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posted: 8/11/2011 2:00 PM

Hit the trail with braces-friendly snack

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  • Christopher Hankins Dried mango and pineapple mix with M&Ms and flaked coconut for an after-school snack everyone can enjoy.

      Christopher Hankins Dried mango and pineapple mix with M&Ms and flaked coconut for an after-school snack everyone can enjoy.

By Jerome Gabriel

Last winter I had to get braces. The hardest part about having braces is that your food options are very, very limited. You don't want food to get stuck in your braces or pull out the wires.

I really miss eating beef jerky, corn on the cob, chewing gum, Starbursts, caramels and jaw breakers. I can't bite into an apple or eat hard nuts.

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Once or twice a week I kind of break the rules and I have gum or anything chewy. I think there should be times when you should be able to break those rules on special occasions, like Halloween, Christmas and the Fourth of July and birthdays ... and Easter ... and Valentine's Day.

But enough about what you can't eat, let's talk what you can eat.

You can eat apples, as long they're cut into chunks or slices. Same with carrots. Most crackers, cookies and ice cream are fine, too.

Trail mix is a way to combine a bunch of things you can eat into one snack. I like this tropical combination of fruits and nuts, but you can change it up. You can eat it after school or on the way to practice.

A word from Mom: Getting used to braces was a change for all of us, especially since Jerome's younger brother got them about one month later. It was so easy to put a handful of raw baby carrots on their dinner plates in a rush, now I have to take the extra step to steam them.

On days when they have check-ups and tightenings, dinner might include smoothies, pasta, soup or cheesy bread. Pork chops and flank steak get saved for another night.

Popcorn is a favorite treat from the "do not eat" list that we've found hard to give up. So for family movie nights I shake bowls of popped corn so the duds fall to the bottom. (No more eating from the microwaveable bag.)

I scoop the fluffy kernels into bowls and we're all happy.

Their orthodonist says my method is not foolproof. The husks can get caught in their gums, just as it could if they didn't have braces, but the brackets make it harder to get the husks out. He recommends extra attentive brushing on popcorn nights, advice I heed as well and I haven't had braces for 35 years.

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