Having braces can make eating certain foods more challenging. While orthodontists often recommend avoiding sticky, chewy, and hard foods that could damage brackets or wires, many meat options can still be enjoyed in moderation.
Here are quick answers to common questions about eating meat with braces:
- Soft, tender meats like ground beef, meatballs, shredded chicken, and canned tuna are brace-friendly options.
- Slice meats into small pieces and chew thoroughly with your back teeth to avoid pulling at wires.
- Marinate tough meats like steak to help tenderize them before cooking.
- Avoid sticky meats like ribs, beef jerky, and deli meats which can loosen brackets.
- Remove meats from small bones, skewers, and toothpicks which can damage braces.
Ground and Minced Meats
Ground meats like beef, turkey, chicken, and pork are easily chewed options after getting braces put on. Their soft, minced texture makes them unlikely to get stuck. Lean ground beef and turkey are nutritious sources of protein. Try making:
- Meatballs with marinara sauce
- Sloppy joes with ground beef
- Tacos or burritos with ground turkey or beef
- Chili made with ground beef, turkey, or chicken
- Lasagna, cottage pie, or Bolognese sauce using ground meat
Just be sure to cut meatballs and burgers into small pieces instead of attempting to bite off larger chunks, which could damage wires.
Cooked meats that are shredded or chopped into small pieces are ideal for braces. Try shredding roast chicken or pork in a slow cooker or Instant Pot for tender meat that pulls apart easily. Other options include:
- Pulled pork
- Barbacoa beef
- Shredded rotisserie chicken
Use shredded meats as burrito or taco fillings, in soups and chilis, mixed into pastas or rice bowls, or as sandwich and wrap fillings. The small strands make shredded meats easy to chew.
Canned Tuna and Salmon
Canned tuna and salmon are versatile, budget-friendly proteins that are easy to eat with braces. Their soft, flaky texture requires little chewing. Try:
- Tuna melts
- Tuna salad sandwiches or wraps
- Salmon cakes
- Salmon salad
- Salmon patties
Pick any bones out of canned fish to avoid damaging wires. Rinse fish packed in oil before use.
Braising, Stewing, and Poaching Meat
Braising, stewing, and poaching are moist-heat cooking methods that produce fall-apart tender meats. They break down tough connective tissues over low heat. Try braising brisket, pot roasts, or pork shoulder. Or make beef, chicken, turkey, or pork stews. Poached chicken breast or salmon also cook up tender.
Use braised, stewed or poached meats in applications like:
- Shredded in tacos, burritos, sandwiches etc.
- Diced in rice or pasta dishes
- Chopped in soups and chilis
- Pulled apart and sauced for sliders
Meatloaf and Meatballs
Meatloaf and meatballs make for soft, chewable meats after getting braces. Choose ground turkey, chicken, beef or a blend. Bind with eggs, breadcrumbs and seasonings. Bake meatballs and smaller individual meatloaves which will cook up tender.
Serve meatballs with noodles and marinara sauce. Make meatloaf sandwiches with mashed potatoes. Or add gravy and turn leftovers into shepherd’s pie.
Marinated and Tenderized Meats
Although steak, roasts, and other tough meats may seem too difficult to bite into, marinating them can make a difference. Acidic ingredients like buttermilk, yogurt, wine, vinegar, citrus juice, and tomato products help break down collagen fibers. Enzymes in fresh pineapple and papaya also tenderize meats. Try quick-marinating options like:
- Steak in a red wine marinade
- Pork chops in a honey-lime marinade
- Chicken breasts in buttermilk
Other ways to tenderize meats before cooking include pounding them with a meat mallet to break down fibers or using a commercial meat tenderizer containing enzymes.
Slow Cooked and Instant Pot Meats
Using a slow cooker or Instant Pot to braise less tender cuts of meat allows them to become meltingly tender after a longer cooking time. Try chuck roast, pork shoulder, brisket, short ribs, or oxtails. Slow cooking can take tough meats from inedible to fork tender textures that won’t pull on braces.
Shred larger cuts of meat once cooked. Or slice or cube roasts and larger pieces before serving. Dip meat in the braising liquid or gravy for added moisture and flavor.
Ground Meat Precautions
While ground meats offer a softer option, take care with the following to avoid damage to orthodontic appliances:
- Avoid eating burgers in large bites – Cut into small pieces first
- Watch for crunchy ground beef – Make sure ground meat is cooked through tender
- Drain grease from ground meat – Fatty textures can be sticky
- Skip gristle and cartilage pieces – They may not grind up and can be hard to chew
How to Prepare Other Meats for Braces
Here are some tips for making a variety of meats suitable for chewing and biting after braces are placed on your teeth:
|Cut into small cubes or thin slices across the grain. Marinate to tenderize.
|Shred or chop meat after cooking. Remove skin and bones.
|Cut meat off bones. Chop or shred, and sauce to moisten.
|Cook until tender. Cut away bone, and slice or dice meat.
|Remove meat from casings. Break into crumbles, or shape into small patties.
|Avoid meats in large slices. Shred, chop, or roll up small amounts instead.
|Separate slices from each other. Cut into smaller pieces before cooking.
|Slice lengthwise, then cut into small pieces to eat.
Best Cooking Methods for Braces
Some healthy cooking techniques make meat softer and easier to chew with braces. Try:
- Grilling: Use marinades and avoid charring. Grill on lower heat, turning frequently.
- Roasting: Roast meats low and slow to tenderize meat fibers.
- Braising: Braise tough cuts like brisket in flavorful liquid for tender results.
- Stewing: Gently simmer meats like chicken, beef or pork to make them tender.
- Poaching: Gently simmer meats in just enough liquid to cook through and soften.
- Steaming: Steam lean meats like chicken breast, fish or shrimp until cooked.
Avoid frying meats in crispy coatings that may stick in braces. And skip tough chewy textures from methods like broiling, searing, or grilling meats over high direct heat.
Meats to Eat Less With Braces
Some meats are more challenging for eating with orthodontic appliances. Use caution and limit portions of:
- Steak: Eat small slices across the grain. Avoid chewing larger, tougher cuts.
- Ribs: Sauce may stick. Remove meat from bones.
- Poultry bones: Bones could damage brackets. Remove meat from bones.
- Deli meats: Sliced meats could get stuck or pull off brackets. Shred instead.
- Beef jerky: Very chewy texture. Cut into tiny pieces or avoid.
- Hot dogs: Remove from casing and cut into small pieces first.
- Sausages: Remove from casing before cooking. May still be somewhat chewy.
- Pepperoni and salami: Their hardness could damage brackets. Eat only occasionally.
Talk to your orthodontist about any specific meats they recommend avoiding during treatment.
Meats to Avoid With Braces
Steer clear of these meats that can cause pain or damage to braces:
- Tough, chewy meats: Including undercooked meats or large, barely cut pieces.
- Chewy sausages: Such as pepperoni sticks, summer sausage, kielbasa.
- Sticky, sugary meats: Like ham glazed with honey or brown sugar.
- Hard cured meats: Such as parmesan crisps, pork rinds, chicharrones.
- Meats on the bone: All bones should be removed from meat before eating.
- Meats with toothpicks: Remove all toothpicks, skewers, and small bones.
Avoid any meat that you need to pull at, rip, bite off forcefully, or that sticks to orthodontic appliances. This can damage brackets and wires.
Tips for Eating Meat With Braces Comfortably
Follow these tips to enjoy meat more comfortably after getting braces:
- Cut meats into bite-sized pieces or small strips before eating.
- Hold pieces to your molars and chew carefully using your back teeth.
- Cut across the grain of meats for shorter muscle fibers.
- Slice meat as thinly as possible or shred it into strands.
- Cook meats until very tender – grill, braise, or stew for softness.
- Moisten dry meats with sauces, gravies, glazes, or cooking liquids.
- Remove any tough cartilage, gristle, bones, or fatty sections.
- Avoid large bites or overstuffing mouth with meat.
Go slowly, chewing thoroughly until meats are broken down into soft pieces that won’t snag on orthodontic wires.
Helpful Kitchen Tools for Meats With Braces
Equip your kitchen with tools that make prepping meats for braces easier:
- Sharp knives: For slicing and dicing meats into small pieces.
- Meat mallet: For pounding and flattening tough cuts.
- Tenderizer: To help break down collagen and meat fibers.
- Instant Pot or slow cooker: Cooks meat low and slow until fall-apart tender.
- Kitchen shears: Removes meat from bones easily.
- Shredders: Quickly shreds chicken, pork or beef into bite-sized strands.
Nutritious Meat Choices With Braces
Meat can play an important role in a balanced diet while wearing braces. Focus on lean, protein-packed choices like:
- 93% lean ground turkey or bison
- Skinless chicken breast
- Pork tenderloin or chops
- Flank, sirloin or tenderloin steak cuts
- Wild caught salmon and trout
- Grass-fed lamb
- Low-fat dairy
- Beans and legumes
Try to limit fattier meats like bacon, sausage, ribs, and processed deli meats which aren’t as healthy. Remove skin from poultry as well.
Soft Meat-Based Meals to Try With Braces
Here are some nourishing recipes featuring brace-friendly meats:
- Shredded chicken tacos or burritos: Filled with salsa, beans, rice, cheese, lettuce.
- Pulled pork sandwiches: Pile tender shredded pork onto buns.
- Meatballs with zucchini noodles: For a low-carb, vegetable-packed meal.
- Tuna melts: Made with soft canned tuna.
- Beef stew: Chunks of beef and veggies cooked until tender.
- Chicken soup: Packed with soft chicken, noodles and veggies.
- Salmon cakes: Canned salmon held together by eggs and breadcrumbs.
- Turkey meatloaf: Comforting and soft textured.
Focus on cooking methods like braising, stewing, and poaching to ensure meat options are soft enough for braces. Use sauces, glazes and cooking liquids to add flavor and moisture.
Safe Food Handling
Always practice proper food safety when preparing meats:
- Wash hands and surfaces before and after handling raw meats.
- Use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw meats.
- Cook meats to safe internal temperatures (at least 160°F for ground meats).
- Refrigerate or freeze leftovers within 2 hours.
These precautions help kill harmful bacteria that causes foodborne illness. Take care when handling and preparing meats.
Although braces can make eating meat more challenging, many healthy options are still possible. Tender, shredded and minced meats are easier to bite and chew. Marinate and cook meats thoroughly until soft. Slice or dice meats into small pieces, and use sauces to moisten. Avoid sticky, crunchy and tough textures that could damage braces. With some small modifications, you can still enjoy nutritious, protein-rich meats while wearing your orthodontic appliances.