Jane Clarke on braces: Blend in well for easy eating

Every Tuesday, Britain's leading nutritionist explains how to eat your way to health. This week Jane tackles braces and malted brown bread...

I have recently had a brace fitted on my back teeth to alleviate pain in the side of my face. I'm 54 and my favourite foods have always been vegetables, fruit and nuts, but I can no longer chew them. What can I do to eat or replace the essential nutrients in my diet? Carol Phillips, via e-mail

Poor you, it must be miserable! It's a common problem - a friend recently asked my advice about her young daughter, who'd also had braces fitted. 

Fortunately, there are several things you can do to minimise the pain while you're getting used to them. 

The important thing is to have a healthy balance of the food groups, so you get a good amount of essential nutrients and energy. This means carbohydrates and proteins, as well as fruit and vegetables.

Blender cartoon

Invest in a juicer and blender to help you eat good food easily with a brace

First, invest in a juicer and a blender. I like hand-held blenders, as you can just put them into a saucepan and make a soup or blend a sauce until very smooth without the hassle of cleaning separate liquidiser parts. You can buy reasonably cheap juicers and hand-held blenders, and they're well worth it for your needs. 

When it comes to fruit, you have a few options. Obviously, you can make smoothies and juices, either on their own or by adding yoghurt or milk. Try blending some raspberries or strawberries with milk. The milk can be full-cream or skimmed - it depends how much fat you want - both have roughly the same amount of calcium. 

If you're underweight or need a high calorie intake (some people who have a sore mouth can't eat much), then fullcream milk is the answer, perhaps with some fresh cream, too. 

Do you have a nutritional question?

Jane will answer a selection of readers' queries every week.

Write to Jane Clarke, Good Health, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT, or e-mail jane.clarke@dailymail.co.uk.
Jane cannot enter into personal correspondence. Please include contact details.

Her replies cannot apply to individual cases and should be taken in a general context. Contact your GP with any health problems.

Smoothies can also be a valuable source of fibre, and if you don't fancy making them yourself, there are some good brands in the supermarket. 

Cooking fruit in a pan or the microwave is another delicious solution, making it easier to eat. You can serve it with custard or yoghurt. Equally, cooking vegetables makes them softer, too, but watch you don't overcook them and lose heat-sensitive nutrients, such as vitamin C. 

Vegetables most at risk of this include potatoes and spinach; by steaming them and then mashing or pureeing, maybe adding some stock, cream, olive oil or grated Parmesan, they'll taste better and still have some nutrients. 

Also, why not try roasting your vegetables, which makes them softer to eat? This also reduces the vitamin C content - but this shouldn't stop you. It's about choosing a selection of different types of cooking methods, so you don't become bored. 

Roasted peppers and other vegetables with some soft buffalo mozzarella is a meal everyone can tuck into. 

So often people panic that their life has to become very different from everyone else's in the family. This can make them not bother much, but try not to fall into this trap - think of dishes everyone can eat: souffles, omelettes and puddings such as creme brulee, mousse and canned fruit. 

Soups hot and cold, such as gazpacho, are another option. You could blend some of the chunkier, ready-made ones, or if you make your own - why not add ham or make chicken soup to get some protein into your diet. 

Even crusty bread - a good source of carbohydrate - can become edible if you let it soak in the soup for long enough. 

As for your love of nuts, choose smooth-nut butters, such as cashew and hazelnut. You can add these to smoothies or spread them on soft wholemeal bread, depending on how much chewing you can actually do. 

Porridge - an excellent source of fibre and energy - can be made very smooth by grinding the oats right down. This can make a lovely breakfast with apple puree or mashed banana with honey drizzled on top. 

Pasta sauces such as bolognese - another good source of protein - can be blended just before eating and served with rice or very small pasta shapes, which need hardly any chewing. Mashed potato is another great choice, if you can't chew well.

Above all, remember your meals should have the same variety and balance of nutrients as usual. Hopefully, I've given you lots of ideas to try to keep you from falling into an 'I'll just have a soup and a milkshake' existence, which would be very boring. 

Is malted brown bread as nutritionally beneficial as wholemeal? Reader, Notts

Jane says... No. Delicious as it is, brown bread doesn't contain nearly as much fibre as wholemeal. Fibre helps prevent heart disease and keep the gut regular, so you won't be getting these benefits by eating 'brown' bread. This is a rather deceptive label; it can either mean the bread contains 10 per cent bran (this is the official definition of brown bread), or it can be used to describe white bread with added colouring (often caramel) to make it appear 'brown'.

Wholemeal, however, can be called this only when it contains the entire wheat grain.

We are encouraged to eat plenty of wholegrain or wholemeal - the terms mean the same thing - as it keeps our hearts healthy by stabilising blood fat levels and helps lower blood pressure.

Brown bread

Delicious as it is, brown bread doesn't contain nearly as much fibre as wholemeal

It depends on how much you eat - don't go OTT on the bread and butter thinking the health benefits make this OK. But it's better to chose the wholemeal bread option than the white.

People who eat more wholegrain also seem to have lower rates of diseases such as gout, Crohn's disease, asthma and arthritis.

But, of course, wholegrain doesn't suit everyone. Children shouldn't eat too much of it, because it can fill them up too much so they don't get enough energy from other foods, and people with irritable bowel syndrome can find that the fibre in the bread aggravates their symptoms, in which case brown bread is a healthy alternative.

It's still a good source of energy and carbohydrate and has a little fibre.

It may be easier to get children to eat brown - as opposed to wholegrain - bread which they may decide they don't like (but do persevere, as they will need more fibre as they get older).

My rule of thumb: older children should eat half of their food (such as bread, pasta and cereal) made from wholegrain and half made from white flour; for preschoolers, just over a third wholemeal and the rest white flour.


Chicken & watermelon salad

Serves 4

100g broad beans 750g

roast chicken, bones removed and cut into thin slices

1kg watermelon (about 1/2 small watermelon), peel removed and thinly sliced

1 bunch trimmed watercress

1 ripe avocado, sliced

25g pine nuts, toasted

Juice of 1 lemon

2tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Steam or boil the broad beans for 4 minutes - they are cooked when they rise to the surface and feel tender. Drain and rinse under cold water immediately to keep them green and fresh. 

Combine the chicken with the watermelon, watercress and avocado in a large salad bowl. Scatter over the broad beans and pine nuts. Mix the lemon juice and olive oil together and season with plenty of freshly ground pepper.

Drizzle over the salad just before serving. 


Chicken, broad bean and watermelon salad

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