesecake that are just as yummy.
  • Mousse: Take a decadent mousse with berries to the park if you’re feeling fancy. It’ll simply melt in your mouth – no chewing required!

After you finish your dessert, make sure to brush your teeth in the park bathroom afterward. This will remove any food debris leftover from your meal. This is important because bacteria can feed off food particles and create enamel-eroding acid. If you don’t have a sink or toothbrush, use mouthwash or rinse your mouth with water.

Drinks

Sweet or carbonated drinks can leave behind sugary residue on the braces and teeth, resulting in tooth decay and cavities. Highly pigmented drinks, like wine, coffee, and tea, can also stain the teeth beneath the braces where it’s difficult to clean. Orthodontists recommend avoiding any drinks that aren’t water if you have braces. However, we understand that this can be quite difficult to do. It’s okay to have beverages other than water once in a while as long as you are careful to use a straw or brush afterward.

Picnic Areas in Encino

For patients who reside outside of Encino or are new residents to the area, we’d like to share our favorite picnic areas in the city with you. Since cities in Los Angeles are so densely populated, it can be difficult to get some peace in nature. Stop by the following parks if you have the chance:

Encino Park

16953 Ventura Blvd, Encino, CA 91316

Located right down the hubbub of the Encino Commons, Encino Park is a wonderful place to spend time relaxing. It’s a small park complete with barbecue pits, picnic tables, lighted outdoor basketball courts, and a children’s play area.

Los Encinos State Historic Park

16756 Moorpark St, Encino, CA 91436

This park is just down the street from Encino Park, northeast of the intersection of Balboa and Ventura Boulevards. Not only are the grassy, spacious areas for picnic-ing, the park also features an original eight-room de la Ossa Adobe, the Garnier building, a natural spring, and a pond. It’s a beautiful representation of the history and culture in Encino that we love visiting!  

If you plan to stop by, take the 101 Freeway to the Balboa off-ramp. Head south on Balboa until Moorpark Street. Then, take a left turn until you see the park on the right.

Libbit Park

5101 Libbit Ave, Los Angeles, CA 91436

If you have dogs, Libbit Park is a fun place to take them for a walk of to play fetch. It’s an open field with plenty of poop bags and toys available for the public. However, it’s important to keep your dog on a leash unless he or she is trained well enough to stay put. Libbit Park has no gates or fences to keep pets from running amok in Encino. There’s also a small pond where you can watch and feed ducks. To get there, take the 101 freeway and exit Havenhurst Avenue.

Sepulveda Basin Off Leash Dog Park

17550 Victory Blvd, Van Nuys, CA 91406

Nearby, there is an official dog park in the Sepulveda Basin Community Garden Center. The park includes pooper scoopers, water stations, balls, and an agility course for dogs to play around off leash. If you want your pet to get some exercise and social interaction, this is the perfect place to take them. There are also plenty of garbage cans, so if you plan to picnic, you can easily toss your trash in the designated bins.

Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Preserve

6350 Woodley Ave, Van Nuys, CA 91406

Though this technically isn’t a park, the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Preserve is filled with gorgeous trees, shrubs, plants, and creatures. It’s a lovely place to take a stroll and there is plenty of area to picnic. Make sure you don’t feed the wildlife and clean up after yourself when you’re done with your picnic. There are strict rules about such behavior because the ecosystem is very sensitive to changes.

We hope you enjoyed our guide to picnics in Encino. If you are ever in the area for an orthodontic appointment or otherwise, we highly encourage our patients to explore the city! There are also tons of yummy ice cream and frozen yogurt spots in Encino to drop by after your picnic for a sweet treat. At Orthodontics LA in Encino, we want our patients to have a positive experience with their braces. Other than a few dietary restrictions, safety precautions, and extra dental hygiene, there’s no reason to let braces stop anyone from doing what they love! Let us know if you have any questions about your braces; we’re here to help!