Dairy Good Life



Three months ago, I started a new chapter in my life that’s so far proven to be rather challenging. I got braces.

I made the decision after about 10 years of prodding by our dentist. Because of the alignment of my bite, my teeth have been wearing away for the past 30-some years. It’s amazing what a little friction over a long period of time can do. At nearly every exam and cleaning, we’d talk about the options for repairing my teeth. At my last appointment, she finally said that if I didn’t do something soon, my options would be drastically limited. So, I did more research, met with our orthodontist a couple times, and decided to proceed.

I thought I was well prepared for what getting braces would entail. But it turns out I missed one major part: You need to change the way you eat. Sure, I knew that I would need to avoid peanuts and dried fruit (and other crunchy and chewy foods). I did not know that I wouldn’t be able to chew at all. Because of the placement of my braces, my top and bottom teeth can no longer touch, so I can’t even chew cooked broccoli. Really, the only foods I can eat now are those that can be mushed around in my mouth. Even then, foods that require too much mushing end up making my mouth sore from the braces rubbing against the insides of my cheeks.

In the beginning, I was pretty upset with my new reality. I still get a little frustrated on the days my mouth hurts. But, three months in, I am astounded by how much my teeth have already moved. It’s made me reflect quite a bit on the impact of small, persistent efforts. What else could I change in my life if I made a small, daily effort — even if that effort was a bit uncomfortable?

On the tough days, I also remind myself that this situation is only temporary. At my age, time flies by pretty quickly. Before I know it, these braces will be a thing of the past and I should have teeth that will last for as long as I need them.

So what am I eating? Liquid meals are the easiest: smoothies, milkshakes, and puréed soups. Now that it’s far too hot outside for soup, one of my favorite quick meals is a milkshake made with frozen milk cubes, milk, whey protein powder, and whatever I feel like adding for flavoring.

Cottage cheese, scrambled eggs, and egg bake have become staples, as well. They’re easy to eat, but do tend to get caught in my braces.

As much as I love dairy and eggs, though, I can’t live without meat. Steak is out of the question and even slow-cooked beef roast needs to be chewed. I tried meatballs, but they take too much mushing. I need to be able to eat quickly and get back to work. I was finally saved by my grandma’s meatloaf recipe. It’s delicious, satisfying, and soft enough to be braces-friendly.

After the first couple pans, I did make a couple tweaks so that it better fits my nutritional needs. The main change was adding in some powdered greens, since most green vegetables are nearly impossible to eat and I feel the best when I eat plenty of greens.

I jokingly refer to this new meatloaf as my TMR. It’s also an MRE (meal ready to eat). I try to keep a pan in the fridge at all times, so all I need to do for a meal is heat up a piece and pour a glass of milk. Plus, Glen and the kids like it, too, so there’s at least one meal we can all eat together. 

TMR Meatloaf

2 eggs

15-ounce can of tomato sauce

1 1/2 cups oatmeal*

1/2 cup spinach and/or
kale powder (optional)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon marjoram or oregano

1 teaspoon savory or thyme

2 pounds ground beef

*If not using spinach powder, increase oatmeal to 2 cups.


8-ounce can tomato sauce

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons yellow mustard

1 teaspoon paprika

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, beat eggs lightly, then add tomato sauce, oatmeal, spinach and/or kale powder (if using), and seasonings. Mix well. Add ground beef and mix with hands. (Milking gloves work well for this.) Place meat mixture in a 9-by-13 pan and pat down until level. Mix sauce ingredients together and spread over meatloaf. Bake for 40 minutes. Cut into 8 pieces. Serve with a big glass of milk.


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