School Lunch Ideas for Kids and Teens in Braces
A new school year is underway. As a parent myself, I know the first few months of school can be hectic. With trying to get the kids out of the door on time and juggling after-school activities, the thought of coming up with school lunch ideas every day on top of that can be overwhelming. If your kiddo or teen is in braces, it can seem even more daunting. Fresh Orthodontics is here to help! I’ll be covering what to eat with braces from the cafeteria and foods to avoid, as well as braces-friendly school lunches if you decide to brown bag it.
What to Eat With Braces From the Cafeteria
As I always tell our Park Slope braces patients, though there are a few exceptions, which we’ll get to next, you can still eat most of the foods you love even when you’re in treatment. However, it’s important to avoid biting directly into foods or tearing at them with your front teeth. Instead, cut or break them up into manageable, bite-sized pieces and chew with your back teeth. That being said, when you first get your braces put on and after adjustments, or even when you pop in a new set of Invisalign aligners, your teeth can be sensitive. Sticking with soft foods and cold drinks is a good idea. While the school lunch menu will vary depending on what school you go to, here are some braces-friendly choices you should consider if they’re offered in your cafeteria:
- Macaroni and cheese
- Egg salad, chicken salad or tuna salad
- Soft casseroles
- Shredded chicken, beef or pork
- Steamed veggies
- Apple sauce
- Mashed potatoes
- Soft bread
- Soft tortillas
- Salad (skip the croutons and large pieces of crunchy vegetables)
- French toast sticks
- Fruit cups
Foods to Avoid With Braces
When doing your school lunch meal prep or when kids are buying from the cafeteria, there are certain foods to avoid with braces. Here is what to steer clear of:
- Hard foods: Pizza crust, Doritos, hard candy, hard taco shells
- Chewy foods: Hard rolls, bagels, beef jerky
- Sticky foods: Caramel, taffy, toffee, Starburst
- Foods you bite into: Corn on the cob, meat on the bone, whole, raw apples and carrots (note: you can take corn of the cob and meat off the bone and cut raw apples and carrots into tiny pieces and chew with your back teeth)
- Foods that can get stuck in braces: Popcorn and nuts
Healthy School Lunch Ideas for Braces Patients
Now, as promised, on to the good stuff. Here are some tasty and healthy school lunch ideas for kids and teens in braces:
- Creamy peanut butter (or SunButter for a nut-free alternative) and jelly on soft sandwich bread, a banana and a container of Greek yogurt
- Hummus with soft pita wedges, sliced cherry tomatoes and thinly sliced cucumbers with dressing, and a pudding cup
- Tuna salad, chicken salad or egg salad on soft sandwich bread and a side of sliced strawberries
- Cheese ravioli with tomato sauce and a side of cooked carrots
- Thinly sliced meat and cheese on soft sandwich bread, blueberries and Jell-O
- Vegetable sushi, shelled edamame and a fruit cup
- Pancakes, cut up breakfast sausage and an orange
- A burrito bowl with rice, beans, shredded chicken or beef, avocado and salsa
- Leftover meatloaf with mashed potatoes and steamed veggies
- Marinated and baked tofu, watermelon cubes and sweet potato fries
- Chicken soup and a muffin (without nuts)
Braces Meal Prep Ideas (with Recipes!)
For these lunches, you can make a big batch on Sunday and divvy up the main course into smaller containers. You’ll get a few days worth of braces-friendly school lunches out of the recipes. Things like the turkey chili will freeze well if you plan on storing meals for more than a few days.
Spicy Cold Soba Noodles (4 Servings)
- 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon molasses
- ¼ cup tahini
- ¼ cup sesame oil
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 1/2 tablespoon chili oil
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- ½ bunch green onions, sliced
- Salt to taste
- ½ pound soba noodles
- In a pot, heat the soy sauce until it reduces down by half. Then, turn the heat to low and add the molasses. Once warm, transfer to a large bowl.
- Add the tahini, sesame oil, brown sugar, chili oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and onions. Mix well.
- Boil the noodles for about three minutes. Drain them and then plunge them into ice water.
- Drain the noodles again and rinse them. Add them to the sauce and mix until well coated.
- For some healthy school lunch ideas, serve the soba noodles with marinated and baked tofu and a side salad or shredded chicken and a piece of fruit.
Roasted Veggies and Quinoa (4 Servings)
(Adapted from Budget Bytes)
- Vegetables of your choice, such as carrots, zucchini, Brussels sprouts, onions, cauliflower florets, grape tomatoes and/or sweet potatoes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup quinoa
- 1 ¾ cups water
- 4 cups spinach
- Dressing of your choice
- Rinse the quinoa and then place it in a saucepan with the 1 ¾ cups of water. Cover and bring it to a boil on high heat. When it starts to boil, turn the heat to low and let the quinoa simmer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, turn the heat off and let it sit covered in the pot for five minutes before emptying it into a baking dish to cool. You can put the baking dish in the fridge to speed up the process.
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In large bowl, combine your chopped veggies with olive oil, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
- Transfer the vegetables to the baking sheets and roast the veggies in the preheated oven. Stir them every 15 minutes or so until the edges are brown and they’re tender.
- Let the vegetables cool.
- Place quinoa in a food storage container, top with spinach and then add the cooled, roasted vegetables.
- Serve with a side of the dressing of your child or teen’s choice.
Turkey Chili (10 Servings)
(Adapted from All Recipes)
- 2 pounds ground turkey
- 1 (46 ounce) can tomato juice
- 1 (29 ounce) can tomato sauce
- 1 (15 ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 green bell peppers, chopped
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon white sugar
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
- ¼ cup chili powder
- Add oil to a large, deep skillet. Add ground turkey and cook over medium-high heat until it’s evenly brown. Drain and crumble.
- In a large pot over high heat, add the ground turkey, tomato sauce, tomato juice, beans, onions, bell pepper, cayenne pepper, sugar, black pepper, oregano, cumin, salt and chili powder. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 1 ½ hours.
- Divide the chili up into lunch-sized portions. Serve with soft cornbread for braces-friendly school lunches.
Lentil Sloppy Sams (4 Servings)
(Adapted from All Recipes)
- 3 cups water
- 1 cup brown or green lentils, rinsed
- ½ onion, chopped
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups chopped tomatoes
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ (6 ounce) can tomato paste
- ½ cup ketchup
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 3 tablespoons molasses
- 1 teaspoon mustard powder
- Splash of Worcestershire sauce (try Annie’s Organic Vegan Worcestershire Sauce if you want to keep the recipe vegetarian)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 4 soft, whole wheat hamburger buns
- Add water and lentils to a saucepan. Bring them to a boil over high heat, reduce to medium-low, cover and simmer until tender, about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- While lentils are cooking, cook your onions in olive oil in a large skillet until they’re soft and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and garlic and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the ketchup, tomato paste, mustard powder, chili powder, Worcestershire sauce and molasses and simmer for about 5 to 10 minutes or until thickened.
- Drain the lentils but reserve the cooking liquid. Add the lentils to the sauce and stir. Add cooking liquid as needed to get a sloppy Joe consistency.
- Divide the mixture into food storage containers and pack the bun separately, otherwise it will get soggy. Serve with a fruit cup or a salad of sliced cherry tomatoes and thinly sliced cucumber with a vinaigrette dressing.
White Bean and Tuna Salad (4 Servings)
- 1 (19 ounce) can cannellini beans
- 1 (6 ounce) can solid white tuna, packed in water
- 2 tablespoons chopped green onion
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- Drain and rinse the cannellini beans.
- Drain and flake the tuna.
- Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
- Divide into food storage containers and store in the fridge. A few school lunch ideas include serving this with wild rice and steamed or roasted veggies or topping it with a little avocado and packing it with a side of couscous.
I hope everyone has an awesome school year and you find these braces-friendly school lunch ideas helpful. If you have any questions or your child or teen is ready to kick-off braces or Invisalign treatment, schedule a free consultation at Fresh Orthodontics today!