Eating well when you can’t open your mouth is necessarily a challenge, but it can be done with a little bit of creativity. After some experimentation, I adopted into a pretty consistent dietary routine. I was lucky to be able to drink through a straw while wired; your results may vary. Also see my posts tagged liquid diet.
In my experience, there were two pieces of kitchen equipment that were crucial to eating well. This doesn’t include things that are in most any kitchen, like cups, bowls, and spoons.
The first item is a blender. In retrospect, I managed with a relatively bad blender, but I’d definitely recommend getting a decent one if you don’t already have a blender. A good blender will leave your meals with fewer lumps, which means your straw is less likely to get clogged, and you’re less likely to get food stuck on your teeth. This doesn’t mean you have to drop hundreds of dollars on a blender, but do a bit of research before you buy. When my Cuisinart blender/food processor died, I replaced it with a $50 Oster blender, which I think is pretty good.
The second item, a strainer, is particularly important if you have a less effective blender. After you blend something for a while, if there are still solid chunks, you can pour everything into the strainer. Set aside the liquid that passes through, and then dump the solids back into the blender, and blend again. Sometimes when there’s a lot of liquid in the jar, the blade makes only infrequent contact with the chunks that you’re trying to liquefy, and this problem is rectified by removing some of the liquid. If you find that the chunks are getting stuck on the side of the jar, add just enough liquid to keep them flowing back down toward the blade.
For breakfast, I typically had a serving of Vega Whole Food Health Optimizer, a product which I wholeheartedly recommend for anybody (even nonvegans) whose jaw is wired shut. Vega has a full day’s supply of a number of different important nutrients. It’s also high in protein and free of all major allergens (including soy). I was hungry pretty much all the time until I started using Vega, and I don’t think I would have been able to teach back-to-back classes without the nourishment that Vega provided. The stuff doesn’t taste great, but it was definitely tolerable.
I’d recommend getting at least one serving of Vega per day for each day that your mouth will be wired shut, although if your appetite tends to be smaller, you might need less. I found I could get the best price on two containers online from Food Fight Grocery. Note that you get a couple more servings in the “Natural” flavor, so that’s a slightly better price per serving. Even with Food Fight’s price, it comes out to about $4 per serving, which might seem like a lot. Remember, though, that one serving actually replaces a meal (at least nutritionally), and $4 is not so much money to spend on a whole meal.
One thing that Vega doesn’t have much of is fat, so in order to succeed in my attempts at maintaining my weight, I needed to find that somewhere else. The best source I found was peanut butter, which I used in smoothies. For obvious reasons, creamy peanut butter is preferable for this situation. Smoothie ingredients varied from day to day, but the following are things that made their way into my smoothies:
- Soy, rice, hazelnut, almond, or oat milk. (Hemp is fine, too, but more expensive)
- Soy yogurt
- Spinach (this required the smoothie to be blended longer than usual, but with a better blender, that might not have been an issue)
- Ground flax seeds (strictly for the nutritional value, I found it best to add directly to the cup, rather than in the blender because they’d tend to stick to the jar of the blender)
Two things that I might ordinarily (that is, when my jaw isn’t wired shut) put in a smoothie, bananas and frozen fruits, proved to be more trouble to liquefy than I deemed worthwhile. This may have been less of an issue with a better blender, so please let me know either by email or in a comment if you have a different experience.
For dinner, I’d typically have a can of soup, blended. Sometimes one can wasn’t enough, so I’d have a second can of soup or a smoothie. If you’re going to be drinking multiple cans of soup in a day, it might be worthwhile to buy some low salt soups (Amy’s and Health Valley both have some options) to avoid excessive sodium intake.
I struggled to find a way to take in whole grains while my jaw was wired shut. Breads and crackers would absorb moisture and expand when added to water, and couscous was just too big. On the eve of my wireless upgrade, I did finally find that pasta blended with a lot of tomato sauce and a little bit of water could pass through a straw and between my teeth.
I’m generally not the sort of person who eats dessert every day, but when my jaw was wired shut, I found it nice to indulge frequently to keep myself from getting down about not being able to open my mouth. Sometimes I’d make smoothies using Soy Shakes which have a somewhat sweeter and maltier taste than regular soy milk. Sometimes I’d also blend some sandwich cookies (Candy Cane Joe-Joes from Trader Joe’s) in with some soy milk. This was kind of weird, since the filling of the cookie would float to the top, rather than blend in, and the cookie didn’t blend all that well either. It tasted pretty good, at least by the standards of somebody whose diet is severely restricted. Towards the end of my wired days, I also started having some sorbet and soy ice cream. Of course, I couldn’t eat these solid, but if I microwaved them for a few seconds with some soy or almond milk, the result was still solid but soft enough to drink through a straw. Note that it’s important to choose flavors without chunks of fruit (or chunks of anything else), unless you just want to blend everything.