When your first child gets braces, it can feel like a whole new world. And considering the average teen needs braces for about two years, it’s a new world that isn’t going anywhere soon. While you want to make your child’s time with braces as comfortable as possible, it’s also important to make sure they’re eating healthy foods. Here are a few ways to make eating healthier a little bit easier when you have a child with braces.

Make it a Soup

Soup is one of the best vehicles for healthy foods in the early stages of your child’s time with braces. Not only is it delicious and easy to make, but soup is often filled with healthy and hearty vegetables and grains. You already need to cut your veggies into bite-sized pieces to cook in your soup, and boiling them makes everything a little bit softer and easier to chew. When your child is looking for healthy options that don’t put their teeth at risk, this is an excellent option to consider. Chowders and stews can also be great, especially if you’re looking for a hearty meal on a chilly day. If you’re stuck for soup recipes, consider vegetable soup, homemade chicken noodle soup, or even a blended soup like butternut squash or tomato soup.

Take it Off the Bone

Grilled or baked chicken drumsticks are an excellent source of protein. Add some potatoes and a good roasted veggie to your plate and you’ve got an excellent meal! Unfortunately, meat on the bone has a tendency to get stuck in braces and cause a bit of an issue for your child. If you’re considering something like drumsticks for dinner, make sure you remove the meat from the bone before serving it. Chicken wings pose a similar problem — especially the ones with two bones! This can make life a little bit easier for your braces-clad child who just wants to eat the same thing their family is eating. It might be a bit of an adjustment, but your child (and their orthodontist) will definitely thank you in the long run.

Chop it Up

One of the most helpful things you can do for your child with braces is to have things pre-cut for them to snack on. Fruits like apples, pears, and even unripe peaches can pose a hazard to their orthodontic results. More often than not, one of the biggest barriers to eating healthy while a child has braces is convenience. It’s more convenient to snack on something soft and unhealthy than to take the time to cut up a piece of fruit or a vegetable. You can help prevent this by providing some pre-cut fruits and veggies in the house. In addition, if you’re packing a lunch for your child, make sure there are sliced fruits and vegetables for them to snack on at school, where they won’t have access to the fridge at home.

Turn it into a Salad

Salads are a wonderful way to get a few decent servings of fruits and veggies into your child’s diet. And if you grow microgreens like arugula, basil, kale, or chard, you’ll likely have an excellent spread of options right from your garden at home. One of the best things about salads for children with braces is the fact that everything is already cut into smaller pieces. This gives them an opportunity to eat things like apples, carrots, and other crunchy fruits and veggies without worrying about bending or snapping the wires on their braces. Softer nuts like walnuts are good to include, as well. Steer clear of harder nuts like almonds unless they’re shaved or sliced into slivers small enough to soften up with a bit of salad dressing.

Slow Cook it

While your child has braces, a slow cooker is going to be your best friend. Want to make pulled pork sandwiches? Cook your pork shoulder in the slow cooker for a juicy, tender finished product. One of the best things about slow cookers is that they tenderize tough meats and vegetables with ease. The process of cooking over low heat for multiple hours can produce tender results that taste amazing. So if you’re nervous about your child getting enough veggies while they have braces, consider making a few slow cooker meals. Some popular options include chili, beef stew, chicken soup, and lentil stew. Each of these options contains a decent serving of vegetables and tastes absolutely delicious.

Making sure your child eats healthy while they have braces can be a bit of a challenge at times, but you’re not alone. In fact, almost four million Americans are currently wearing braces. The struggle might feel personal at times, but take solace in the knowledge that other parents are going through the same thing. And with these tips, helping your child eat healthy while they have braces should be a bit easier.