My Favorite Foods to Eat While Recovering from Oral Surgery

May 25, 2012 at 6:08 pm Leave a comment

I’ve had two oral surgeries in the last year. (One was a pretty big set of gum grafts; the other was a much simpler crown lengthening.) This was the first time I’d ever had to plan post-surgical meals for myself, since I hadn’t had to recover from surgery since high school, when Mom took care of everything. After some trial and error, I thought I’d post a list of the things I enjoyed eating when I couldn’t eat anything.

1. Mashed potatoesNot out of a box! I get pretty sick of eating sweet stuff (see the rest of the list), and mashed potatoes are one savory thing that requires no chewing at all. They are pretty easy to make from scratch – peel potatoes, cut them into 3/4-inch cubes, boil them for 25 minutes, and then mash them with some milk, butter, salt, pepper, and whatever else (I like to add fresh garlic and shredded cheese). Had I planned ahead better, I would have made a large batch before the surgery, and then heated up a portion in the microwave whenever I was hungry, instead of begging my boyfriend to make them fresh every day.

2. Milkshakes with protein powder – Milkshakes and ice cream are a staple for most people on a soft-foods diet. I was advised to eat a high-protein diet while recovering, so I added protein powder to every milkshake I made. I have an immersion blender, which made it super easy to blend the powder into the milk, then add ice cream. I also made a lot of my milkshakes using coffee instead of milk (because caffeine withdrawal just adds to the discomfort of recovery). About 1.5 cups black coffee + a scoop of vanilla protein powder + a few scoops of vanilla ice cream = a very good way to convince yourself that milkshakes are good for you. (Pro tip: Before adding the ice cream, blend the milk and protein powder together, to avoid those weird lumps.)

3. Prepackaged fruit juice smoothies – When you’re sick of dairy products, and you don’t have the energy to make anything, it is so refreshing to be able to grab one of these out of the fridge. One issue I’ve had is that you have to have something in your stomach when taking narcotics, but if you have to take a new dose every 4-6 hours, you often find yourself full. (I gained weight during both recovery periods because I had to eat every few hours!) I found that a smoothie was enough to coat my stomach without making me feel all heavy and bloated. I especially liked the ones from Odwalla (Strawberry C Monster is my favorite) and Bolthouse Farms, because they’re thick enough that they coat your stomach. Naked smoothies are also a good choice, although I don’t love the texture of them, for some reason.

4. Laughing Cow speadable cheese wedges – This is another good example of a lighter food that will help coat your stomach when you need to take meds, but aren’t hungry. They also make a good snack. I like the light garlic & herb ones the best. Plus, putting a couple wedges on a tiny plate and taking tiny bites with a spoon or fork made me feel a little more human than I did while chugging smoothies.

5. Ensure drinks – Sure, they taste like HFCS-y faux chocolate milk, but they were recommended by my periodontist to help supplement my diet when I couldn’t chew anything. Lots of protein and a nice cocktail of vitamins and minerals. They’re actually very filling and make a good breakfast, even if you aren’t on a soft-foods diet.

6. Psyllium fiber supplement – [Obviously, you should talk to a doctor instead of just taking my advice… but if you know you’ll be on narcotics, I’d definitely ask them before you’re sedated!] I used a store-brand Metamucil knockoff, but I’m sure you can find something with less aspartame at a natural foods store. I’m 25 and never had to worry about a thing, bowel-wise, until the painkillers I was taking after surgery. Apparently, some narcotics cause constipation, which I did not realize until I’d already been on them a couple of days. That’s just one more thing that you won’t want to worry about while you’re healing, believe me. Start taking this according to package directions the day you start your painkillers, and you will be a much happier person. (Taking this twice a day also helped me remember to stay hydrated.)

7. Macaroni and cheese – I have already been clear about my feelings toward mac and cheese, but during my last surgery, I realized that if I cooked the pasta a little more than usual, I wouldn’t have to chew! I’d probably skip baking it in a casserole dish to avoid crunchiness, but there are lots of great stovetop recipes out there. You can make it from scratch (try this recipe, which is easy and yields a nice starchy, soft pasta, or this one, which is more time-consuming but has more consistent results), or out of a box (if you don’t have a servant around to make the real stuff for you, and you don’t have enough energy to spend time in the kitchen).

I hope my list helps someone else get through their recovery from oral surgery! If you have any other suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments!

 

Now, here are some foods I tried during my recovery that I would not recommend. I don’t mean to be a hater, but if you’ve never tried these before and don’t know if you’ll like them, then it’s probably not the best idea to try them while you’re physically fragile, emotionally reactive, hopped up on painkillers, and desperate for real food. (I pretty much learned that frozen foods and powdered veggies are to be avoided.)

1. Prepackaged protein shake by “Pure Protein”: I picked this up at Trader Joe’s, because it was on sale and I was drawn to the nutritional value (35 grams of protein and 4 of carbs). I wanted to stock up, but sensible BF made me wait until after I had tried one – thank god. Unfortunately, I could not even finish this. To be honest, I thought it was gross and would not recommend it if you can choose something else. I’ll stick to Ensure (they have a high-protein version that tastes way better) and Designer Whey.

2. Frozen palak paneer TV dinner: I have an odd relationship with Indian food. I love all the ingredients and always think I’m going to love it, but am incapable of eating anything super spicy, so I often end up guzzling water when I do try something new. I saw palak paneer recommended on message boards and blogs as a good “soft food,” but I knew I wouldn’t have the time or energy to make it for real, so I bought this at the grocery store. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great (especially for the price), and was far too spicy for my taste. I felt like I had to force myself to finish it.  I truly doubt that this frozen stuff was anything like the real deal. (Also, the paneer cheese in this dish wasn’t quite as soft as I had been led to expect – it was somewhere between feta and tofu in texture.) If you want palak paneer during your recovery period, and don’t have a caretaker who can make it for you, I suggest you either make it from scratch ahead of time, or send someone to a local Indian restaurant to see if they can get takeout.

3. Frozen gnocchi pie TV dinner: I picked up a TV dinner consisting of potato gnocchi in a cheesy sauce, because it sounded good at the time (never shop while hungry) and because it looked soft. I never ate it during my recovery period, but tried it weeks later when I was hungry and found it in the freezer. Honestly, for a TV dinner, this was pretty tasty (because it’s all fat and carbs, obviously). However, it had this crunchy breadcrumb topping on it, rather than a pie crust, which was what I expected. That would have been very inconvenient when I couldn’t chew.

4. Weird vegetable drink powders: Thinking I’d be desperate for veggies, and wooed by the promise of nutrients, I tried a couple of those “superfood” drink powders (this is the only one I remember the name of). THEY WERE GROSS. Seriously, the psyllium fiber was more palatable. This stuff tasted horrible (like bad green vegetables) and didn’t dissolve into the water, so it was basially like drinking colloidal rotten grass. If you’ve never had these before, I’d save the dollar or so it costs for a little sample, and get some actual fruit or vegetable juice instead (or baby food, which is what my best friend did when she got her tonsils removed).  This is definitely one of those cases where I should have taken BF’s advice: “Never consume anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”

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Link: Tomato and Goat Cheese Toast Baked Zucchini and Yellow Squash

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This is a cooking blog by someone who is not particularly good at cooking. I'm a lazy person who aspires to make simple, awesome, healthy food at home.

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