Even if you can’t make it to New Orleans for Mardi Gras this year, there’s no reason why you can’t celebrate right here in Texas with some delicious Cajun fare. And good news: plenty of the traditional dishes are TMJ-friendly or can easily be modified to make them easy on the jaw.
Red Beans and Rice
This is a dish that’s tasty and healthy any time of year! With different kinds of rice available and spices done to your liking, this dish can be customized depending on your taste and mood. For Mardi Gras, try using ground turkey or turkey sausage with your beans for a healthier, lower fat dish. Throw in some picante sauce, chili powder, and red pepper, or use Creole seasoning for a kick. Serve over hot cooked rice (brown is the healthiest; it’s full of fiber and nutrients).
Finally, make sure your rice is well-cooked to avoid chewiness. Rice that’s soaked overnight and/or prepared in a rice cooker or pressure cooker usually has the perfect consistency.
This traditional southern dish doesn’t have to be complicated or difficult to make. Use your favorite crustacean such as shrimp or crawfish and remove the skin from your sausage to make it easier to chew. Saute celery, peppers, and onions – but be sure to chop the pieces small and cook them thoroughly to avoid a crunchy texture that can irritate the jaw. Include your favorite spices and then add rice and vegetable or chicken broth. Cook together until the rice is done and flavors are well married.
Don’t confuse jambalaya with gumbo, another great jaw-friendly food that is basically a soup. Though it also utilizes sausage and shrimp in many cases, its texture is thinner and it is served along with rice, rather than being combined during cooking. This warm, spicy soup is a satisfying way to enjoy Mardi Gras while giving your TMJ the gentle treatment it needs.
Mardi Gras Fare to Avoid for TMD Patients
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of Mardi Gras or any special occasion. But don’t neglect your jaw during the festivities or you could end up paying for it many times over. Specifically, avoid excess amounts of alcohol, which can trigger headaches and harm your immune system. Also avoid chewy breads and steaks, which can obviously stress the jaw and leave you in pain.
Finally, keep in mind that sugary, unhealthy foods cause problems for many people with TMD and other chronic pain. These foods cause blood sugar spikes and inflammation, which hinder your body’s natural healing processes. In other words, skip the paczkis! Stick to healthy foods you enjoy to keep inflammation and jaw pain under control.